Review: The Office: The Untold Story of the Greatest Sitcom of the 2000s: An Oral History by Andy Greene

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

The untold stories behind The Office, one of the most iconic television shows of the twenty-first century, told by its creators, writers, and actors

When did you last hang out with Jim, Pam, Dwight, Michael, and the rest of Dunder Mifflin? It might have been back in 2013, when the series finale aired . . . or it might have been last night, when you watched three episodes in a row. But either way, fifteen years after the show first aired, it’s more popular than ever, and fans have only one problem–what to watch, or read, next.

Fortunately, Rolling Stone writer Andy Greene has that answer. In his brand-new oral history, The Office: The Untold Story of the Greatest Sitcom of the 2000s, Greene will take readers behind the scenes of their favorite moments and characters. Greene gives us the true inside story behind the entire show, from its origins on the BBC through its impressive nine-season run in America, with in-depth research and exclusive interviews. Fans will get the inside scoop on key episodes from “The Dundies” to “Threat Level Midnight” and “Goodbye, Michael,” including behind-the-scenes details like the battle to keep it on the air when NBC wanted to pull the plug after just six episodes and the failed attempt to bring in James Gandolfini as the new boss after Steve Carell left, spotlighting the incredible, genre-redefining show created by the family-like team, who together took a quirky British import with dicey prospects and turned it into a primetime giant with true historical and cultural significance.

Hilarious, heartwarming, and revelatory, The Office gives fans and pop culture buffs a front-row seat to the phenomenal sequence of events that launched The Office into wild popularity, changing the face of television and how we all see our office lives for decades to come.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

The Office: The Untold Story of the Greatest Sitcom of the 2000s: An Oral History will be available March 24, 2020. 

The Office is one of my all time favorite tv shows. I can’t even tell you how many times I have binged it (though I often skip those last two dumpster fire seasons after Steve Carell left). When I saw this book, I knew I had to read it. I was hoping for lots of behind the scenes trivia and maybe some juicy scandal, but it wasn’t quite what I expected.

The format of the book is mostly excerpts from interviews from people involved with the show – ranging anywhere from cast and crew to Scranton Chamber of Commerce employees. The author did a lot of interviews with these people, but he also utilized other published interviews, quotes from dvd commentary, etc. to fill things in. The quotes are arranged in a way that almost feels like a conversation, but there were often times where it was just quote after quote basically saying the same thing (i.e. everyone commenting on what a hard worker Steve Carell is or how Greg Daniels [the man responsible for adapting The Office from the UK] was the best). It didn’t always work for me and there were a few times where I skimmed through it. Most of the quotes were also from writers, producers, or less central cast members, so I wasn’t always hearing from the people I wanted to the most.

Here are a few things I learned that stood out to me:

  • I’ve heard it said numerous times that the Chili’s Manager in The Dundies episode that bans Pam from the restaurant for being drunk was an actual Chili’s manager, but that’s not true. He was an actor. They weren’t even filming in an actual Chili’s, they had just worked with the restaurant chain to bring in fixtures, etc.
  • Instead of the big dance number at Jim and Pam’s wedding, the original script had Roy riding in on a white horse to try to stop the wedding. Then Dwight takes the horse to Niagara Falls and it was going to fall down them. Greg Daniels was apparently the only one who liked this idea and there were a lot of fights about it before the idea was finally scrapped.
  • Supposedly, Steve Carell wanted his contract to be renewed after the seventh season, but there was change in leadership at the network that wasn’t a big fan of the show and they didn’t try to make any deals about paying him more money, so he left.
  • There was a big debate about whether to make Andy or Dwight manager in season 8 and most people wanted Dwight, but the network wanted Andy because he was a bigger star at the time, thanks to The Hangover movies.
  • James Spader basically took the job because he was broke.
  • The network really wanted a spin-off and they wanted Parks and Rec to be that spin-off, but the creators wanted it to be it’s own show and casting Rashida Jones as a different character ensured the shows couldn’t be related and kind of came across as a “screw you” to the network. There was also talk of doing a family-centered spin-off and everyone was annoyed when Modern Family came out using their mockumentary style.
  • Most of the cast and crew considered Steve Carell leaving the end of the show. (I 100% agree with this.)
  • There was a plan to kind of reboot the show in season ten with a new cast and that’s why “New Jim and Dwight” were brought on, but then they decided to end after season 9 because the network wanted to work on developing new shows and the writers were pretty burned out.

