Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Sono Jimusho ("The Office" in Japanese)

Around Christmas of 2004, after two long months of being forced to be a part of the scary-in-all-the-wrong-ways Halloween Celebration at Universal Studios Japan, a handful of the gaijin (non-Japanese) actors were forced by the powers-that-be to be part of something called "The Magic Christmas Tree Show". This included the actors playing Doc Brown, which included me.

The "show" started out as nothing more than a bunch of frustrated American actors reluctantly wearing some painfully gay band uniforms (that Universal had had in storage) and pushing around a Christmas tree on wheels (that Universal had also had in storage). But, after 2 weeks of "rehearsals" and an epic clash of egos, we invented some characters and gave it a plot. We even threw in a whole part where we'd do an exercise routine.

Yeah, classy entertainment.

Remarkably, it worked. In any other country on the planet, it would have been a disaster but, in Japan, they loved it. I guess there's something about tall, non-Asian guys exercising in uniform. Even these uniforms...

I'm the one on the left, with the cupcake on my head.

But all that's another story.

The reason I bring this up is because, during that time, the cast and I shared two guilty pleasures. The first: pirated copies of "The Apprentice". (This is something which none of are really proud of. Not so much because they were pirated episodes of "The Apprentice" as much that they were episodes of "The Apprentice").

The second: the complete DVD set of Ricky Gervais's The Office.

Between our shows, we'd quote Dave Brent and Gareth Keenan. We'd fight over who got to be "team leader", we'd call George Michael and The Pet Shop Boys "bummers", we'd point at nothing and say "Monkey!" before going on set.

Anyway, just as the Holiday Season drew to an end, we'd heard that there was going to be an American version of "The Office". Being the proud Americans we were, we all agreed that the American version would be total crap and that there was no way they could make it work.

Obviously, the rest of the U.S. didn't get our memo.

I did eventually watch the first episode and, while it wasn't bad, it just felt wrong. The British version has made such an impression on us, it was hard not to be biased.

But, after catching this bit Steve Carrell did on Saturday Night Live, I may have to give the show another shot...

One of the writers has obviously spent some time in Japan. Pam giggling behind her hands, coworkers singing English songs in karaoke, 10 second hyper-commercials, robotic dogs. They even have an exercise routine. Classic.

Extra credit to the actors for actually speaking Japanese and for looking so much like Jim Halpert and Dwight Schrute.

UPDATE: A few Offices from around the world.

And Ricky Gervais goes to sleep in a bed of money.

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