The Office (UK TV series)

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The Office
Genre Sitcom
Created by Ricky Gervais
Stephen Merchant
Written by Ricky Gervais
Stephen Merchant
Directed by Ricky Gervais
Stephen Merchant
Starring Ricky Gervais
Martin Freeman
Mackenzie Crook
Lucy Davis
Oliver Chris
Patrick Baladi
Stacey Roca
Ralph Ineson
Stirling Gallacher
Opening theme "Handbags and Gladrags" by Big George
Country of origin United Kingdom
No. of series 2
No. of episodes 12 (and 2 specials) (List of episodes)
Executive producer(s) Anil Gupta
Jon Plowman
Producer(s) Ash Atalla
Editor(s) Nigel Williams
Cinematography Andy Hollis
Running time approx. 30 minutes
Production company(s) Capital United Nations Entertainment
The Identity Company
Original channel BBC Two
BBC One (Christmas specials)
Original run 9 July 2001 (2001-07-09) – 27 December 2003 (2003-12-27)
Related shows The Office (US series)
Le Bureau
La Job
Os Aspones

The Office is a BBC television sitcom mockumentary that was first broadcast in the United Kingdom on BBC Two on 9 July 2001. Created, written, and directed by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, the programme is about the day-to-day lives of office employees in the Slough branch of the fictitious Wernham Hogg Paper Company. Gervais also stars in the series, playing the central character, David Brent. Although fictional and scripted, the programme takes the form of a documentary (a fictional documentary, i.e. a mockumentary), with the presence of the camera often acknowledged.

Two six-episode series were made, along with a pair of 45-minute Christmas specials. When it was first shown on BBC Two, it was nearly cancelled due to low ratings, but has since become one of the most successful of all British comedy exports. As well as being shown internationally on BBC Worldwide, channels such as BBC Prime, BBC America and BBC Canada, the series has been sold to broadcasters in over 80 countries, including ABC1 in Australia, The Comedy Network in Canada, TVNZ in New Zealand and the pan-Asian satellite channel STAR World, based in Hong Kong. The show began airing in The United States on Cartoon Network's late night programing block, Adult Swim on 18 September 2009 until 2012.

The show shares themes with Extras, a later series around social satire created by Gervais and Merchant, namely, social clumsiness, the trivialities of human behaviour, self-importance and conceit, frustration and desperation and fame.[1]

The Office has been remade in different versions and different languages around the world.[2]

In 2014 Gervais confirmed that he would return as Brent when he announced he was writing a David Brent movie, with a possible 2015 release.


The show is based in a branch of the large fictitious paper company Wernham Hogg (where "life is stationery"), in the Slough Trading Estate in England. Slough is a town immortalised for its lack of appeal by John Betjeman in his poem "Slough" ("Come, friendly bombs and fall on Slough/It isn't fit for humans now..."). The show has no laugh track and is in the mockumentary style, devised at a time when documentaries such as Airport and A Life of Grime were popular.

The office is headed by regional manager David Brent (Gervais) and his assistant (to the) regional manager, Gareth Keenan (Mackenzie Crook), who was also a lieutenant in the Territorial Army. Much of the series's comedic success stems from Brent, who frequently makes attempts to win favour with his employees and peers with embarrassing or disastrous results. Brent's character flaws are used to comic effect, including numerous verbal gaffes, unconscious racism, sexism and other social faux-pas.

The other main plot line of the series, and many of the more human elements found therein, come from the unassuming Tim Canterbury (Martin Freeman), whose relationship with bored receptionist Dawn Tinsley (Lucy Davis) is a major arc in the series. Their flirtation soon builds to a mutual romantic attraction, despite her engagement to the dour and laddish warehouse worker, Lee (Joel Beckett).

The theme song for the show is "Handbags and Gladrags," arranged by Big George and originally written in the 1960s by Mike D'Abo, former vocalist for the pop group Manfred Mann.


A comparison between characters in different series is available here.

