The complete first series of the award-winning BBC Television faux documentary. David Brent (Ricky Gervais) is the manager of paper merchant Wernham Hogg's Slough office, but in his own mind he's not so much the boss but 'more of a friend'. Unctious and ineffectual in equal measure, he turns the life of his staff into a neverending round of irritating mini-dramas. In episode 1, David is informed that company downsizing means that the Slough office might have to close. In a moment of gauche managerial bravado he promises his staff that there will be no redundacies, a promise he might not be able to keep. In episode 2, Donna arrives to start her work experience placement at Wernham Hogg, but the office is more obsessed by a dirty picture that's circulating. In episode 3, it's the annual quiz night and David's longtime sparring partner 'Finchy' is in town to take on all comers. However things soon turn nasty as the quiz turns into a battle against the university-educated newboy Ricky and Tim the reluctant sales rep. In episode 4 a management consultant has been sent to the office to impart some much needed wisdom. However David can't help but try to run things and soon the session descends into farce. In episode 5, despite the imminent cutbacks, David decides to take on a secretary and gets a bit too involved in the selection process, with a suspicion in the office that only the prettiest candidate will get the job. Finally in episode 6 the big day has finally come. Will the staff keep their jobs, or is the office to be closed down?
It feels both inaccurate and inadequate to describe The Office
as a comedy. On a superficial level, it disdains all the conventions of television sitcoms: there are no punch lines, no jokes, no laugh tracks and no cute happy endings. More profoundly, it's not what we're used to thinking of as funny. Most of the fervently devoted fan base that the programme acquired watched with a discomfortingly thrilling combination of identification and mortification. The paradox is that its best moments are almost physically unwatchable.
Set in the offices of a fictional Slough paper merchant, The Office is filmed in the style of a reality television programme. The writing is subtle and deft, the acting wonderful and the characters beautifully drawn: the cadaverous team leader Gareth, a paradigm of Andy McNab's readership; the monstrous sales rep, Chris Finch; and the decent but long-suffering everyman Tim, whose ambition and imagination have been crushed out of him by the banality of the life he dreams uselessly of escaping. The show is stolen, as it was intended to be, by insufferable office manager David Brent, played by cowriter Ricky Gervais. Brent will become a name as emblematic for a particular kind of British grotesque as Alan Partridge or Basil Fawlty, but he is a deeper character than either. Partridge and Fawlty are exaggerations of reality, and therefore safely comic figures. Brent is as appalling as only reality can be. --Andrew Mueller
On the DVD The Office, Series 1 is tastefully packaged as a two-disc set appropriately adorned with John Betjeman's poem "Slough". The special features occupy the second disc and consist of a laid-back 39-minute documentary entitled "How I Made The Office by Ricky Gervais", with co-writer Stephen Merchant and the cast contributing. Here we discover that Gervais spends his time on set "mucking around and annoying people", and that actress Lucy Davis (Dawn) is the daughter of Jasper Carrott; as well as seeing parts of the original short film and the original BBC pilot episode; plus we get to enjoy many examples of the cast corpsing throughout endless retakes. There are also a handful of deleted scenes, none of which were deleted because they weren't funny. --Mark Walker
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