on October 30, 2004
Every reviewer out there has praised this show for its brilliance and I'm going to be redundant and do the same. From its first episode to the last few seconds of the Christmas Specials, The Office never has one bad line or one false note. It's just about perfect.
Almost every scene takes place in the dull offices of the Slough branch of the Wernham Hogg paper company (Dawn, the receptionist, accurately describes it as "a crappy sub-branch paper merchant's). Wernham Hogg employs about 40 people and we get to know all their faces as we see them stare at computer screens, take coffee breaks, and goof off day after day. It's as realistic as TV has ever been. Nobody is too pretty, everyone's "office-casual" wardrobe is slightly wrinkled, and everyone looks bored out of his or her mind most of the time.
The people we get to know best are: Gareth Keenan, a bizarre "team leader" with a fixation on survival skills; Dawn Tindsley, the sweet and sarcastic receptionist who is stuck in both a boring job and a boring relationship; Tim Canterbury, a sales rep who hates his job but can never seem to actually quit it; and David Brent, a man who thinks he's everyone's "friend as well as their boss" but who is actually liked and respected by no one.
The two main story threads running through all 14 episodes of The Office are Tim's attempts to convince Dawn to leave her idiotic fiance and David's constant need to impress his employees, bosses, and everyone he meets with his various talents. We see his "humor," his "poetry," his "songs," his "dancing," and his philosophical "wisdom." All of which are horrifyingly bad. David's constant need to perform ends up slowly destroying him, Tim and Dawn remain unhappily inert, and things get worse and worse for everyone until the show almost becomes unbearable to watch. The cast is so good, though, and every line so pitch perfect, that you'd follow these people anywhere, even in despair. Also, the great thing about The Office is, like life, all the possibilities continually exist for these characters and we never know when they might have a moment of redemption.
So, it's not strictly a comedy, but it is the funniest, most devastating, and strangely uplifting show I have seen in recent years.
on November 16, 2004
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.
It's a dark "Dilbert," a realistic "Office Space." Hit Brit-comedy "The Office" takes mockumentaries to the small screen, featuring the hilariously unfunny David Brent, and his unhappy employees. This three-pack includes both seasons, plus the satisfying holiday special, which also serves as the grand finale.
The first season opens with David Brent (Ricky Gervais) learning that either his branch or another branch of paper corporation Wenham-Hogg will shortly be downsized. So this wannabe-comedian sets out to prove that his branch is better, stumbling as he tries. Trailing in his wake is bored everyman Tim (Martin Freeman), dead-looking yes-man Gareth (MacKenzie Crook), and pretty, quietly cynical receptionist Dawn (Lucy Davis).
The second season, while more unsteady than the first, takes some new and darker steps. Now David's rival Neil (Patrick Baladi) is his boss, and David has a slew of new employees who are less than thrilled about his racist jokes, chicken suits, and the lack of any actual work going on. Dawn becomes jealous when Tim gets a girlfriend, and Gareth searches for any way to bed Tim's girlfreind. And after a catastrophic managerial meeting, David learns that the next downsizing just might be him...
After the dismal ending of the second season, the feature-length "Office Special" provides a satisfying wrap up. Three years later, everyone from Wenham-Hogg -- including those who no longer work there -- is being called back for a special reunion. Tim is given one last chance to win Dawn's affections, and David finally learns the truth about himself. (Anyone disappointed by the end of the second season had better check out the new endings)
Don't expect a typical sitcom in "The Office." No laughtracks. No punch lines. No gag humor... well, not much. And no episode has a clear-cut ending. Instead, we have the format seen in "This is Spinal Tap" and the Christopher Guest mockumentaries -- hidden cameras watching the madness. And what those cameras see is enough to make the world's cubicle-dwellers cry. Okay, most offices don't have giant inflatable genitalia, or a comedy-for-charity day, but the core of it is frighteningly close to home.