Main characters[edit]

The Office is essentially a character-based comedy, portraying the people who work in an office environment. While being more of an ensemble piece than star-driven, four characters are the primary focus of the show:

David Brent[edit]

Main article: David Brent

David Brent (Ricky Gervais) is the general manager of the Slough office of the Wernham Hogg paper merchants. He believes he is a successful maverick in the business world and a Renaissance man, talented in philosophy, music and comedy. Although he thinks he is patient, funny, and popular, others perceive him as annoying, rude and selfish. His immature behaviour comes across as he bumbles around the office – always hovering around the camera – telling unfunny jokes, performing hackneyed impressions, and generally getting into trouble by talking before thinking. Brent thinks he is a kind, politically correct man, but his preoccupation with this position and the discrepancy between it and his often patronising (and at times offensive) jokes gets him into trouble.

Tim Canterbury[edit]

Main article: Tim Canterbury

Tim Canterbury (Martin Freeman) is a sales representative at Wernham Hogg. Unlike David, Tim is witty and considerate. His humour and kindness make him one of the most likeable employees in the office, but at 30 he still lives with his parents and works at a job he believes to be completely pointless. He maintains his sanity by pursuing an improbable romance with receptionist Dawn Tinsley and by playing practical jokes on Gareth. Although he wishes to leave Wernham Hogg to study psychology, his insecurity prevents him from taking any significant action. During Series One and Two, he also fails to further pursue a relationship with Dawn. Chosen as David's successor at the end of Series Two, he declines and lets Gareth take the position, which, however, doesn't keep him from playing pranks on Gareth.

Gareth Keenan[edit]

Main article: Gareth Keenan

Gareth Keenan (Mackenzie Crook) is Tim's narcissistic deskmate and enemy. Unlike Tim, Gareth is a humourless jobsworth with few attractive personality traits. He is obsessed with his military service in the Territorial Army and annoys Tim with thoughtless, pretentious comments. He takes pride in being "Team Leader", not realising his title is mostly meaningless, and "Assistant Regional Manager," which David constantly corrects as "Assistant to the Regional Manager". He imposes the little authority he has on his co-workers. Like David, Gareth is stubborn and insensitive. Tim and Dawn repeatedly insinuate homosexuality through questions about his military experience. Apparently proud of his close connections with David and glossing over David's poor treatment of him, he later – during the Christmas special – gets back at David by patronising and humiliating him in front of the cameras.

Dawn Tinsley[edit]

Main article: Dawn Tinsley

Dawn Tinsley (Lucy Davis) is Wernham Hogg's receptionist, and David Brent's dogsbody. She frequently has to put up with his attempts at humour and social interaction. Like her friend and co-worker Tim, she is aware of the sad state of her life – she has been in a long, rocky engagement with her fiancé Lee, a surly warehouse worker, and gave up illustrating children's books to pursue her current fruitless career. During the Christmas special, Dawn and Lee return from their illegally prolonged US vacation. At the Christmas party, Dawn realises her true feelings for Tim, ends her relationship with Lee, and returns to kiss Tim.

Secondary characters[edit]

Several other recurring characters, although not central to the episodes, played an important role in the series. These include:

Keith Bishop (Ewen MacIntosh): Keith works in the accounts department. Slow-talking, apparently emotionless and suffering from eczema on his feet, he is a man of few words. When he does speak, his comments can be eloquent and sometimes disturbing. He likes eating Scotch eggs and watching Peak Practice, even if it is a "bloody repeat".

Chris Finch ("Finchy") (Ralph Ineson): A "bloody good" outside sales representative, he is probably the only character in the series who is genuinely mean. He is brashly confident, openly sexist, rasping-voiced with a natural flair for bullying others with swift, humiliating putdowns (with David being his usual target). He likes to dominate conversations and is successful with women, but shows a humourless violent attitude when he loses the staff quiz in Series One. David describes him as his "best friend" but actually acts more like a lackey, laughing at his jokes and attempting to impress him to feel popular. Finch repays him with abuse, though David finally stands up to him in the series finale.

