The prototype modern-workplace comedy groundbreaking a new era of TV by idea and magnificent Ricky Gervais regional manager-lead, but mixed execution, weak romance, & inexorably-boring support cast. A cynical, edgy, wry rough-draft version The Office 7.1/10.
Plot Synopsis: Middle-manager David Brent is the centre of this mockumentary-style comedy set at a nondescript paper company in a nondescript office park in England. David doesn’t realize that his employees – inc. beaten-down salesman Tim, underappreciated receptionist Dawn, & weird Gareth – put up with his feeble jokes and inappropriate behaviour only because he signs the paychecks.
*Possible spoilers ahead*
CLC’s Best #TheOfficeUK Episodes: 1. Christmas Special: Parts 1-2, 2. Work Experience, 3. Motivation, 3. Judgment, 4. New Girl, 5. The Interview, 6. The Quiz, 7. Appraisals, 8. Party, 9. Training, 10. Merger
S1 – 7.6/10 / S2 – 4/10 / Christmas Specials – 9/10
July 9, 2001: The Annals Of Comedic & Television History Got Tilted Off Their Axis
Photo Courtesy Of: BBC
The Office. The name has set pop culture afire with the U.S. Version rising to universal praise as one of the greatest TV series ever made. But where did the show come from? Who came up with such a brilliant concept, characters, and gags? We see Ricky Gervais’ title flashed across each episode’s end credits as an exec-producer and a skeevy British guy by the name of David Brent make several meta-cameos throughout U.S. seasons, only to have it known they tried out the premise of The Office in Britain several years before it.. to mixed results. I’ll admit: the first time I watched the U.K. Version, I hated it. However, having watched it back numerous times since – it bizarrely grew on me, and grew, and grew. A side-by-side of the 9-season, 201-episode behemoth U.S. version and U.K. version instantly illuminates how similar they are in concept and general characterization, clearly made by the same showrunners even utilizing many of the same gags early on and single-camera setup, laugh-track/studio audience-less motif to simulate a real documentary as realistically as possible, but where they differ is in execution of Gervais’ groundbreaking, comedic legendary premise – what catapulted one to greatness of pop culture icon-status, and held the other back in the purgatory of decency. The prototype modern workplace comedy groundbreakingly paving way for the genre with fine gags & magnificently-droll Gervais stylistic lead, but rushed comedic line-delivery with *awful* support castings & characterization, The U.K. Office is like an edgier, rough-sketch Dunder Mifflin.
A Masterpiece Performance By Ricky Gervais With Show-Carrying Droll Stylism, Magnificent Awkwardness, Flat-Jokes, & Inferiority Complex
Photo Courtesy Of: BBC
David Brent. The U.K. Office’s lead man, however, is fantastic. Ricky Gervais’ droll stylism in rolling comedic delivery and light-hearted, magnificently-awkward, self-deluded, breakdown/mid-life crisised, petulantly-envious energy is brilliant – in bold, non-politically correct (surprisingly instrumentally-talented and.. that dance) ways. Far-and-away the biggest (and one of the few) highlights of this version, he is used as a prism for the darkest corners of mankind’s experience – from betrayal to rejection to growing old to wasted-life to people fake-laughing/acting like he’s their friend or putting up with his feeble jokes only because he signs their paychecks. Yet, while if you take a step back to look at the downward-spiral tragedy of the character of David Brent from a bird’s-eye-view: it is extremely dark, Gervais is able to (somehow) squeeze constant laughs and comedic brilliance out of the role. The unmitigated fragility of his ego/stardom-lust, complete lack of awareness of how little his colleagues think of him, gleeful giggles at his own comedy (the only laughs they ever seem to elicit), subtle nuances of his physicality/mannerisms, dad-dancing, mid-sentence run-offs, and self-delusions of grandeur in the most unaccomplished of paper company jobs make for some of the best laughs I’ve ever seen on TV – all in the saddest and most unforgettably-uncomfortable jacket. I never thought I’d say this: but someone did Michael Scott better – or at least wildly-close to – Michael Scott. As he summarizes aptly in earlier-seasons: ‘there’s a weight of intellect behind my comedy.’ Brent focuses more on cultural references, satire, raunchiness, darkness, and metaphor than Scott – a more technically-impressive and close-race between titans of the industry each supplying a legendary performance for the ages as Regional Manager of their paper-companies across the ocean. Gareth Keenan is also a dark horse that grows on you supplying the cheeky bizarrity and relatable thirst/lust that – while not weird-enough or in the realm of Rainn Wilson’s legendary Dwight Schrute – provides fine support as Assistant (To The) Regional Manager.