The series gets off to a slightly bumpy start -- at first, the jokes are a bit too thinly-spread. But soon "The Office" gets its footing and the humor steadies itself ("Tim's put my stapler inside a jelly again. That's the third time he's done it!" Gareth complains, displaying the stapler in a Jell-O mold). And a lot of the humor is a subversive, subtle kind -- it creeps into your mind, and by episode two you'll be laughing your head off at David's bad jokes, his spastic chimp dance, and his prejudices hidden behind a veil of political correctness.
Ricky Gervais is brilliant. David is every bit as annoying and obnoxious as the immortal Basil Fawlty, but hides it under a genial mask and stupid jokes. Mackenzie Crook is wonderful as the obsequious boot-licker with a bit of a sex fixation; his Dirty Bertie toy is one of the most tasteless, horribly funny scenes on TV. Tim, like Dilbert, is a lovable loser who can't get himself out of his soul-sucking job. And Dawn is mired in a relationship with an obnoxious cheapskate, yet it takes her the whole series to finally do something about it.
Clearly destined for cult status, this is "The Office" as it was meant to be, with a darkly funny storyline culminating in a satisfying finale. Funny, strange and immensely entertaining.
Granted, purchasing this complete set will save a few bucks and a disk's worth of shelf space, and everything will be in one case. HOWEVER, you won't get any of the cool inserts and text included with the individual releases, i.e., Slough Slang - The Local Lingo from both series; Wernham Hogg News (with personnel files) and the poem "Slough" from the first series; the Wernham Hogg floor plan and "Excalibur" lyrics from the second series; and the promo photo for David Brent's single from the special. It's a good buy but frankly, I'd rather have the extras, even if it does cost me a bit of real estate. Besides, it affords a built-in excuse for not loaning out the whole collection at once to deserving friends!
That stated, owning this collection in its entirety is a must for fans of British humor, and the rating reflects only my personal preference for the aforementioned goodies and my disappointment that they're not included in this collection.
on February 24, 2005
I would probably have missed seeing this fabulous series had I not seen Ricky Gervais on David Letterman. Letterman said in effect that Ricky's show, The Office, was one of the rare TV comedy series that was hilarious, simply "perfect" and an instant classic. With such high praise I had to seek it out, and I was not disappointed.
Excruciatingly funny in its honest and knowing approach to the realities of dull office routine, populated with characters diplaying the everyday weirdness of the everyday people one can find oneself working beside, and filmed with the brilliant creative stroke of a cinema verite documentary style, this is an acute and perceptive look at how people behave and what constitutes the working lives of most of us.
That, and it is screamingly funny in its sly and witty, surgical dismemberment of its character's various pretenses. Like an autopsy done on laughing gas, this is a wincingly hilarious examination of basic human foibles, that cuts deep and true, and yet never loses sight of the flawed humanity therein.
Starting with co-creator, writer and director Ricky Gervais's monumentally obtuse, politically incorrect, inept and, usually, stunningly self-deluded office manager, David Brent, forever cringingly doing or saying the absolutely inappropriate thing when not winking at the camera and expounding his inane, self-congratulatory and insipid "management philosophy". It is a fabulously rich character and Gervais plays him to perfection. Brent is such a total jerk, yet so helplessly so, one simply can't hate him. It is a rare and marvelous turn, and a great gamble to make your central character such an unsympathetic twit without making him inhuman, and Gervais deserves high praise indeed for both the writing and the performance.
The rest of the characters, large and small, are written and played with equal insight and intelligence. The angular and dense Gareth; the intelligent but stymied Tim; the sweetly trapped and yearning Dawn; the loutish and nasty Chris; the competent and ambitious Neil; Keith,the lumbering accountant, he of the terse and enigmatic observations; and the other office folk we get bits and glimpses of, usually with the telling remark or gesture that reveals. We see dithering, goofing-off, dead-time, and the aches and fumblings of unrequited office romance.
The story arc makes sense and over the course of the series we watch David Brent take himself right over-the-cliff, self-destructing as the ultra-smooth professionals cooly down-size, merge, and eliminate. Brent is no match for them, and somewhere inside, he knows it. The wrap special, which takes place 3 years after the supposed documentary has aired, neatly resolves many plot-lines, or at least does so for that moment. The Office always lets you know that life goes on, and nothing is ever resolved forever.