Overall, there were enjoyable things in the book, but I wouldn’t consider it a “must read” for The Office fans. While there was definitely a sense of all the the cast and crew being family and loving the show, there was also a whole lot of negativity and blame coming across and it kind of made me like the show less instead of more. It will still be one of my go-to binge shows, though.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars

Review: Where Do I Begin? by Elvis Duran

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

Elvis Duran, host of one of the nation’s top morning shows and the voice millions of Americans wake up to, shares his wildest stories and hardest-learned lessons all with his trademark heart, honesty, and plenty of humor. 

Elvis Duran’s nationally syndicated radio program, Elvis Duran and the Morning Show, is America’s most-listened-to Top 40 morning show and one of the 10 most-listened-to programs in all of radio, heard live by nearly ten million people every morning.

But his success didn’t happen overnight. Elvis spent years navigating the wild world of radio as a DJ for hire, working (and partying) in markets around the country before taking over the morning shift at the legendary Z100 in 1996. Over the last twenty years, he has become one of New York City’s signature voices (Variety calls him “a permanent fixture of the area’s daily commutes”) thanks to his show’s exciting mix of music, new artist discoveryinterviews, gossip, and live listener interaction.

Along the way, Elvis has become known not just for his incisive interviews (and occasional feuds) with pop music’s biggest stars, but for the show’s commitment to kindness and positivity and Elvis’s own candor and openness with his audience.

Bold, funny, and totally candid, Where Do I Begin? is sure to be loved by anyone who listens to Elvis live every morning—or anyone who wants to know what really goes on behind the scenes of the pop music machine. It reads like an old friend telling a new story you’ve been dying to hear.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

Where Do I Begin? will be available October 1, 2019. 

Every morning as I get ready for work, I listen to Elvis Duran and the Morning Show. For those that don’t know, it’s a nationally syndicated radio show – number one in it’s market – based out of of New York. It’s a show with a wide variety of contributors, ideas, and gags. Sometimes they have segments that make me roll my eyes a bit, but other times I am laughing out loud or getting choked up (in a good way). Listening to the show is the best part of my morning and I have been looking forward to this book since I first heard Elvis mention it in on the air.

I really enjoyed Where Do I Begin? It read just like having a conversation with Elvis and though I am not generally an audio book reader, I definitely want to to experience this again with Elvis narrating (at least I’m assuming he’ll narrate it? If not him, my vote is definitely Greg T.). We start out hearing about how Elvis first fell in love with radio as a child. I loved learning about how this was his passion from an early age and basically the only thing he was ever interested in doing. He even built his own little radio station in his bedroom as a kid and put on a show that reached his closest neighbors – and then it blew up when he tried to give more power to the signal.

I have to admit that I was expecting a little more scandal, though. There have been multiple times listening to the show where they start talking about something and Elvis refuses to go into details, saying something like, “you’ll have to read the book.” However, there were still stories he kind of glossed over and names he wouldn’t share and while I understand that, I was kind of disappointed in it. There was also one chapter about fame that wasn’t so much about him, but of the celebrities he’s interviewed and it felt a little out of place.

I loved pretty much every other part of the book, though. Even if it didn’t go quite as in depth as I had hoped for, I feel like I learned a lot more about Elvis and about the radio industry, in general. There was also one chapter dedicated to how people basically went crazy during the 2016 election and how he wants his show to remain a positive place for all people. He reiterated what I’ve heard him say on the show, about how we can disagree with people without completely hating them. This shouldn’t be a profound idea, but it’s something people have seemed to forget lately and I really admire that he uses his platform to help build bridges between people instead of adding to the toxic political culture of blue vs red.

