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: 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 cowriter 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.
Series 2 is a single-disc release, but the extra features are enjoyable nonetheless. Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant feature in a gleefully shambolic video diary--highlights of which include Gervais flicking elastic bands at his cowriter and taping their editor to his swivel chair. The ubiquitous Gervais also mockingly introduces some outtakes (mostly of him corpsing throughout dozens of takes) and a series of deleted scenes, notably of Gareth arriving in his horrendous cycle shorts. --Mark Walker
The Office tracks the lives of the four main characters, but their stories are played out in an environment of superb supporting actors, who bring an air of authenticity to the program. Most notable of these are Chris Finch (Ralph Ineson) as the loud-mouthed bully, and the unsurnamed accountant Keith (Ewen Macintosh) who manages to provide a lot of comedy despite only having about 10 words to say across both series'.
The DVD includes some pretty good extra material with some deleted scenes, some of which are very funny, and were - according to Ricky Gervais - removed because they were too much like a traditional sitcom. The deleted scene where Gareth squirts lemon juice in a girl's eye could have ranked alongside Only Fools and Horses' funniest moments.
I could happily extol the virtues of the office for hours, but the only way you'll know for sure is by watching it. All I ask is that you give it a chance. I didn't like it when I first saw it, but I was made to watch it again and I haven't looked back. Now I'm just waiting for the two feature length Christmas specials to come out on DVD. If any of you Office fans missed them (shame on you!) they were brilliant and concluded the story perfectly (I nearly shed a tear!).
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 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 British paper merchant, The Office is filmed in the style of a reality television show. The writing is subtle and deft, the acting wonderful, and the characters beautifully drawn: the cadaverous team leader Gareth (Mackenzie Crook); the monstrous sales rep, Chris Finch (Ralph Ineson); and the decent but long-suffering everyman Tim (Martin Freeman), 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 codirector-cowriter Ricky Gervais. Brent will become a name as emblematic for a particular kind of British grotesque as Basil Fawlty, but he is a deeper character. Fawlty is an exaggeration of reality, and therefore a safely comic figure. Brent is as appalling as only reality can be.
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