It is a shame to have to write so seriously about something that is so damn funny. I laughed out loud many many times, and even the painfully wince-inducing behaviour was done with great good humor. If you liked This Is Spinal Tap, Waiting for Guffman, Best in Show, and A Mighty Wind, you will have the right sensibility for this series. This is brilliant work here, more true than any "reality TV", and well worth your while.
on May 2, 2005
Here is why I think The Office is so great:
IT IS FUNNY, but unlike a lot of the funny TV shows you are used to. To say that it is funny in a British humour way doesn't even cover it but it is a starting point for Americans who don't know what to expect. There really aren't any punchlines. No setup for someone to jump in with a zinger with and a studio audience to laugh at the actors on stage. But what these people say and do is funny on a lot of levels. And the laughs range from nervous chuckles to outright belly laughs at times.
IT DOESN'T FEEL LIKE A SITCOM, but it does pull off the feeling of a documentary. Of course I always wonder if people would really act this way and say these things with the camera on but I suppose it isn't unrealistic with these days of "reality" television. Some of the best moments are the quick cuts to someone's face off scene as they react to what they are listening to. They don't need to say a word but effortlessly convey a lot of meaning in an eye roll or a sideways glance.
IT DOESN'T WEAR ITSELF OUT. 2 seasons. 12 episodes, thirty minutes each (with no commercials breaks!) and a special that comes out to about two episodes. That's it. No dragging it out. The series gets to a high point and stays there and then drops you off like a bad date. I love this and I hate this about the show. I'm so used to a series either dragging out too long or being cancelled before its prime. But I wish more series would do this. Give us the best and don't let there be a chance for mediocrity. Of course, the Special does try to give us some closure but it still leaves you wanting more.
IT MAKES YOU FEEL UNCOMFORTABLE because you know these people. If you work in an office, more than likely you have seen these people and/or these behaviors at one time or another. So you laugh because it seems real. Or you nervously squirm because your're drawn in and it seems real. But you still watch the train wrecks brought on by David Brent and you slap your head as you shake it and laugh at the same time. Oh, it is brilliantly uncomfortable.
IT IS NOT FOR EVERYONE and that is fine. Some people won't get it. Some people will get it and not like it. Some people won't give it a chance because it is British or on DVD now or they are watching the American verion and like it or don't like it or whatever. That's OK. Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant made what they think is funny and I agree with that. If someone else disagrees, it doesn't change how much I admire this show. To each his own.
IT IS MEMORABLE. This show sticks with you and you want to watch it again and again. For the office meetings, seminars, visits to the pub, romances, turmoil, ignorance, guitar playing, dancing, and kettle throwing. I wish there was more but I'm glad there isn't.
That is why I love The Office. I will recommend it to anyone with the warning that you might not like it. But if you do, I bet you'll love it.
on July 30, 2006
Meet David Brent. Manager of a small branch of a paper company in Slough, England, Brent keeps a stash of beer in his office for emergencies, fancies himself as a comedian - constantly bombarding his employees with racist, sexist jokes and generally rude behavior - and, overall, struggles with the fact that he is a jumped-up mediocrity quickly aging into marginalized obsoleteness. Delusional and detestable, Brent masks his profound insecurities with a buffoonish persona that's "still rock n' roll," his need to be the center of attention eventually pulling him into a downward spiral that is both hilarious and incredibly painful to observe. The man is a trainwreck in motion, and woe to anyone that dares obstruct his progress to the Dark Ends of human petulance.
*The Office*, a BBC series that ran for two seasons with a wrap-up Christmas Special, is now being hailed as one of the greatest situational comedies to emerge from the far side of the Atlantic - and rightly so. Unique from the dross of the mainstream networks, there is no laugh track, no slapstick gags or dull stereotype roles, no happy resolution at the end of each episode. Laughs come from the dead silences that follow one of Brent's jokes, from character reactions and snide comments, from incredibly awkward moments the like of which have never graced television before. Built around the clever idea of portraying an average office environment in documentary form, the camera both allows the viewer to be seduced into the "real" of its characters and conflict, all the while suggesting the core opportunist streak of David Brent, who shamelessly mugs for this chance at fame, ratcheting up the comedian shtick to an appalling level, alternatively whining about his troubles and using the medium as an aphorism-mirror, building himself up to be a Great Man among the needy proles. The amount of self-delusion that emerges from these candid glimpses into Brent's fragile state give credit to both the sharp, acerbic writing and the truly astonishing acting ability of co-creator Ricky Gervaise, who fashions a character so life-like and empathetically awful that the audience cannot help but see him as the template for any ambitious idiot somehow maneuvered into a station beyond his abilities.