A More Grounded, Edgier Tone Than The U.S. Version – Exploring Darker & More Satirical Themes Of Life; A True-Blue Mockumentary
Photo Courtesy Of: BBC
The tone is bizarrely – praisably – more grounded and edgier than the U.S. version, with a darker and more elegant flair from its opening theme: Manfred Mann’s ‘Handbags and Gladrags’ that I really, really enjoy as a palpable difference between the two versions. Given freelance by BBC to do everything from swear to make references to savage comedic material you would rarely ever find on mainstream network TV like NBC, the U.K. Office is able to paint the dark side of human experience without sugarcoating it for public approval. One must pay respect/dues to the U.K. version for having the balls to shake up and reinvent TV comedy as one of the most revolutionary series and prototypes of modern workplace comedies and docu-style mockumentaries first setting the trend and brilliant premise steeped in universally-relatable themes anyone who’s ever worked an office or organization job can wholly relate to – that would be surfed by countless shows years later in this gold rush: Parks and Rec., 30 Rock, Silicon Valley, U.S. Office etc. Line delivery. What’s most shocking about The U.K. Office early on is the seeming lack of awareness of television conventions or acting etiquette rapid-firing lines in a jumbled whirlwind of ghastly executional flaws. The delivery of the fantastic comedic stylism in top-notch writing served on a silver platter by Gervais and Merchant is so rushed, hyper, and chaotic in butchered manic mannerism delivery-wise, it feels like the actors are just trying to rattle off words from a board as fast as possible to get their check and get home like the workers at the fictional paper company they were (supposed to be) bringing to life. The show is quite simply bad in its pilot episode (corrected by the U.S. version later on delivering the same lines normally to comparatively-advanced results) that unfortunately damn near kills the series unless you plow through – where it starts to improve to even greatness levels in E2 and beyond.
The Worst Supporting Cast Ever
A Worse (& More Soul-Draining) Fate Than Actually Working At Werham-Hogg
Photo Courtesy Of: BBC
The supporting cast. If you ask any person who the best character on The Office (U.S.) is, you’d be surprised at the results. Sure, most would probably say Michael Scott, but you’d probably get only minor differences – if even – between characters ranging all the way from Dwight Shrute to Jim to Pam to Kevin to Andy to Stanley to even Creed. This is a testament to how miraculous the characterization and character development/scripting is in the U.S. version; one of the strongest arguments for why it is one of the greatest TV series ever and one that is a pipe-dream here. Here.. you don’t really have a choice of favorite character besides one, as the character cast outside Brent is absolutely AWFUL. I have watched through the U.K. version 3x-and-counting now, and I actually think I have not laughed once at any side character’s actions or presence – I barely even remember any of their names for that matter. It’s bizarre how forgettable and personality-less the main characters are besides Brent who is magnificently-analyzed as a prism for aging and rejection and one of the great characters of comedy TV; the series manages to have more interesting seconds’ cameos like Jimmy The Perv, The (Merchant-cameo) Oggmonster, and janitor who feels like he’s looking into your very soul with uncomfortably-long stares than its main characters – a travesty of writing that is inexcusable (no, blaming it on low season count is a cop-out excuse when great characters provoke and excite instantly). Martin Freeman’s Tim is a sad, awkward, lethargic, laughibly-bad joke that’s by far the weakest link in the series in the farthest conceivable contrast to Krasinski’s beloved every-man, Hollywood-star-making Jim – bursting with charisma and buoyant comedic prank-ful energy pulling weight just as much as Dwight or Michael. Tim’s black hole-ish, dirty-looking presence infects the premise’ two major non-managerial plot points as a cancer with grime results for what’s usually the biggest selling points for The Office or any show to newcomers: office pranks and its star romance.
