A New Era Of TV, T.O.U.K. is a wry, gloom frill-stripped mockumentary x prototype modern workplace comedy: laugh tracks to the silence where jokes fail by a god-tier Gervais lead performance, A+ cringe, legacy – yet short length & one of the worst [boring, dead] support casts in TV *history*. A handbag-and-gladrag stripped Rough Draft The Office. 8/10.
Plot Synopsis: Middle-manager David Brent is the centre of this UK 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. The Interview, 2. Christmas Special: Part 2, 3. New Girl, 4. Christmas Special: Part 1, 5.. Downsize, 6. The Quiz, 7. Judgement, 8. Merger, 9. Work Experience, 10. Motivation
S1 – 8.7/10 / S2 – 6/10 / Christmas Specials – 8.5/10
Official CLC Review
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. A New Era Of TV, T.O.U.K. is a wry, gloom frill-stripped mockumentary x prototype modern workplace comedy: laugh tracks to the silence where jokes fail by a god-tier Gervais lead performance, A+ cringe – yet short length & one of the worst [boring, dead] support casts in TV *history*. A handbag-and-gladrag stripped Rough Draft The Office.
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’; the show finds uber-black comedy in the tragic downspiral and self-delusion/narcissism of one man [he’s doing okay before the cameras come, but they elucidate the diametric opposition between his ego and inflated self view and reality – fueling his insecurity to the point he exhibits illness levels and lets it ruin his life eventually costing him his job, tragically too late to enjoy the fame he so desperately craves and could’ve used better as a younger man] that somehow makes a mid-life crisis on jack-steroids (hilarious how he pugnaciously repeats and tries to gaslight himself and the world into believing he’s ‘young’) funny as we see his entire life collapse around him – a masterpiece performance by Gervais impossibly in his first mjor acting job able to play the character in such a precise way as to make you feel a bizarre unorthodox cocktail of both intense hatred and dreadful sorriness for him at the same time. 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.
From Laugh Tracks To The Awkward Silences Where Jokes Fail
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, stripped-to-basics [synergized with its opening credits theme song without all the ‘handbags’ and ‘gladrags’ its remakes got to enjoy because of its sweat as their grandfather], and edgier than the U.S. version. The U.K. version is certainly darker overall; we’re laughing at Brent & Co. instead of with them as the series traps us in a nightmare of cringe and determinedly makes their characters lives a cirque du suffering any chance it gets. The tonal dichotomization is a good thing by the palpable difference in flavor between the two versions, but a bad thing in that do you want (or need) darkness in your comedy… or do you just want to laugh [the entire point of the genre the U.S. version delivers 50x more of]? 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, chaotic whirlwind of executional flaws.
The Worst Supporting Cast In TV History?
A Worse (& More Soul-Draining) Fate Than Actually Working At Werham-Hogg; The Biggest & Most Egregious Of Differences Between U.S. To U.K.: Greatest Strength To Achilles Weakness
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, old-looking (he looks older than Brent!) laughably-bad joke that’s by far the weakest link in the series and one of the worst (Bottom 10 in CLC’s vote) castings in the history of television: the farthest conceivable contrast to Krasinski’s beloved every-man, worthily star-making Jim bursting with charisma and buoyant comedic prank-full energy pulling weight just as much as Dwight or Michael. Tim’s black hole-ish, sideburn-scruffy, dirty-looking presence infects the premise’s two major non-managerial plot points as a cancer with grime results for what’s the biggest selling points for The Office (U.S.): office pranks and its star romance.
Worse Than The U.S. Version In ~Every Way
Biggest Of All (Besides An Unwatchable Support-Cast): Romance, Length, & 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, flipping cards on their chins, and.. throwing things at each other.. is not romance – it’s lobotomy-worthy and childish [despite the loud-mouthed screams from U.K. Office fans as delusional as Brent is that he’s young claiming the series is extremely mature; ‘the most advanced and mature show in TV history’.. with elementary school romance?]. 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: one that, instead of the butterflies we felt every time Jim & Pam are together on-screen, kills any butterflies and instead makes us nauseous and ready to throw up at the sight of Tim & Dawn (not as bad due to the writing with even some brilliant touches like going off-mic and having much of the romance happen behind the scenes and in their minds, but more so by the horrificness of castings). 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’s biggest selling points. It’s honestly so bad, we actively have to skip the scenes any time they’re on-screen: cringe in the wrong way. 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, Pavlov, G.A.Y.D.A.R., or Future Dwight here, beside a few homophobic one-trick-pony gay military jokes and even some crazy, illegal, bully-like (yet still unfunny) ones like group-pantsing someone to expose their genitalia on live television as they cry and sexually-assaulting someone with a forced kiss. WTF. 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, and the series’ experience is almost a vacuum sucking you in every time Gervais lights up the screen with a guaranteed-deliverable laugh… and just sucking ~every second he’s off-screen. Also, having barely 2-2.5 seasons (and even those: only 5-6 30-min episodes each when the average season-length standard is 11 episodes -> 22) makes it far easier to bat consistently without the inevitable decline in quality unavoidable in later seasons; it also makes the U.K. version’s characters underdeveloped and devoid of more gag opportunities and change over multi-season growing arcs [only further exacerbating its worst glaring flaw]. This also makes the U.K. version ~uncomparable in the same atmosphere to the U.S. version (or most other sitcoms in that matter) because a basic, standard season length for 95% of TV Shows [& almost every sitcom] is 22 episodes: already ~2x longer than the entire run of the U.K. and thus way easier for the U.K. to be good in a small burst (ironically or perhaps on purpose ~exactly 8 hours total runtime to synergize with the office setting being the normal work timeframe of one day of a 9-5) instead of champion for ages.