SEASON ONE starts rather casually, with office clown Tim enacting petty prank jokes on the sycophantic Gareth, receptionist Dawn flirting with Tim in what seems a compatible (but unrequited) match, and the employees lazing about, occasionally doing work in the "chilled out" atmosphere David Brent has cultivated. As for Brent, he wanders about with a wan smile and a sort of shallow confidence that hints at the dysfunction beneath, never really working, always keeping an eye out for the camera so he can perform. He tells awful jokes and laughs loudly in the silence, brags about his drinking ability, baldface lies to his boss, hijacks a training session so he can muse on the good ol' days with his rock n' roll band, fires long-term employees due to redundancies yet hires a pretty PA at the drop of a hat; and constantly, constantly says the wrong thing at the wrong moment, leaving atomic blasts of embarrassment wherever he goes. It can accurately be stated that The Office is all about laughing at rather than laughing with, all about the ugliness of the human situation and the catharsis resultant in seeing it in such a condensed form.
SEASON TWO is where things get nasty. The paper company merges two offices together and suddenly Brent has a bunch of new employees and a new boss to try and impress and eventually contend with. The previous season established the characters and a rather lowkey conflict ratio, with the threat of redundancies and Brent himself as major antagonists but most of the humor centered around office gags and reactions to lowbrow antics, coming off very funny yet (relatively) harmless. In the second season the gloves are off, and the writers methodically strip back the layers of illusion Brent has surrounded himself in, painting a man hell-bent on ingratiating himself into an awkward situation and in turn making everything and everyone miserable.
By far more painful than the first season - in that form of "watching the screen with your hands over your eyes", croaking laughter at the display of raw brutality - year 2 is also the more psychologically dense. The new employees from the merger react with disgust to the jokes and bad behavior, chafe at the "chilled out" environment Brent tries so strenuously to maintain, smirk at his attempts to appear younger (a make-over that reaches a horrifying peak in the Motivational Speech episode) and gradually come to ignore him completely. Job threatened and his delusions dangerously breached, Brent breaks down and shows the true colors of his spite, almost oblivious to the omniscient camera except to use it as a platform for his tirades against the "boring" new employees and the dashing new Boss. The CHRISTMAS SPECIAL wraps up the loose threads from Season Two in a moving, if still occasionally cringe-worthy, finale.
I've only really touched the main threads that make this series such a marvel: throw in the tragic affection between likable everyman Tim and office secretary Dawn, the tyrannical behavior and general clueless nature of lowbrow brownnoser Gareth, the smarmy, sleazy note-perfect 'hustler sales rep' Chris Finch, and you have a show that rivals Faulty Towers for the crown of British comedy. David Brent even enacts Basil Faulty's most atrocious lapse of bad taste ('The Germans' infamous moustache-and-highkick) to the unamused consternation of his employees, giving both tribute and contrast, for whereas Basil is completely exaggerated and thus relatively safe, a cartoon to laugh at, Brent is borderline crazy and very, very frightening therein.
The Office is a fascinating, harrowing exercise in psychological black humor, a catharsis for anyone that has had to work in a stifling corporate environment, and/or dealt with the sort of people the series so keenly depicts. Five stars.