Worse Than The U.S. Version In ~Every Way
Biggest Of All (Besides An Unwatchable Support-Cast): Romance & Line-Delivery
Photo Courtesy Of: NBC
Lucy Davis’ mumbling Dawn is a disgrace – with a weak, shakily-handled romance (if you can even call it that) with Tim that might be the most awkward, chemistry-less, boring, and lifeless romance I have ever seen on TV in my entire life. Let’s be clear: playing with each other’s hair and.. throwing things at each other.. is not romance – it’s lobotomy-worthy. It’s so freaking awkward and stiff every time they’re on-screen together: a gawky, maladroit, uglier, chubbier version of the real ‘star-crossed lovers’ arc and beautiful romance of perfect, destiny-feeling chemistry bursting with life in every scene of Jim & Pam, innit? Most ironic is the fact that in S2, Tim is given an exponentially-better romance arc with a chemistry-bursting Rachel that does show that the series could’ve done better romance – despite it being far-too short of an arc and ~forced-feeling as a 3-4 episode distraction from Dawn – yet failed dramatically in one of the premise’ biggest selling points. While Mackenzie Crook brings his own singularity to Gareth as a character (fine in his own way, although not even in the league as Rainn’s Schrute), they don’t explore the office-pranks and back-and-forth nearly enough: you’re kidding yourself if you think you can find anything like Asian Jim, Telepathy, Bears/Beets/Battlestar Galactica, Gaydar, Pavlov, or Future Dwight here, beside a few gay military jokes that wear out quickly yet are the crux of the entire prank subplot of the entire series.. Finally, I cannot name even one character I remotely care about in this version of The Office besides Brent (and maybe Finchy’s playboyisms not given nearly enough exposition), failing drastically to interest us in anyone beyond its core-four. The U.S. version crafted such a magical array of them, the answer of ‘who’s your favorite?’ is almost always different for every single fan you ask. Here, there is no choice – Brent is the only half-way decent character.
A Milestone In Comedic Television
A Passably-Diverting, Wry, Referential British Humour-Filled TV Series That Changed Everything (Though Mixably-Successful Itself)
Photo Courtesy Of: BBC
Overall, The U.K. Office is mixed but passably-diverting wry British humour-filled TV that was a groundbreaking milestone in comedic television back in early-2000’s. Ricky Gervais summarized it not as a classical laugh-track/joke-filled sitcom, but the antithesis: ‘the awkward silences where jokes fail.’ We cannot think of a better verbalization of the innovative magnificence of the premise since-remade across the globe from Sweden to France to Brazil to Germany to USA, here in the original quintessentially-English jacket overlaying universally-relatable themes like romance, comedy, pain, making a difference, and legacy. If you can get through its admittedly-painful pilot, the difference from the U.S. version is fantastic – a near-completely different feel that’s exponentially darker. The U.K. Office is the fake-friends who talk about you behind your back; the disappointments you’ve faced in life and career; the rejections and personal failures we try desperately to lie to ourselves about so we can sleep at night. This does allow for more intellectually-heavy depth thematically, almost preclusively a coup-de-maître in most other genres. But the question is: do you really want that in your comedy – the genre designed for laughs and ~nothing else? The prototype modern workplace comedy bravely paving way in the genre with fine gags & droll, masterful Gervais stylism, but rushed comedic line-delivery and *awful* support casting/characterization, U.K. Office is an edgier, sketch-like, rough-draft version of the premise that would eventually be near-perfected at Dunder Mifflin.
The Modern Workplace Comedy
A Premise That Changed The History Of TV – & A Brilliant, Though Executionally-Mixed, One
Photo Courtesy Of: BBC
S1 Review: Despite a simply-awful pilot rife with producer shakiness & inexperience shockingly-ill paced in even basic conventions like (erratic) line delivery eventually shown correction in the U.S. Version’s remake of pretty much the same pilot later, The Office (U.K.) S1 delivers a massive evolutionary leap for TV history with one of the most groundbreaking premises & phenomenal lead characters in the history of modern comedy. Ricky Gervais’ David Brent is absolutely show-stopping in gloriously-awkward, childishly-petulant, superiority-complexed droll stylism seeking the approval of people who want nothing to do with him outside of the workplace. His brilliance is sadly restrained by *awful* support castings besides Mackenzie Crooks’ idiosyncratic Gareth Keenan (that still could’ve been far weirder to even remotely challenge Dwight Schrute), like a dirty Martin Freeman’s Tim whose black holeish presence and cringy chemistry-deficiency with Lucy Davis’ equally-personalityless (dull) Dawn painfully hold the season back from top-tier glory. Overall though, S1 is filled with classic episodes and side-splitting gags like The Quiz, New Girl, Judgment, and Training making for a brilliant shell of a series and lead character if you can just find the resilience to suffer through the pilot and forgive the casting misfires. 7.6/10.
