All entries for Thursday 30 September 2004

September 30, 2004

"University Challenge

Just a quick note to say that Warwick is on University Challenge against UCL on Monday, 8:30pm, BBC 2 and given that I'm on it, I suppose I should make some slight effort to get people to watch it.

'The Office' – comedy gold

5 out of 5 stars

This is partly a test of the review section of the blog; however, if there are any benighted people out there who haven't seen The Office yet, I strongly recommend it.

If you're looking for slapstick or puns à la Blackadder, The Office will not really provide them in any significant number. However, the genius of these series is in the observational aspect which, in some instances, is entirely too close to reality to be comfortable. The show is a very subtle, adult type of comedy which is evinced by the verbal torture of the monstrous yet surprisingly naïf Gareth (Mackenzie Crook) by Tim (Martin Freeman) and Dawn (Lucy Davis), the only half-way normal people in the place. The main supporting cast is completed by the quite spectacularly crass and boring Keith (Ewan Macintosh), the egregiously offensive Chris Finch (Ralph Ineson), Dawn's chauvinistic fiancé, Lee (Joel Beckett), and the overall boss, Jennifer (Stirling Gallacher).

However, the star is undoubtedly the outrageous grotesque, David Brent (Ricky Gervais) who manages to be simultaneously larger than life and scarily realistic. The nature of the comedy is such that at some times, the show is actually almost unwatchable due to the inescapable desire to cringe at Brent's antics: his dancing for Comic Relief, his singing on staff training day, his 'motivational' talk, and his bumbling attempts to show that he isn't racist after he tells an ill-judged joke about the genitalia of black men. However, the genius of this series is that just when we believe we have the measure of Brent, Gervais, in his role as writer, shows us a new side to Brent; he manages to make us feel sympathy for Brent when the emptiness of his life is exposed and even introduces a love interest in the Christmas specials (not included in this set).

The Office will not be to everyone's taste; however, for people who enjoy darkly comic observational humour with a few off-colour jokes thrown in, the series comes highly recommended. The overall storyline centres largely around Brent's struggle to cope with changes in the company and Tim and Dawn's very obvious pining for each other. However, it is not the story which drives the series forward – this is a character-driven show with characters so well-drawn you would swear you knew them from elsewhere.

September 2004

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