Working Stiffs

Working Stiffs

Working Stiffs

The latest chatter in cyberspace.
March 25 2005 5:28 PM

Working Stiffs

Today, bloggers critique the premiere of NBC's The Office, discuss a Newsweek column on Paul Wolfowitz, and analyze the ultimate meaning of the Terri Schiavo case.

Working stiffs: The Office, the transplanted American version of the celebrated British comedy-verité, premiered last night on NBC. The debut episode had American actors performing a reworked version of a British script, and bloggers don't know quite what to make of the half-new, half-old hybrid. (Read Slate's Dana Stevens on the show.)

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"Wow, I didn't think a show on U.S network TV could be made without a laugh track," writes Canadian poet and writer Adrian Speyer, who thinks "kudo's should be given to NBC for green lighting a show a decade ago would never have seen the light of day on network TV." Though his expectations were "low … Real low," Joe Rivera, of Stereo Joe, was nevertheless disappointed, writing, "They dumbed down the script … they got the characters wrong, the nuances are completely off." Bloggers who don't mention the U.K. original, like those at Oh yeah this is life… and Zach Is Here, have generally positive things to say about the American update.

Law student Iyaz Akhtar thinks "the NBC version is kind of like watching a re-enactment, a bad one." The American version, he writes, "edited out a lot of the awkward silences that were present in the BBC version. The pacing is a little off – it's like NBC is trying to hit the viewer with jokes in rapid succession. The BBC version just didn't bother – they let the jokes happen when they happened." At Various and Sundry, Augie De Blieck Jr.also notes the absence of awkward lulls but approves. "The show moves a lot faster," he says, "It's what they had to do to make it appeal to an American audience."

Other bloggers have doubts about the show's mix of deference and impudence. Television "is littered with the corpses of failed attempts to duplicate British shows in the US (and vice-versa). Basically, network executives don't seem to get why these shows are funny in their original format," writes Cincinnati-based crime writer James R. Winter. "Here's a novel idea: Why not import the original? Save money on hiring new actors, writers, etc., and the show's still funny." At Bowl of Ramen, New Jersey student Chang sees a silver lining: He expects the show to fail, but guesses "there is a bright side to all this, by reminding me how inimitable the original series was."

Read more about The Office.

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Cornering Fareed: A variety of writers at conservative clubhouse The Corner are attacking a Newsweek column by Fareed Zakaria that suggests the appointment of Paul Wolfowitz to the presidency of the World Bank might liberate conservative thinking about global poverty from the "stale catechism of clichés based on virtually no research or experience" which Zakaria believes has characterized it for years.

"Talk about old orthodoxies," says John J. Miller. "This is another example of how the media portrays the Right as racist, without a shred of evidence." Miller and John Derbyshire both object to Zakaria's offhand suggestion that conservatives believe foreign aid is ineffective because "Africans don't want to work." Ramesh Ponnuru argues that "Hernando de Soto's ideas about helping the Third World poor through property rights have been more popular on the American Right than on the Left." Jonah Goldberg agrees, writing that "if the issue is 'new ideas' I don't think Zakaria's swipe holds much water," since the "left, it seems to me, has been mostly interested in the same old remedies -- debt relief, direct aid, increasing budgets for NGOs etc." In an e-mail, Nick Schulz of Tech Central Station writes, "I'm not surprised at the gratuitous swipes at conservatives from Fareed, but he might want to get his facts right in the future. Most Africans would put more 'work' into op/ed columns than he did." S. Abbas Raza, at 3quarksdaily, suggests that Zakaria's column isn't so much an attack on Wolfowitz or his policies as it is part of a wider trend of writers celebrating him as the most idealistic of the neoconservatives. (Raza links to Christopher Hitchens' Slate column on Wolfowitz.)

Read more about the column, the World Bank, and Paul Wolfowitz.

Last licks on Schiavo: A federal district judge today denied an appeal by the parents of severely brain-damaged Terri Schiavo that sought to reinsert the feeding tube that was removed from their daughter one week ago. Acquiescing somewhat, bloggers on every side of the issue have begun to hypothesize about the legacy of the political and legal battle that has dominated the media for the past week.

The lesson of the affair, for conflicted conservative Andrew Sullivan, "is that religious zealotry cannot be incorporated into conservatism. It is the nemesis of conservatism. And it has to be purged in order for conservatism to be revived." At InstaPundit, Glenn Reynolds argues that it isn't religious fanaticism that threatens the conservative movement, but the liberal habit of imposing the government on citizens' lives, and "[t]rampling the Constitution" in the process. At the liberal Washington Monthly, Kevin Drum basically agrees: Conservative principles are in conflict over Terri Schiavo, not liberal ones. "Sometimes it's better," he adds, "to let the other side make fools of themselves without interfering."

Read more about Terri Schiavo here.

Have a question, comment, or suggestion for Today's Blogs? E-mail todaysblogs@slate.com.