8 September 2005 | Superunknovvn
The funniest, most intelligent thing since Monty Python
Brits. You gotta love them. They got the best bands AND the best comedians. "The Office" is probably the best thing in comedy since Monty Python. This show is almost perfect. It's got an original concept, the writing is brilliant, and so is the acting. A group of people completely unknown outside of the U.K. has definitely made a mark in the history of television with this so-called "mockumentary".
A program like this was really what we needed, but hadn't dared to hope for anymore. In a time when it seemed like T.V. would forever be ruled by sitcoms with canned laughter played over the same old jokes (let's face it, even "Coupling" was little more than an edgier version of "Friends"), Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant came along with their accurate observation of everyday life in an office as we all know it. What they did was take "This Is Spinal Tap!" and put it in the context of an everyday working place. In lesser hands, this idea could easily have turned boring all too quickly, because what we are being shown is basically just reality. It could also have gone the other way with stupid and forced jokes thrown in to keep the viewer interested. Gervais and Merchant, however, managed to pull it off just the way it needed to be done. "The Office" is tragic, funny, sad and moving all at the same time. This show is so popular, because people all around the world can identify with it. You feel for these characters. Tim, Dawn, Gareth and Brent (especially Gareth and Brent!) are far from being perfect people, but it's because of their little flaws and personality problems that we care for them. We know colleagues like them, we know those grey days at work. And like this crew a lot of us have big dreams that are moving further and further away as we're stuck in dead end jobs getting older. "The Office" doesn't comfort us, it doesn't tell us that there'll be a happy ending, but it tells us that we're not alone with our situations. The fact, that we know most of those truly horrible scenes from our own lives makes us laugh. Sometimes the laughs are bitter, but they're always cathartic.
SEASON 1 is flawless. Hands down the best first series in a comedy show ever. We get to know Gareth, the annoying colleague who has no life whatsoever and makes up for that by taking himself way too seriously. We meet Dawn and Tim who are fighting their desperation and dissatisfaction by playing pranks on Gareth. The two are secretly attracted to each other with Dawn's boyfriend Lee standing the way. Most importantly, we are introduced to David Brent, the boss who somehow manages to always say the wrong things and embarrass himself and everyone around him all the time. The humour comes mainly from facial expressions, nonsense philosophies (Brent & Gareth), sarcastic comments (Tim) and incredibly awkward situations. Lots of times you'll cringe and the situation gets so uncomfortable you'll cover your eyes with your hands so you don't have to see anymore of it. It's a delightful torture.
SEASON 2 is still very good, but Gervais and Merchant fall into the joke-trap too often. In season 1 they successfully avoided any jokes with punchlines or gags that seemed scripted. It was more or less a chain of uncomfortable events and funny interviews. In season 2 we already know the characters and the concept a bit too well. People expect a certain behaviour from the respective characters and Gervais and Merchant are feeding those expectations a little too often. Side character Keith gets a bigger part in these 6 episodes and sadly his wackiness is a bit overdone, too, so that sometimes you get the feeling that whole thing is getting a bit worn out by now. What I really thought was unrealistic was that everybody hated David so much. After all, he is a funny guy and if you don't laugh with him you'd be laughing about him trying so hard to be funny. People just giving him bewildered looks became a bit annoying at some point. However, the writing was still fine, especially considering how little time the makers had and under what kind of pressure they had to come up with new stuff.
The final Christmas SPECIALS are a tearjerker. After the genuinely tragic ending of season 2, you hope so much that all will turn out well in the end. Let me just tell you this much: when the credits roll you'll be moved to tears. This just shows how well Gervais and Merchant have built their characters.
The way this show found a balance between comedy and drama, the ideas and observations that were put into it and the glorious performances are simply adorable and unmatched to this day. Thankfully, Gervais and Merchant knew when to stop and said that the Christmas SPECIALS were going to be the definite end of "The Office". As with any good show that's sad for the viewer, but it was the right thing to do as there was really nowhere else to go with the story and the concept. Remakes have already been made ("The Office" 2005 - USA, "Stromberg" Germany), but those will always just be a poor man's rehash of the original.
"The Office" made me believe that even in days when Will Ferrell saying "San Diego means a whale's vagina" is considered the ultimate revelation in comedy, there are still people who will come up with clever and original ideas.