Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Now Playing: The Office (BBC Version)

It wasn't until the very, very end of this series (and by "end" I'm refering to the Christmas specials that capped the Wernham-Hogg saga) that the show clicked for me. Up to one specific moment I considered the series was an amusing, sometimes laugh out loud funny, sendup of the daily monotony of the office environment populated by a quirky and confused lot of characters each with their own problems.

What I wasn't prepared for was one of the best, and most subtle, romances on television. The ending was an emotional suckerpunch that stunned me because of how well the show had defined and shaped each individual character. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

The Office was a two part series that aired on the BBC a few years ago that chronicled the daily goings-on of a paper company in Slough as seen through the eyes of a documentary crew. Everything about the environment screamed redundant hell and that's what the brilliant creator-writer-star Ricky Gervais focused on. The minutia in the every day life of photocopying, invoicing, and tracking costs of paper reams provided ample opportunity for Gervais' character, office manager David Brent, to ham it up and act like a rock star god for his fellow employees. The catch is that everyone hates Brent because he's so much of a boor that no one can stand him, yet Brent remains completely oblivious to it.

The heart of the series though was the relationship between Tim (the brilliant Martin Freeman), a sales man, and eternally engaged receptionist Dawn (the equally brilliant Lucy Davis). The way these two circle around one another provided the beating heart of the series, and if it wasn't for the terrific performances from both actors it would never have worked. Freeman deserves to be in everything because his simple looks, gestures, and under-his-breath comments are never short of gaspingly funny. Witness his look of sheer aghast horror in season two when his pregnant co-worker mimicks the position she and her husband used to conceive.

My Fair Lady actually walked into the office to see why I was roaring laughing.

The show is never as consistent as Monty Python's Flying Circus was which is why I disagree with people who put this in their Top 10 Funniest Shows Ever lists. It tends to be more consistently amusing than consistently hilarious, but then you'll get something like episode four from the first season where it's physically impossible to keep from hysterically laughing as Tim, Brent, and sidekick Gareth (Mackenzie Crook) sing along to "Free Love On The Free Love Freeway." Words simply cannot do that episode justice.

"Gareth, get the guitar."

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