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
For those few who haven't yet seen it, The Office is not a traditional sitcom. The 'plotlines' are intentionally drab (end-of-financial year disco!!) and nothing of note happens at all. But this ridiculing of docusoap culture and it's pointlessness is what makes the series. As of course, are the people in it.
The character of Brent is magnificent. Every last mannerism, every utterance of cringeworthy 'let's all pull together' management-speak is spot-on. Finch is revolting in every way, Tim is terrific (although a little unrealistic, has there ever been a 20/30-something lad as intelligent and thoughtful as that?) and his yearning for Dawn, already in the clutches of caveman Lee is genuinely poignant. The scene where Lee discusses their future, and his plans for Dawn (a few kiddies under her belt and a cleaning job!) is priceless. So true, and so sad.
As for Gareth...well, as Mackenzie Crook says in the documentary, 'a right wally'. Boasting about army exploits has never sounded so ridiculous.
The vast majority of us have known the characters featured in The Office, and had the misfortune to work with them. It is a comfort to those of us who always suspected how supremely sad these people were, but never wanted to say. Now we have it confirmed. The Office is a masterpiece, and I hope it will stay that way, and that Gervais and co. don't blow it by making abysmal feature length versions, for example. The power of this series is that it took a fresh, raw idea, without a trace of commercial formula, and scored a massively deserved hit.
The DVD could hardly be bad, with this series on it. As previous reviews have suggested, a director's/writer's commentary would have been nice (even if it was just a couple of episodes) but the documentary is good, the deleted scenes definitely watchable, and the anamorphic picture lovely for a TV series. The couple of hidden extras are okay, but I haven't watched them more than once.
The Beeb don't always do a very good job with their comedy DVDs, but this one is a definite winner.
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