Overall, I really enjoyed Where Do I Begin? It’s been one of my most anticipated books of the year and it lived up to the hype for me. I’ve been a fan of Elvis for years and reading this made me just like him more. It’s definitely a must read for listeners of his show.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: The Killer Across the Table by John Douglas and Mark Olshaker

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

The legendary FBI criminal profiler, number-one New York Times bestselling author, and inspiration for the hit Netflix show Mindhunter delves deep into the lives and crimes of four of the most disturbing and complex predatory killers, offering never-before-revealed details about his profiling process, and divulging the strategies used to crack some of America’s most challenging cases.

The FBI’s pioneer of criminal profiling, former special agent John Douglas, has studied and interviewed many of America’s most notorious killers—including  Charles Manson, ”Son of Sam Killer” David Berkowitz and ”BTK Strangler” Dennis Rader—trained FBI agents and investigators around and the world, and helped educate the country about these deadly predators and how they operate, and has become a legend in popular culture, fictionalized in The Silence of the Lambs and the hit television shows Criminal Minds and Mindhunter.

Twenty years after his famous memoir, the man who literally wrote the book on FBI criminal profiling opens his case files once again. In this riveting work of true crime, he spotlights four of the most diabolical criminals he’s confronted, interviewed and learned from. Going deep into each man’s life and crimes, he outlines the factors that led them to murder and how he used his interrogation skills to expose their means, motives, and true evil. Like the hit Netflix show, The Killer Across the Table is centered around Douglas’ unique interrogation and profiling process. With his longtime collaborator Mark Olshaker, Douglas recounts the chilling encounters with these four killers as he experienced them—revealing for the first time his profile methods in detail.

Going step by step through his interviews, Douglas explains how he connects each killer’s crimes to the specific conversation, and contrasts these encounters with those of other deadly criminals to show what he learns from each one. In the process, he returns to other famous cases, killers and interviews that have shaped his career, describing how the knowledge he gained from those exchanges helped prepare him for these.

A glimpse into the mind of a man who has pierced the heart of human darkness, The Killer Across the Table unlocks the ultimate mystery of depravity and the techniques and approaches that have countered evil in the name of justice.

I received a copy of this title from the Publisher. It does not impact my review.

The Killer Across the Table will be available May 7, 2019. 

I don’t often read Non-Fiction, but profiling has always fascinated me. Mindhunters has also been on my Watch List, so when I realized John Douglas is the inspiration for that show, I knew I had to read The Killer Across the Table.

John Douglas is a pioneer in profiling for the FBI. He and his colleague, Bob Ressler, started interviewing violent criminals to learn more about their motivations, which can ultimately help law enforcement in identifying, catching, and prosecuting the guilty. The book focuses on four different killers, ranging from a one-time (though horrific) offender to a serial killer. Included in each chapter is detailed background information about the subject, anecdotes of his interviews with other criminals that relate in some way to the current subject, details of the interview, and analysis of what it all means.

I found the book really interesting. It does not shy away from any of the gruesome facts, so it may not be for all readers. The four main subjects were Joe McGowan, Joseph Kondro, Donald Harvey, and Todd Kohlhepp. I had never heard of any of these men before picking up this book, but I will not soon forget the atrocities they committed. While the many anecdotes on previous cases were very interesting and added to the main case being discussed, it did get a little confusing at times with all the names and details being thrown around. There were also a few times where Douglas comes across pretty arrogant, mockingly dismissing the opinions of other professionals that he disagreed with. However, he is obviously very knowledgeable and dedicated to what he does, so I could look past the more arrogant moments.

Overall, I enjoyed The Killer Across the Table. I think profiling work is so interesting and I liked learning a little more about the process. I definitely recommend this one to true crime fans.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars