I’ve never watched “The Office” before. I thought it was pretty interesting in how it broke the fourth wall. That puts a new spin on what sounds like a boring show – the daily occurrences of an office and all its bureaucratic workings. Having worked as an office assistant, I’d hardly want to watch a show about them – though I must admit the employees at “The Office” are more entertaining than the people I worked with. But not in a good way. Who would really want someone like David Brent as their boss? Michael is even more insane. Perhaps that’s part of the appeal. People can watch the show and be glad their boss isn’t nearly as nuts as Michael Scott. I found I preferred the American version of “The Office” – it seemed more coherent to me. Michael was delusional, but had clear motivations. David seemed to be just trying to avoid the real world. Michael at least had an image of what it should be. I can respect that. Perhaps in the escapist pursuit of watching TV, I resent that the characters can’t even deal with their own world. Then it becomes too much like ours.
There’s a definite thrill in watching a show that breaks the fourth wall, pushed through the invisible barrier of the TV screen to say “hey, we see you there, watching us”. As Jeffrey Sconce wrote, shows must sometimes break their formula to keep the story going and keep people interested. They use people’s expectations of what the story should be, their knowledge of camera tricks and the like against us to grab our waning attention. There are only so many basic plots to be had (thus the ubiquity of devices such as the “meat locker”), it’s how they’re executed that determines whether they’re brilliant or just cliché.