Unrestrained! has taken over my life right now. I'll come up for air and post more often when I'm done in a couple weeks.
This post starts with The Office, the American version of which has won me over. It's about the only U.S. network TV series with interesting-looking people on it. Steve Carell is fantastic as Michael Scott, a walking, talking hangnail of a human. I find the series doesn't centre on his constant humiliation the way the British series did, probably because that sort of humour would be hard to sustain (and tolerate) over 20-plus episodes a season or however many they're producing. The utter destruction visited upon David Brent (Scott's British counterpart) just wouldn't work over a long U.S. network season.
The American series also lacks the poetry of Gervais & Merchant's version. I'm thinking specifically of John Betjeman's "Slough" and how it informed every moment of the original 12 episodes of The Office. I need to read more of his work.
I first saw Betjeman's name mentioned in some Charisma Records "historical notes" inside my copy of Genesis's Nursery Cryme. Charisma founder Tony Stratton-Smith (RIP) writes, "We maintained too, a certain eccentricity: the comic invention of Monty Python (like Genssis, with Charisma for almost a decade) was laid beside the quintessentially english recordings of Sir John Betjeman..." Aha.
I've never actually seen a John Betjeman record—I'm sure they were deleted pretty quickly if they reached these shores at all—but I'm on the lookout now. According to this article in The Guardian, Sir John's hipper than ever. Anyone who treated guests to Scotch and shortbread—never mind wrote something scathing as "Slough" and was labelmates with Peter Hammill—is all right by me.