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 revolutionary wry British humour-filled TV that was undeniably 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, aging, making a difference, and legacy. If you can get through its mixedly-executed pilot, the difference from the U.S. version is fantastic – a near-completely different flavor that’s extremely dark and wry. 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. Ricky Gervais delivers a masterpiece performance for the ages in his first major career role as David Brent: one of the funniest and most tragic characters ever written, somehow finding humor in the self-implosion/downspiral of a man by narcissism, delusion, clout-chasing, and mid-life crisis. Brent is – tragically, even more so than his character – failed by one of the worst supporting casts in the history of television: lifeless, boring, personalityless ‘slugs’ so bad [especially Tim and Dawn, betraying the ~best part of the show in will-they-or-won’t-they romance and showing how 10x better the U.S. version is by casting quality on these same characters] we actively have to skip over their scenes on rewatches over fear of somnambulence and cringe not quite in the way intended by the screenwriters (we feel equally sorry for by their talents wasted). We also don’t understand why BBC limited it (especially if it’s as ‘superior to everything’ and ‘award-worthy’ as its snobby, pretentious fans nauseatingly scream every day in internet forums) to ~10 measly episodes across 2-2.5 seasons; it feels shortchanged and ~incomplete with not enough exposition or character-development/experiences – as well as unfair to even compare to most shows and the U.S. version who performed at equal or higher level for 10-20x longer (one season of U.S. being 1-2x longer than the entire run of the U.K. benefitting from the absence of inevitable TV quality decline hundreds of episodes in). A New Era Of TV, T.O.U.K. is a wry, gloom frill-stripped mockumentary x prototype modern workplace comedy: laugh tracks to the silence where jokes fail by a god-tier Gervais lead performance, A+ cringe – yet short length & one of the worst [boring, dead] support casts in TV *history*. A handbag-and-gladrag stripped Rough Draft The Office.
The Modern Workplace Comedy
A Premise That Changed The History Of TV – & A Brilliant, Though Executionally-Mixed, One
Photo Courtesy Of: BBC
S1 Review: Though its pilot is ~shaky with inexperience and mixed (erratic) line delivery the U.S. Version executed 10x better, The Office (U.K.) S1 is one of the most revolutionary, groundbreaking, game-changing seasons of television ever produced. ~100% of its success lays on the atlasian shoulders of Ricky Gervais: the writer, director, producer, creator, and star whom [along with a little writing assistance by Stephen Merchant and a BBC executive who decided to roll the gamble dice on this bizarre premise] founded a billion dollar cross-cultural/nation empire quite plausibly claiming the throne of TV… with a premise as plebeian, boring, commonplace, etc. as the 9-5 workplace the show analyzes with surgical precision and (impossibly) finds comedy within. Beyond the totalitarian brilliance of the concept and character archetypes he creates, Ricky Gervais’ biggest achievement is the star character: David Brent. One of the funniest characters and greatest performances in the history of comedy and television, Gervais’ D.B. absolutely steals the screen in eery gloriously-awkward, childishly-petulant, superiority-complexed droll stylism scene he’s in – seeking the approval of people who want nothing to do with him outside of the workplace and getting into all sorts of wacky and A+ cringe/uncomfortable shenanigans like headbutting secretaries and quiz show spock questions and drunken nights out at the only bar. The lustrous dazzle/shine of his radiance is [tragically] restrained by *awful* support castings like – besides Mackenzie Crooks’ idiosyncratic Gareth Keenan (that still could’ve been far weirder to even remotely challenge Dwight Schrute) – Keith being a knockoff version of Kevin & a dirty Martin Freeman’s Tim whose black holeish presence and chemistry-deficiency with Lucy Davis’ equally-personalityless (dull) Dawn is the wrong type of non-purposeful cringe where it didn’t need it. Overall though, S1 is filled with classic episodes and side-splitting gags like The Quiz, New Girl, Judgment, and Training making for a promising rough draft of a series if you can just find the resilience to suffer through the pilot and forgive the casting misfires. 8.7/10.