Jennifer Taylor-Clarke (Stirling Gallacher) David's immediate supervisor in Series One, nicknamed Camilla Parker Bowles by him, Jennifer is a serious-minded professional, and David's behaviour and comedy-driven style of management are shown to be puerile and ineffectual by contrast. At the end of the Series One she is made a partner in the firm and, during Series Two, repeatedly reprimands David for inappropriate behaviour. In the last episode she supports Neil's decision to make David redundant.

Lee (Joel Beckett): Dawn's fiancé who works in the company's warehouse. She met him in school and they have been together ever since. Whilst not mean, Lee is somewhat dull, humourless and casually critical of Dawn's ideas of being an illustrator. His idea of an amorous proposal was a four-word notice in the newspaper — "Lee love Dawn. Marriage?" — possibly to save money. It is clear from an early stage that Dawn stays with him out of a fear of loneliness rather than real love. Lee is laid-back, loyal, and also more physically imposing than Tim, Dawn's other potential interest, and for that reason Tim finds him intimidating. He has a somewhat violent temper, which is shown when he holds Tim against a wall, simply for starting to dance with Dawn. However he does give Tim a bottle of wine afterwards, probably having been persuaded by Dawn

Glynn aka 'Taffy' (David Schaal): The misogynistic, sexist warehouse manager at the Slough Trading Merchant and Lee's supervisor, who is seen as being very slack and has little respect for any one who works outside of the warehouse, particularly management.

Malcolm (Robin Hooper): An older staff member, he is naturally most worried about the prospect of redundancies and therefore often challenges David's handling of the situation, criticising his relaxed attitude, his lack of management ability and several incidents, such as hiring a personal secretary when the office is facing redundancies. When David assures individual staff members of their jobs, he stops right before addressing Malcolm. When David claims that he turned down his promotion to save his branch, it is Malcolm who says that David actually lost the post when he failed a medical exam, but David contemptuously says he failed the test on purpose and shows no interest in further discussing the matter with Malcolm. Malcolm does not appear in the second series, probably having been made redundant. He is referenced in the second series when one of the co-workers reveals that David liked to call Malcolm Kojak, which David claimed to be affectionate.

Ricky (Oliver Chris): Introduced as David's new temp in the pilot, and is a recent graduate, having "just scraped a first". He was prominently featured in episode three, where he and Tim form a team for trivia night under the name "The Tits." The two end up winning, thanks to Ricky (holder of two Blockbusters Gold Runs) successfully answering a tie-breaker question on Shakespeare against Chris Finch. Finch, angered, challenges him over the circumstances of the victory in a petty feud, where Ricky calls him and David "sad little men". It is announced by David in the Series One finale that Ricky is leaving.

Donna (Sally Bretton): Donna is introduced in Series One, Episode Two as the daughter of David's friends Ron and Elaine, who has come to work at the office, and is staying with David. Donna makes a quick impact in the office, and fails to reciprocate Gareth's romantic feelings towards her. Later, David confronts her for not returning home after a night out, and Donna angrily announces she stayed at her boyfriend's house, later revealed to be Ricky.

Karen Roper (Nicola Cotter): David's personal secretary whom he hires towards the end of Series One. David insists that he needs an assistant so that he does not need to do his own filing. Several of the staff are apprehensive about David hiring new and unnecessary personnel while the branch is facing downsizing and redundancies. David chooses her over a male applicant solely because he found her attractive and later accidentally kicks a football in her face, bruising her under the eye. He embarrasses himself in front of her further when she joins them at a club, called Chasers, after work. When Jennifer sees her standing behind the reception desk during one of her visits and questions David about her, he denies knowing her. She does not appear in the second series, having been made redundant.

