Schillinger first offers a bit of background (hope you have your French-to-English dictionaries at the ready):
In France, however, the dubbed version sank like a lead ballon when it aired two years ago. But when a BBC-licensed French remake, Le Bureau, debuted on French television last month—starring the sly, puffy-faced French comedian François Berléand as the useless Gilles Triquet—critics hailed it as a succès fou. Meanwhile, a German imitator, Stromberg, in which the boss is a high-strung, homophobic alcoholic, won the German Comedy Prize's best actor award last winter for its director and star, Christoph Maria Herbst.
Then Schillinger explains why the U.S. version is superior to the original BBC version (at least to a yank) -- because it "sends up the drab pageantry of the American cubicle ghetto—faithfully rendering what Conrad would have called 'the peculiar blackness of that experience.'" Right on.
To the outrage of many of my British friends, I find the American version superior to its British relative. It's not that I don't like the U.K. Office, I just don't like it as much. It doesn't reflect the reality of any U.S. workplace I know. The sexism is too blatant and the inside jokes are often too, well, inside. ...
But, more subtly, the base-line mood of David Brent's workplace—resignation mingled with self-loathing—is unrecognizably alien to our (well, my) sensibility. In the American office, passivity mingles with rueful hopefulness: An American always believes there's something to look forward to. A Brit does not, and finds humor in that hopelessness. What truths, I wondered, might Le Bureau and Stromberg reveal about the French and German professional milieus?