Lockdown Binge #7: The Office (US)

Our writers tell us what TV series are getting them through being stuck in their houses – Here's why The Office is pure TV comfort food right now.

THE OFFICE --

Lockdown is proving tough on all of us. But look at the positives – we have mountains of great TV to see us through the days until we’re released back into the wild, and what we all need right now is a good laugh, an escape, a welcome dollop of light relief.

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If you’re tired of the same old Friends episodes on a loop, the US version of The Office is on hand to provide you with an alternative, a comedy series for the ages.

What is The Office US about?

The premise of The Office really is quite simple. The show is a mockumentary that follows the lives of employees at fictional paper supply company Dunder Mifflin focusing on the branch in Scranton, Pennsylvania led by zany boss Michael Scott (Steve Carell).

Michael is immature, enthusiastic, petty and loveable all at once. For all his incompetence, capering and tone-deaf buffoonery, he is determined to be liked by anyone and everyone he comes into contact with.

The Office US - Steve Carell
Chris Haston/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank

His office is one big dysfunctional family, with a fresh-faced John Krasinski playing the part of all-round nice guy Jim Halpert, who enjoys a mischievous love-hate relationship with intense, geeky colleague Dwight Schrute (Rainn Wilson). Receptionist Pam Beesly (Jenna Fischer) is tasked with sweeping up Michael’s blunders – or pre-emptively averting them – while Ryan Howard (BJ Novak) is the new kid on the block, a temp worker whose main role in the first couple of seasons is to simply sit back and observe the chaos around him.

Watch The Office on Amazon Prime Video

The series is based on Ricky Gervais and Steven Merchant’s hit UK show The Office, and even shares early storylines. The six-episode first season of the US series tries to replicate the UK show (perhaps without the same degree of effectiveness) but once the first season is over, the American characters come into their own and the show becomes an entity in its own right.

The show attracted a host of guest stars throughout the run of the show, ranging from Amy Adams, Kathy Bates and Rashida Jones to Will Ferrel, Idris Elba and Catherine Tate.

How long is it?

Well… there’s a lot of it. The show consists of 201 episodes spanning across nine seasons.

Episodes are just 20 minutes long though, making it a super-easy ‘popcorn’ watch to fill in half an hour gaps in your day. In need of a quick pick-me-up? The Office has your back.

Where can I watch The Office US?

You can tune in to watch all nine seasons on Amazon Prime Video. You can grab a free seven-day trial to get the ball rolling, assuming you don’t accidentally blaze your way through the entire series in a week.

Why should I watch The Office US?

The Office strikes a beautiful balance right in the sweet spot between the predictably cheesy heart-tugging of Friends and cutting perilously close to the bone as Gervais’ UK version does.

Friends can be sickly – every conflict is resolved, every situation works for the greater good, everybody ‘wins’ – while The Office feels somewhat grounded by comparison. It proudly shows off glimmers of pure joy in the mundane, and by the very nature of the show, the characters actually go to work, as opposed to dwelling in a coffee house for 20 hours a day and somehow finding means to pay.

The humour is laugh-out-loud throughout, aided by snappy cuts to interview clips with key characters among whatever drama is unfolding. The absence of a laugh track also takes the sheen off the production, to its benefit. Many of the gags stem from subtle ramblings by Michael, often toe-curling remarks or awkward clashes that leave you embarrassed on his behalf.

The Office US
Chris Haston/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images

You’ll be swept away with the characters as they begin to develop relationships between one another. Michael’s relentless hatred of HR man Toby (Paul Lieberstein – also a writer and executive producer of the show) is a highlight, the Jim-Pam ‘will they/won’t they’ feels relatable and real, while rivalries between clashing personalities (wait until Ed Helm rocks up as salesman/anger management patient Andy Bernard to rattle Dwight’s cage) change and grow depending on circumstances.

The Office also serves up superb set-pieces, often detached from the story of the episode before the credits even begin to roll.

Office dunce Kevin (Brian Baumgartner) stars in iconic scenes featuring a doomed pot of his famed chilli and another involving the fight to save a crushed turtle. Another opener sees Dwight seal the office shut and light a fire for an extreme drill – a scene that lasts five whole minutes of perfection – while in the very same episode he severs the face off a test dummy during a CPR training masterpiece (check out Stress Relief: season five, episodes 14/15, one of the all-time greatest episodes).

In all, The Office feels as fresh as the day it aired. Many are put off by the fact it’s a US spin on a UK idea, but give this version a spin – it avoids the usual tired sitcom tropes, presenting a wonderful alternative to the norm that you’ll want to watch again and again.

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The Office is available to watch now on Amazon Prime Video. If you’re looking for more to watch check out our TV guide.