Alex (Neil Fitzmaurice): Hired by David in the first episode of Series One as a forklift driver to work in the warehouse, even though Alex does not have his forklift licence. In the last episode of the series his protests against being made redundant are turned around by David and Gareth who question him on the differences between midgets, dwarves, pixies, elves, and goblins.

Neil Godwin (Patrick Baladi): David's (mostly unseen) counterpart at the Swindon branch during Series One, he is promoted ahead of him when David failed a medical examination and becomes his immediate superior in Series Two. Neil is young, charming, professional and energetic. He is a more competent manager than David and has a better relationship with staff. David is hugely resentful and jealous of him, and makes occasional (usually unsuccessful) and often childish attempts to either undermine or rival him. Neil grows increasingly exasperated with David's incompetence, poor judgement, and failure to do his job properly, and along with Jennifer eventually decides to make him redundant.

Rachel (Stacey Roca): Another of the Series Two intake from Swindon. Rachel is bubbly and considered attractive by both Gareth and Tim. She and Tim start a relationship, making Dawn somewhat melancholy. After a deluded Gareth reveals his plans to seduce Rachel, he is shocked to discover that Rachel and Tim are now an item. However, toward the end of the second series, as she begins to pressure Tim to make a greater commitment, Tim realises that his ongoing love for Dawn is far greater than his feelings for Rachel and breaks off the relationship.

Trudy (Rachel Isaac): Welsh Trudy is first introduced in Series Two as one of several of the new intake from the Swindon branch. Almost immediately, she establishes herself as something of a good-time girl, blending in well with the rest of the staff and enjoying a booze-fuelled birthday celebration in her honour at the office. Her casual, sexually charged nature does not go unnoticed by the male members of staff and both Gareth and Chris Finch take interest in her. She and Finch are seen having sex in a car park. Trudy is also quick to challenge Brent's style of management.

Oliver (Howard Saddler): One of the Series Two intake from Swindon. Oliver is good-natured, tolerant, easy-going and quiet, which is lucky for him as he is the only black person working in the office. Because of this he becomes the target for most of David's well-meaning but hideously misguided attempts to show what a politically correct and racially tolerant man he is.

Brenda (Julie Fernandez): Another of the former employees of the Swindon branch, Brenda is a wheelchair user, which naturally brings out the worst in David. During a fire drill, he and Gareth attempt to carry Brenda down a flight of stairs but ultimately, as they see it as being too much effort for a mere drill, they abandon her halfway down. Brenda is not impressed by David's patronising behaviour. She, like Oliver, is another character whose purpose is to highlight the gap between David's vision of himself as a modern enlightened man and the reality of his ignorance and thoughtlessness. Gareth, like David, is also seen to be incredibly awkward and uncomfortable around Brenda.

Rowan (Vincent Franklin): A training facilitator in Series One, who is progressively frustrated by David's attempts to undermine and take control of a team training session, often forcing it to veer off track.

Simon (Matthew Holness): Working in IT, he visits the office in Series Two to install firewall software on the computers while discussing his theories with Gareth about Bruce Lee faking his own death so that he could go undercover and fight the Triads. An arrogant show-off and boaster, Simon claims to be the record holder of the fastest lap down at 'SuperKarts'.

Ray (Tom Goodman-Hill) and Jude (Jennifer Hennessy): The only two recurring characters in Series Two who do not work for Wernham Hogg. Ray and Jude work for a consultancy firm which organises business management seminars which include guest speakers in the business world to discuss work practices. They approach David about being one of the speakers but are totally unimpressed with his unorthodox presentation on motivational techniques in a later episode. When David is made redundant he is hoping to fall back on doing more presentations, but is deprived the opportunity when Ray and Jude tell him sympathetically that they will not be calling on him again for future presentations.

Helena (Olivia Colman): Appears in the last episode of Series Two as a reporter for the internal paper merchant newspaper, Inside Paper. She finds interviewing David quite hard, because he attempts to dictate what she should write in her article.

