When kids reach a certain age, you also reach an entertainment hinterland – an in-between stage when everything really good is just that bit too old for them, but they’re also thoroughly fed up of children’s TV and its rat-eating billionaire gangster dinner ladies. Or maybe they’ve just given up on watching telly completely because they prefer to download YouTube directly into their brains.
So it’s easy to become separated and permanently distracted – parents sitting in pyjamas downstairs tweeting about Corrie, children upstairs constructing meta TikTok videos of them playing ping pong with a hoover. Then the teen years will happen, and your paths will only cross when you find a cereal bowl in their room with Cretaceous-era Weetabix in it, or you might see them for 10 minutes on their birthday as you hand over yet another gaming console. Maybe once or twice they might WhatsApp you a cat GIF, but otherwise, as that Tory tax-evading nugget Phil Collins once warbled, you’re living separate lives.
Happily, though, me and my almost 13-year-old son have found a way through this pre-adolescent cultural desert by binge-watching the American version of The Office together. It’s quickly become one of the greatest joys of my life – up there with drinking Martinis and inappropriately following Timothée Chalamet on Instagram.
While the original British Office was all snideness, staplers and Slough, its American incarnation is like putting on the softest corporate-branded fleece.
For some reason, it passed me by, so seeing it all for the first time is like finding a tenner in the bottom of your handbag. We rejoice in the daily doings of Dunder Mifflin, we worship at the twisted, beet-strewn altar of Dwight K Schrute, we wonder what the hell Creed is all about and, of course, we sing the theme tune over and over again.
Apart from the obvious brilliance of the characters, who are so fully rounded that each could have had a spin-off series of their own, there’s something very soothing about it. While the original British Office was all snideness, staplers and Slough, immersing yourself in its American incarnation is like putting on the softest corporate-branded fleece.
Steve Carell takes David Brent and creates the very special small time idiot that is Michael Scott – all the awfulness is still there, but he has a heart even when he’s running over his staff in the car park and his antics never make you want to leave the room. And then, of course, there’s the Jim and Pam storyline, a thing of fragile beauty. Even though my son refuses to talk to me about girls, we are thoroughly invested in their romance.