The Beginning Of The End
Though With Its Moments & A Shock-Ending/Neil-Arc, Forced In Romance, Less Realism-Based, & More Personality-Less Husks
Photo Courtesy Of: BBC
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, with a hilarious youth-delusion running gag) mid-life crisis, mythic dad-dancing, and gasp-inducingly/praisably dark finale showcasing Gervais’ serious acting chops [absolutely *insane* he never had any formal training or experience in acting or theatre before this show] 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 – culminating in a heartbreaking final scene amongst the greatest in TV history humanizing and inspiring empathy for the man they’d turned us against with 12 episodes in the flip of a switch instantly from comedy -> pure drama when Brent drops his ego and begs for his job back in tears. Neil is a fantastic introduction of a character – the anti-David Brent and everything Brent wishes he could be: a naturally-cool, charming, suave, younger, fair-but-firm, respected, funny ‘perfect-boss’ and complete managerial antithesis that points out DB’s glaring deficiencies/insecurities while also amplifying the tragedy [David puts his heart-and-soul into jokes and fun theoretical morale boosters the staff does not even remotely appreciate and even hates him for it, while Neil casually glides to instant adoration and success in everything Brent fails at with minimal effort. ‘Why him?’]. Rachel at least brings some pulse-static and chemistry with Tim (far better, ironically, a love interest than Dawn.. even if still forced and childish in interplay [she literally flips a deck of cards on his face… what is this romance, grade school?], at least a remote spark of life) into the mix. However, the season dramatically fails to leave an impression and lasting memory – with subpar scripting, a bizarre character-change in Gareth ~killing any of his central (and funniest: the inferiority-complex of masculinity-spoofing title-obsession) character trait and instead going full incel with teenage-level hormonal rage x lust nary eliciting one laugh, slower pace, unambitious plotting, over-belabored disrespect towards the boss (like getting birthday kisses from everyone around but purposely excluding only him directly to his face in front of all the other employees and later telling him ‘he’s let himself go’.. and constant drinking alcohol in-office) you’d never see in a real workplace diluting its realism. Their ‘gags’ are also immature, reckless, and illegal [all without even being funny] – like group-pantsing someone to expose their genitalia on live television for their kids and wife to be embarassed by as he cries and literal sexual-assault force-kissing someone. WTF. 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 – even adding new ones just as bad or worse than before like Trudy and (I’ve watched through The Office U.K. 3-4x now, and I *still* cannot name half the characters or even one I remotely care or are slightly entertained by except Brent). 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. 7.1/10.
A Two-Episode Final Season?
A Mixed Ending That Gives Catharsis And Happy Endings Around – But We Wish Was More
Photo Courtesy Of: BBC
S3 Review: The finale. Fast-forwarded a year after that shocking cliffhanger ending to the otherwise-unbearable S2, Merchant & Co. certainly give us the best of Brent for 75%+ of the screentime. Brent’s half-famous life on the road doing being subjugated to hell/purgatory-like celebrity appearances to entire crowds of people who hate or are wildly-ambivalent to his presence, going on blind dates with increasingly-blueberryish oompa loompas with zero personality only to be bludgeoned with nightmarishly-awkward small talk from the anthropological origins of breasts to the sugar-content of a strawberry, and tragic inability to move on from a Wernham-Hogg that has no want of him there but feels sorry for him to much to tell him to piss off is brilliant and makes for one of the funniest arcs of the series and even comedy TV all-time. The intellect beneath is omnipresent too, as the season analyzes the entertainment industry and dating world through the (one-of-a-kind) prism of David Brent. The Christmas Specials succeed in giving the U.K.-patriarch a majestic sendoff redemption arc that fixes him as a character and person – as he gets his girl, tells off Finch, delivers an emotional line in wanting to be remembered as someone who put a smile on the face of all whom he met, and finally manages to get that long-coveted laugh out of the gang [when he’s trying the least for maximum irony and life-lesson]. Sadly, though, the season fails in ~everything else – if you can even call two measly episodes a season, which shouldn’t be allowed: cheating in TV-terms being so much easier to write a 2-episode arc than stretch and keep up the quality and audience attention for 22 [and it somehow even fails at that]. The fracture of the office is downright-weird – sending Dawn and Lee off to the most random of places in Florida we’re apparently supposed to believe Dawn has daily-dreams about Tim years after leaving to an entire other continent (though at least they end up together satisfyingly). Gareth’s new managerial office [like himself as a character] is not weird enough for his own character; it looks exactly the same as Gervais’ office and the same normal, boring one throughout the entire series. Finally, if it wasn’t bad enough having the worst support cast in TV history plague our screens every shot Gervais isn’t there to save the day, S3 adds another one of the worst and most aggravatingly-pointless characters I’ve ever seen on TV in Tim’s new deskmate [point of the character, obviously, but does that make her good? No]. Overall, The Christmas Specials pass by the herculean efforts & comedy-gold stardom arc of Brent’s redemption and catharsis of happy endings wrapping up the series’ arcs and characters with a bow and finally giving Brent the laugh from the crowd he so desperately craved [but achieves naturally by just being himself] – but it still feels shortchanged and overstuffed. 9/10.
Official CLC Score: 8/10