Counterpoint: NBC’s “The Office”

I’m going to come right out and disagree with my colleague (and editor) David Lidsky on the American version of the workplace sitcom, “The Office.” Simply put, I think BBC’s was better – and there are some analogues to be found in other business ventures.

First off, I watched the second episode last night – and make no mistake, the show is funny… Better than any other half-hour comedy out there, in my opinion. But the original was, well, original. (It beat out “Arrested Development” and “Sex and the City” for two Golden Globes, remember?)

No doubt NBC was aiming for something like the HP/Apple iPod partnership; Let us in on the deal and we’ll all make some money. But what we’ve got here is more like NBC’s Dell to BBC’s Apple – or perhaps just Lexus’s Toyota: a more-accessible, less startling reproduction intended for a broader audience with different tastes. Which is why, like Dell, NBC is going to make a lot of money. (And, knowing NBC – which just sold a lump of its soul to Volkswagen – my spidey sense says some of “The Office’s” revenues will come from product placement. Just a guess.)

One question for NBC is this: Was anything learned from the “Coupling” implosion (another BBC facsimile)? There, too, network execs hired on the original British creators to help adapt storylines to US audiences, but it fell flat on its face. Was it the withering shadow of “Friends” that doomed “Coupling,” or just sub par production? And what has NBC done to avoid the same fate with “The Office”? It would be interesting to hear if the peacock’s execs wind up sharing any lessons from the two projects. FCS