27 May 2004 | Pedro_H
The most funny, truthful and profound TV series for many a long year.
A TV crew move in to the Slough offices of paper wholesalers Vernom-Hogg to focus on how the ordinary British work place responds to change and business upheaval.
What a surprise this series was when it first came on the TV. Given that it was on BBC2 and not given much promotion you didn't expect much, but boy is this series good. Not only is there moments of absolute comic genius, but it is also very profound. Stand assured I have met all the characters on this show in real life - I have even worked alongside a few of them!
It is impossible to know what foreigners make of lead and star turn Ricky Gervais playing boss David Brent. Americans might not get the full satire of his off-centre and cliché bound management speak. Like another great British character Alf Garnett (of Till Death Us Do Part) he is not so much an invention as an acute observation of a particular type of crass over-promoted idiot that lurks among us. Incompetent and ludicrous, but full of the misplaced confidence that comes from never having to face a reality check. The office runs despite of him - not because of him.
If this was not comedy it would be considered the best portrayal of a man living under self-delusion ever put on film. His belief that he is incredibly popular and has the support of the full staff is clearly false and yet nothing can shake his beliefs. He is not blind but yet he cannot see. He is living in a land of fantasy and time-wasting - for example, inventing game shows instead of writing office reports!
Brent is a self-styled "chilled out comedian" that cracks rude or racist jokes to just the type of people that don't want to hear them. Wearing a fake wan smile he has the unerring ability to make difficult situations even worse. He is always aware of the camera and even plays to it - even lurking in the background to join in other people's on-camera moments as if he has nothing better to do.
Brent has a mini-me in the form of Gareth Keenan played by Mackenzie Crook. A wan and skinny man-youth who is chief support to Brent in the mismanagement of the office. A weekend soldier he makes constant references to this and how it applies to office procedure, as well as trying it on with spare office female talent - with no success whatsoever. He also runs the office course on safety - which is one of the funniest pieces of business I have seen in a long time. Instructing female employees on how NOT to put cups of hot coffee on the top of monitors and how to correctly lift boxes.
Only slightly more sane is Tim Canterbury (Martin Freeman) the college drop-out that is always threatening to quit and return to his books. A bored mediocrity that fills his days by winding up Gareth and flirting with receptionist Dawn (Lucy Davis) - who has less of a role, but looks on in disgust at some of the antics that the others get up to.
Special support comes from Chris Finch (played by Ralph Ineson) who is chief rep and office big mouth: Perhaps the most revolting person ever to appear on TV. His recollections of drunken evenings and stupidity being listen to with wide eyed wonder by the males - with only Dawn daring to show what he really is and even then not in words. When he leads the gang down Chasers (the local small town disco) things really hot up.
This show only ran two series (plus Christmas special - that was only so-so), but in the second series the nature of the Brent management style comes under pressure. Reality starts sweeping in to his little world and his bubble is finally popped, but not without some really funny moments - including the "Comic Relief" day episode that is perhaps the best of the whole lot.
I have seen all the shows and most of them more than once. This series warrants repeat viewings because it is just so funny and perfectly realized. This series will put off thousands of people from working in an office and maybe some of them will go off and do something more creative and interesting with their lives. Writing something as good as this, for example.