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Customer Review

65 of 68 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hell Is Other People, Indeed, November 16, 2004
This review is from: The Office: The Complete BBC Collection (First and Second Series Plus Special) (DVD)
There has been much hype about "The Office" being a great sitcom on the level of "The Honeymooners" or "Fawlty Towers" and it is that, but it's something else, too. It may be the invention of a new genre you might call the sit-tragi-comedy, because there are many moments in this dark, unforgettable show when the skull beneath the skin of the human condition becomes appallingly visible. They may sound pretentious (as Ricky Gervais says jokingly about his show on the DVD, it's like Dickens, only better) but "The Office" deserves every scrap of praise it gets.

It owes a lot to the Christopher Guest mockumentaries like "Waiting for Guffman" in which the limits of human self-delusion are scathingly explored. There's also the achingly tart characterization and wit of "Fawlty Towers." Neil LaBute's savage comedies of sexual combat and office politics seem present as well. There's also the unmistakable whiff of Samuel Beckett (yes, I said Beckett) in the pacing and style, the emptinesses and Godot-like futility of the work. Perhaps the greatest aspect of the show is how it combines both mercilessness and compassion at once. Many of the characters are just awful people, but on the other hand at times they are very painfully aware of it. As David Brent despairingly wails, after his exploits have supposedly been telecast all over Britain, "I am not a plonker!"

David Brent, brilliantly incarnated by series co-writer and creator Ricky Gervais, is a Frankenstein-like compilation of the worst qualities of every boss you ever despised. Abusive, dishonest, incompetent, socially inept; yet convinced in his own mind he is a "chilled-out entertainer and comedian" before he is a boss, Brent is a walking inducer of cringes and acid reflux. The only worse person in the place is the truly vile Chris Finch; bully, insult-artist and would-be womanizer. (The bar they frequent, Chasers, is like Dante's Inferno set to disco music.) The team leader, Gareth, is a weedy little git who believes he is Rambo. The corporate executives circle the office like sharks, waiting for the next opportunity to cut jobs. Caught up in the mess are two innocents; Tim, the smart 30-year-old clerk who still lives with his parents and sees through everything and who is in love with Dawn, the sweet receptionist who is engaged to a swinish yob from the warehouse.
Scott Adams, of Dilbert fame, says that he is not anti-business but anti-idiot. I think the same could be said of "The Office"; although the environment truly is soul-crushing, still most of the characters wounds are self-inflicted. (The incredibly terrible music video Brent makes with the money from his severance package can be seen in the Christmas special, and it has the power to make your jaw drop to the floor.) Included on this DVD are both seasons of the show as well as the Christmas special which bring the series to an end. It's not too much to reveal that the creators do bring a happy ending of sorts; whether you believe it can be sustained even 24 hours after the "documentary" cameras have finally been turned off is of course up to you. A brilliant, classic series.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jul 6, 2008 9:32:14 AM PDT
Skeptic says:
Great review.
By the way, it is better than Dickens.

Posted on Apr 10, 2013 11:41:13 AM PDT
Taranis says:
It says it all that the 5-star reviews are generally infinitely more intelligent and literate than the vast majority one and two star reviews I was unwise enough to waste my time reading.
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