The Office – 9-21 – Laughs with a cringe

Originally posted on my TV Guide blog at 1:45 AM on 09/22/06

As I watch each episode of the American version of “The Office”, part of me always compares it to the British original, particularly when it comes to taking risks. In particular, the UK version’s boss, David Brent, was awful when it came to handling awkward and sensitive issues. One memorable example included David retelling a joke where the punchline included a black man’s body part.

Is the American “Office” going for cheap laughs and forgoing some of the cringe-worthy humor? I was worried that the American version is foregoing the cringes that defined the original and going for easier, and more sitcom-style laughs.

Well, Thursday’s episode (Gay Witch Hunt) put some of those fears to rest. The way Michael Scott handled the sexual orientation of his employee Oscar was completely contradictory, offensive and insulting if Michael wasn’t such a goof.

The worst, yet funny, moment came after Michael is rightly crushed when Oscar calls him ignorant and small. Oscar permits Michael to give him a hug (for Michael to show that he’s “OK” with employees being gay). Michael goes forward with a horribly uncomfortable kiss that was stunning to watch.

Much like the UK version, I wonder if Michael learned anything from the experience.

There were plenty of awkward moments (especially regarding the issue of homosexuality), but there was some good laughs mixed in there.