This is one of the funniest things I've seen in comedy. The comic timing in the British version is pure genius. The humor is darker but at the same time more poignant than the American version as the situations and the characters are closer to life. I had seen the American version earlier (which was also great) but I am glad that I bought the British version as it is simply brilliant. Gervais' potrayal of the super egoistical boss who wants to be "one" with his office folks is superb. Carrell did a great job in the American version and made us laugh but Gervais simply "lives" the character with every glance, every pause (for effect!) and every dialogue. I laughed out loud many times during the episodes and kept laughing later too as I ran into similar situations at work. You'll see David Brent (the boss) or parts of him at your own work place. In fact, I'd be surprised if some of the characters in the series don't remind you of someone you know at work. And that makes the British series even funnier as the direction breathes everyday, mundane office realism into the series.
The British version also has jokes and humor which would not have been acceptable in America. I think this would be one DVD investment worth making as you will probably watch it over and over again!
on March 18, 2005
I was blown away when I watched the first three episodes of this collection for the first time, and remember thinking, "in some sick twisted corner of corporate 'somewhere,' this hilarious circus of office pseudo-professionals exists and is being filmed documentarily."
If you can get really tickled by sardonic humor, sarcasm, light hearted mockery, irony, crazy British spontaneity, and dry wit.... You are going to lose pounds laughing -- from watching this series.
For anyone who has ever worked a desk job or a middle-level manager, worked in sales, or just had a heinous amount of corporate jargon and ridiculous business ideology stuffed down your throat, your will rejoice in the genius ways this film humorously deconstructs not only the problems with corporate ideologues, but also hilarious crisis that develop as a product of stressful relationships in the office.
The entire series is engaging, and never comes to a dull point; each episode ending with grippingly hilarious drama and dynamic plot twists with characters you begin to seriously care about --- That's the real genius of this series, even with all of the mockery and hilarity, the characters are rich enough that the viewer inevitably becomes enamored with their lives.
I can't speak highly enough for this masterful achievement of cinematic brilliance. For me, it was like watching SNL's "Jack Handy" quips, enacted with Monty Python, and complimented with the humor of Gary Larson and Kurt Vonnegut. Yeah, it's that good.
Buy it and watch it with good friends before you see the diluted and americanized version on NBC. If there were a way to give a product 10 stars, I'd do it for this series.
on December 29, 2004
Brilliant, had me in stitches of laughter. I haven't laughed so hard in a long time. Ricky Gervais is a genius. What a laugh, and then something more by the end of the second special. It made me laugh and made me cry. One of the best comedy series I have ever seen.
For those who don't know, The Office is a comedy about the mundane life in an office environment filmed in the style of a documentary. The line of business is also rather insignificant: a paper merchants.
The main character is office manager David Brent (Ricky Gervais) who is an over the top boss who thinks he is the funny when he actually embarrassing himself. He also thinks he is everyone's friend and would rather be popular than an authoritave boss.
I am a Brit living in the US and have been devoid of British comedy for the last couple of years - unfortunately our cable does not carry BBC America. I asked for this for Christmas after hearing Ricky Gervais give an interview on NPR radio and have already finished watching it.
I find American comedy only gives me sniggers and not the absolute tears of laugher that I get from British comedy. That is not to say American comedy is bad, just different. British comedy series are also a lot shorter in terms of episodes compared to American series, so they are much tighter and don't run the risk of running out of material or repeating what has already been done. British TV is also not so ratings driven as US TV which gives more freedom to the artists.
I have seen some poor reviews and that is OK, people find different things funny. There are some shows that friends have raved about that I did not find in the least bit funny. Comedy is a personal thing. All I can tell you is what I saw. I must admit that it started a bit slow, but once you got to know the characters by the second or third episode it is hilarious. Perhaps those who did not find it funny turned off too soon.
I can really relate to the characters and goings on of The Office. Perhaps that's what makes it so funny. I was born in Slough and lived and worked for some time in Berkshire County. I have my own versions David Brent and Gareth Keenan from my office experiences. The characters are so true to life, if slightly exaggerated.
My absolute favorite character was the dead pan Keith; love the voice mail he left on his answering machine when he was in training and his work appraisal was a hoot.
I understand that Ricky Gervais never had any formal training as an actor, which is perhaps what make him so good in his character.
Get it, watch it and judge for yourself. Or you could go the BBC web site and watch some clips to see if it is your cup of tea. URL: [...]