Office manager Michael Scott (Steve Carell, "The Daily Show, The 40 Year-Old Virgin") believes he's the beloved leader of the Scranton, Pennsylvania, branch of a paper products company--but his relentless and painfully forced efforts at comedy creep out everyone around him, including paranoid Dwight (Rainn Wilson, who had a memorable recurring role on "Six Feet Under"), nervous receptionist Pam (Jenna Fischer, "LolliLove"), and aimless salesman Jim (John Krasinski, "A New Wave"), who's smitten with the already engaged Pam. The pilot episode suffers from closely replicating the British pilot, but after that The Office finds its own footing, turning diversity training, an office birthday party, and a basketball game into excruciating yet hypnotically funny rituals of humiliation. Carell, though clearly talented, can't match Ricky Gervais' unique performance as the aggressively needy British manager (it's hard to imagine that anyone could); as a result, the supporting roles become more prominent, and Wilson, Fischer, and Krasinski quickly create a rapport that matches and may even exceed that of their British counterparts. Be sure to watch the deleted scenes; remarkably, they're as good as the material that made it on the air in this six-episode season. --"Bret Fetzer"