The Beginning Of The End
Though With Its Moments & A Shock-Ending/Neil-Arc, Forced In Romance, Less Realism-Based, & More Personality-Less Husks
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S2 Review: Somehow managing to add even more personality-less husks to the mix of already-awful supporting characters – while for some reason giving them equal screentime as its lead man (the only one we came to see), S2 is a massive retreat from S1 in quality and comedic value. Gervais does manage to squeeze some life out of the unripened stink (I feel sorrier for him as showrunner and lead performance than I do for David Brent as a person, being subjected to such lazy ineptitude all around him undeserving of such a game-changing premise and lead-man) with great gags like the legendary motivational seminar arc, Swindon-merger, (worsening) mid-life crisis, mythic dad-dancing, and gasp-inducingly/praisably dark finale showcasing Gervais’ serious acting chops when Brent is fired as Regional Manager. The season dramatically-exacerbates the series’ darkness, especially cruel to its central character as it further isolates and antagonizes him with new faces. Neil is a fantastic introduction being the anti-David Brent and everything Brent wishes he could be – staff-beloved, successful, and good at everything Brent is red with envy/oneupsmanship at and Cathy at least brings some prank pulse-static and chemistry with Tim (far better, ironically, than Dawn’s..) into the mix. However, the season dramatically fails to leave an impression and lasting memory – with subpar scripting, slower pace, unambitious plotting, forced-romance with Rachel, over-belabored disrespect towards the boss (and constant drinking in-office) you’d never see in a real workplace diluting its realism. Finally, biggest of all flaws and the series’ achilles-heel on full-display here: *WAY* too much time focused on the inexorably-boring, lifeless, unwatchable support characters. S2’s are even unconscionably worse and more painful to get-through without fast-forwarding back to the Brent bits, inescapable via their ubiquity along with the already-bad Slough lot, and completely-forgettable besides Trudy – not in a good way; aggravatingly hypocritical claiming to work hard while getting plastered and playing with dildo’s/taking endless personal calls at work and insulting Brent (her BOSS) to his face when she’s just as fat and old-looking. It’s not difficult to see why BBC had to scramble to cancel the entire series two episodes after this aired – pure rubbish wasting Gervais’ herculean lead. 4/10.
Third Time’s The Charm
A Phenomenal Ending That Boasts Brent At His Greatest (& Most Desperate) & Wraps Up All Arcs Beautifully; A Shame It Learned Too-Late
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S3 Review: The finale. Fast-forwarded a year after that shocking cliffhanger ending to the otherwise-unbearable S2, Merchant & Co. have finally learned the secret behind what could’ve made the U.K. office soar (instead of getting cancelled after a mere 2.5 seasons/14 episodes): giving its lead-man 75%+ of the screentime. Brent’s life on the road doing celebrity appearances by entire crowds of people who hate or are wildly-ambivalent to his presence – mixed in with an inability to move on from a Wernham Hogg who equally has no want of him there – is absolutely brilliant: one of the funniest arcs I’ve ever witnessed in comedy TV. The intellectualism beneath is omnipresent too, as the season analyzes the entertainment industry and dating world through the (one-of-a-kind) prism of David Brent – while also giving its patriarch a majestic sendoff redemption arc that fixes him as a character and person. Beyond that, fracturing the office itself sending Dawn and Lee off to Florida while Gareth takes over as (military-disciplined) manager makes for even more intriguing character scenarios and better escalation of the romance arc at least somewhat starting to feel a pulse – finally resolved with skill near the end for a satisfying door close on that chapter. Even Brent gets his girl, tells off his fake-friend Finch, and gets a phenomenal, emotion-riddled ‘remember me as someone who put a smile on all whom he met’ sendoff plus closing moment with the gang he ends with a typically-Brent impression. The only real flaw with the final season – apart from the supporting cast being consistently-problematic in casting as a thread through the entire series restricting its glory – is Tim’s new clumpmate: who is somehow even more aggravating a character (albeit purposefully but still, no one wants to hear her drone on for so long every few minutes) than the series ‘ previous work; convinced BBC planted some moles to sabotage the character work here as literally almost every single character in the series’ entire run but David Brent and Gareth is absolutely horrid. Overall though, Gervais and company learn from the show’s pitfalls and what if’s to show one final glimpse of what the show could have been at peak potential – a gloriously-awkward dictactorship under Brent’s inimitable masterpiece presence to obscure the firable casting errors that set up U.K. to fail from its very first frame three years ago. Amidst all the laughs and oneupsmanship, S3 gives a satisfying, closureful end to our (problematic) time at U.K.’s Office – while also managing to do the unconscionable: redeem David Brent. 9/10.
Official CLC Score: 7.1/10