Anne (Elizabeth Berrington): Tim's pregnant deskmate in the Christmas Special. Anne annoys Tim even more than Gareth, as she speaks continuously about herself and other topics no one else is interested in. Such is Anne's reputation in the office that, when she coldly tells David that no one is interested in his invitation to go out for a drink, there is a level of discomfort amongst her co-workers and an exasperated Tim immediately contradicts her by accepting David's offer. She is insulted by Glynn at the Christmas party when she comments about his smoking near her, and she is last seen walking away offended.

Carol (Sandy Hendrickse): David's blind date at the Christmas party with whom he hits it off and who seems to like him. When after her departure, Chris Finch calls her a "dog", David finally stands up to him and tells him to "fuck off".

Oggy aka 'The Ogg Monster' (Stephen Merchant) one of Gareth's best friends. His real name is Nathan. He appears to be a very sensitive man when Brent insults him for his bug eyes and leaves the room in tears.


In total there are fourteen episodes of The Office, six in each series and two 45-minute Christmas special episodes.

"The Office Values" and "Realising Potential"[edit]

In 2004, Microsoft UK commissioned two 20-minute corporate videos featuring David Brent being interviewed by Jeff (Stephen Merchant), a Microsoft employee who becomes increasingly exasperated by Brent's antics. The ongoing theme is Brent's obvious resentment at the company's success. Brent also appears to believe he has what it takes to become the next managing director of Microsoft and continually drops hints to that effect. While not on general release, the videos emerged on the Internet in 2006. They were posted on both YouTube and Google Video.[3] The clips also appeared on certain peer-to-peer networks. Microsoft was unhappy with the leak, stating that the videos "were never intended to be viewed by the public".[4]

Critical reception[edit]

The show has received critical acclaim, and has been regarded as one of the greatest British sitcoms of all time.[5] Series one currently holds a Metacritic score of 98 out of 100, based on 12 reviews, indicating "Universal Acclaim."[6] Series two received similar acclaim, holding a Metacritic score of 93 out of 100, based on 16 reviews, indicating "Universal Acclaim"[7] The Office Christmas specials was also well received, and holds a Metacritic score of 98 out of 100, based on 19 reviews, indicating "Universal Acclaim."[8]

Awards and Recognition[edit]

At the British Comedy Awards in 2001, The Office won the Best New TV Comedy award. In 2002, the series won the Best TV Comedy award, and Gervais the Best TV Comedy Actor award.

In 2003, The Office won the Golden Globe Award for "Best Television Series: Musical Or Comedy", beating nominees Arrested Development, Monk, Sex and the City and Will & Grace. It was the first British comedy in 25 years to be nominated for a Golden Globe, and the first ever to win one. Ricky Gervais was also awarded the Golden Globe for "Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series: Musical or Comedy" for his role. The same year, the series won a Peabody Award.[9]

In 2005, the series' concluding two-part special was nominated for two Emmys in the categories of "Outstanding Made for Television Movie" and "Outstanding Writing for a Miniseries, Movie or a Dramatic Special".[10]

Entertainment Weekly put it on its end-of-the-decade, "best-of" list, saying, "We love the Scranton crew. But Ricky Gervais' mockumentary series about sadsack employees in Slough, England, is the undisputed champion of awesomely awkward cubicle hell."[11] And then the magazine put it 14 on its top 100 TV shows of all time, citing that "Anytime you watch something on TV so awkward you don't know whether to laugh or shield your eyes in horror, you can thank Ricky Gervais' biting British mockumentary for the pleasure." [12]


Main cast[edit]

Minor cast[edit]

Music and theme song[edit]

In 2000, a version of "Handbags and Gladrags", a song written by Mike d'Abo, was specifically arranged by Big George as the theme song to The Office series. Three versions were recorded:[citation needed]

  • a short, instrumental piece as the opening titles theme
  • a short, vocal piece as the closing titles theme
  • an alternative full studio version

All vocal versions feature the vocal performance of Waysted vocalist Fin.

