(2001 – 2003, UK)
Creator: Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant
Cast: Ricky Gervais, Martin Freeman, Mackenzie Crook, Lucy Davis, Ewan MacIntosh, Ben Bradshaw, Emma Louise Manton
2 Seasons + Christmas Specials (14 Episodes)
Have you ever been in a truly embarrassing situation? Like saying something very wrong to exactly the wrong person? What if you would have been ignorant of the embarrassment, would that make you feel better or worse? Obviously better. Ignorance is bliss. But if you wouldn’t feel the embarrassment, you would probably say wrong things a whole lot more often and other people would feel embarrassment for you. Such is the case with David Brent (Ricky Gervais).
David Brent is the regional manager of paper wholesaler Wernham-Hogg in Slough. He is one of television’s greatest characters. His main motivation in life is to be popular among his office underlings. He is at his happiest when somebody laughs at his painfully unfunny jokes. That aside, he wants them to be impressed by his laid-back management style. All he ever does however, is keeping people from working. Neither does he perform any work himself. He is too busy cracking jokes or inventing ludicrous office activities.
What makes it worse is Brent’s misplaced confidence. Everybody obviously finds him super annoying, yet he genuinely believes he is popular and people find him hilarious. This leads to some profoundly embarrassing moments. Sometimes it is almost too painful to watch, like his motivational speech about management at another company. No manager would ever want to get the David Brent label, but he is still recognizable in everyday people. At the same time he is unique.
Brent is not alone in his ridiculousness. His skeleton-faced supporter Gareth who is second-in-command at the company is an almost equally laughable character, be it less painful than Brent. Then there is Brent’s so-called buddy Chris ‘Finchy’ Finch, who is one of the most obnoxious persons to ever appear on TV. Poor Tim and Dawn, an account manager and receptionist who have to deal with these people in a sometimes scary universe. Their series-spanning romantic plot is one the greatest ever created for the small screen.
The Office is a magnificent black comedy. There are many, often subtle, jokes and moments of great hilarity. It is also more than a comedy, sometimes almost like a message about existentialism. Many of us, have to spend a huge amount of out lives at a horrible depressing place (Slough) between people we can barely stand. Luckily there is humour in this, or suicide rates would go up dramatically.
When watching this, don’t expect an ordinary sitcom though. The Office requires some resilience against horrible humiliations. The reward are the final Christmas Specials that end the show on a very positive note. This move by the creators has been criticized because of the spectacular fall David Brent makes in season 2. The execution however of the two-episode finale is so fantastic that it can be instantly forgiven. The Office is comedy genius. Make sure to watch it several times catch some of the brilliant subtext the makers provide.
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