In series one, episode four, a version performed by Ricky Gervais (in character as David Brent) was featured over the end credits.

The first series also features Gervais performing "Freelove Freeway" and the Christmas Special includes him performing "If You Don't Know Me by Now". Both of these songs are included in full on the DVD box set, with Noel Gallagher accompanying for "Freelove Freeway". Some copies sold at HMV stores also included a CD single of the two tracks. As Ricky and Steve mention on their Xfm show, it was a toss-up between the song they chose, and the song "Sitting" by Cat Stevens.[citation needed]

Home releases[edit]

DVD Name Region 1 Region 2 Ep # Additional Information
Series One 7 October 2003 14 October 2002 6 This double disc DVD set includes all six episodes from the first series. Bonus features include the featurette How I Made The Office, deleted scenes, Wernham Hogg News, Slough slang glossary, and Wernham Hogg personnel file.
Series Two 20 April 2004 20 October 2003 6 This one disc DVD set includes all six episodes from the second series. Bonus features include a video diary, deleted scenes, out-takes, and a Slough slang glossary.
Christmas Special 16 November 2004 25 October 2004 2 This one disc DVD set includes both hours of the Christmas Special. Bonus features include a documentary on the making of the specials, the full uncut music video of David Brent's cover of "If You Don't Know Me by Now", a featurette on the making of "Freelove Freeway", and a Golden Globes featurette.
Complete Collection 16 November 2004 22 November 2005 14 This four disc DVD set includes all 12 episodes from the first and second series, and both parts of the Christmas special. Bonus features include the How I Made The Office documentary, a documentary on the making of the specials titled The Office: Closed for Business, a commentary on the second part of the Christmas special, deleted scenes, out-takes, a video diary, the full uncut music video of David Brent's cover of "If You Don't Know Me by Now", a featurette on the making of "Freelove Freeway", and a Golden Globes featurette.
10th Anniversary Special Edition 22 November 2011 24 October 2011 14 This four disc DVD set includes all 12 episodes from the first and second series, and both parts of the Christmas special. Bonus features include the How I Made The Office documentary, a documentary on the making of the specials titled The Office: Closed for Business, a commentary on the second part of the Christmas special, deleted scenes, out-takes, a video diary, the full uncut music video of David Brent's cover of "If You Don't Know Me by Now", a featurette on the making of "Freelove Freeway", and a Golden Globes featurette. Exclusive to this box set is the never-seen-before 20-minute pre-pilot, broadcast wraparounds and celebrity interviews (including Hugh Jackman, Matthew Perry, Richard Curtis and Ben Stiller).


  1. ^ Bilmes, Alex. "Heeeere's Ricky!". Retrieved 23 August 2008. 
  2. ^ Garrison, Laura Turner. "Exploring the International Franchises of The Office". Splitsider. 
  3. ^ "Ricky Gervais – Microsoft 1". Retrieved 17 March 2010. 
  4. ^ "Microsoft unhappy at Gervais leak". BBC News. 30 August 2006. Retrieved 23 August 2008. 
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ 63rd Annual Peabody Awards, May 2004.
  10. ^ [1].
  11. ^ Geier, Thom; Jensen, Jeff; Jordan, Tina; Lyons, Margaret; Markovitz, Adam; Nashawaty, Chris; Pastorek, Whitney; Rice, Lynette; Rottenberg, Josh; Schwartz, Missy; Slezak, Michael; Snierson, Dan; Stack, Tim; Stroup, Kate; Tucker, Ken; Vary, Adam B.; Vozick-Levinson, Simon; Ward, Kate (11 December 2009), "THE 100 Greatest MOVIES, TV SHOWS, ALBUMS, BOOKS, CHARACTERS, SCENES, EPISODES, SONGS, DRESSES, MUSIC VIDEOS, AND TRENDS THAT ENTERTAINED US OVER THE PAST 10 YEARS". Entertainment Weekly. (1079/1080):74-84
  12. ^ [2].

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]