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The Office (British TV series)

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The Office
Created by
Written by
  • Ricky Gervais
  • Stephen Merchant
Directed by
  • Ricky Gervais
  • Stephen Merchant
Opening theme"Handbags and Gladrags" performed by Big George
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original languageEnglish
No. of series2
No. of episodes14 (list of episodes)
Executive producers
ProducerAsh Atalla
CinematographyAndy Hollis
EditorNigel Williams
Running timeapprox. 30 minutes
Production companies
  • Capital United Nations Entertainment
  • The Identity Company
Original release
Release9 July 2001 (2001-07-09) –
27 December 2003 (2003-12-27)

The Office is a British mockumentary television sitcom first broadcast in the UK on BBC Two on 9 July 2001. Created, written and directed by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, it follows the day-to-day lives of office employees in the Slough branch of the fictional Wernham Hogg paper company. Gervais also starred in the series as the central character, David Brent.

Two six-episode series were made, followed by a two-part Christmas special. When it was first shown on BBC Two, ratings were relatively low, but it has since become one of the most successful of all British comedy exports. As well as being shown internationally on BBC Worldwide and channels such as BBC Prime, BBC America, and BBC Canada, it 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. It was shown in the United States on BBC America from 2001 to 2016, and later on Cartoon Network's late night programming block Adult Swim from 2009 to 2011.[1]

The show centres on themes of social clumsiness, the trivialities of human behaviour, self-importance and conceit, frustration, desperation and fame. Its success led to a number of localised adaptations (based on its basic story and themes) produced for the television markets of other nations, creating an international Office franchise, including the successful and Emmy-winning American remake on NBC starring Steve Carell as David Brent's counterpart, Michael Scott.[2]



The show is a mockumentary based in a branch of a large paper company called Wernham Hogg (where "life is stationery"), in the Slough Trading Estate in Berkshire. Slough is a large 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...").[3] The office is headed by general manager David Brent (Gervais), aided by his team leader and Assistant to the Regional Manager Gareth Keenan, played by Mackenzie Crook. 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, inadvertent racism and sexism, and other social faux pas.

The other main plot line of the series concerns the unassuming Tim Canterbury (Martin Freeman) and his relationship with bored receptionist Dawn Tinsley (Lucy Davis). Their flirtation soon builds to a mutual romantic attraction, despite her engagement to dour and controlling warehouse worker Lee (Joel Beckett).

Cast and characters



  • Ricky Gervais as David Brent:
    The general manager of the Slough branch of Wernham Hogg paper merchants. Immature and arrogant, he believes he is a lovable rogue in the business world and a Renaissance man, talented in philosophy, music and comedy. Although he thinks he is funny, caring, and respected, others perceive him as annoying, insensitive, and embarrassing. His lack of awareness regarding his ineptitude, lack of trust from colleagues, constant need of approval, and his constant shenanigans that land him in trouble are the driving plot points of the series.
  • Martin Freeman as Tim Canterbury:
    A sales representative at Wernham Hogg. Unlike David, Tim is friendly and has a good sense of humour. His antics and charm make him one of the most likeable employees in the office, but at 30 he still lives with his parents and is unhappy with his life. 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.
  • Mackenzie Crook as Gareth Keenan:
    Tim's vindictive deskmate and enemy. Gareth is a cold-hearted jobsworth. He takes pride in being "Team Leader", not realising his title is meaningless, and he imposes the little authority he has on his co-workers.
  • Lucy Davis as Dawn Tinsley:
    The company receptionist and 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 miserable state of her life – she has been in an unhappy engagement with her fiancé Lee, a boorish warehouse worker, and gave up illustrating children's books to pursue her current career. During the Christmas special, Dawn and Lee return from their illegally prolonged US vacation. She finally leaves Lee for Tim, after he encourages her to hold on to her dream of being a children's book illustrator, an ambition which Lee sought to put down at every opportunity.



Introduced in Series 1

  • Stirling Gallacher as Jennifer Taylor-Clarke:
    Previously Brent's immediate superior in Series one. At the end of series one, she is made a partner in the firm, with Neil Godwin becoming David's immediate superior in series two.
  • Oliver Chris as Ricky Howard:
    Introduced as Brent's new temp in the pilot, and a recent graduate. He was prominently featured in episode three, where he and Tim form a team for trivia night. The two end up winning, successfully answering a tie-breaker question on Shakespeare against Finch.
  • Ralph Ineson as Chris "Finchy" Finch:
    A boorish and bullying sales representative. David describes him as his "best friend" but his attempts to impress Finch are invariably repaid with mockery and insults. In the Christmas Special, David finally stands up to Chris.
  • Patrick Baladi as Neil Godwin:
    Brent's counterpart at the Swindon branch and eventually his immediate superior. He is young, suave, handsome and hard-working, a more successful manager than Brent, and respected by his staff.
  • Ewen MacIntosh as Keith Bishop: Keith works in the accounts department.
  • Joel Beckett as Lee: Dawn's fiancé who works in the company's warehouse. She met him in school and they have been together ever since. Lee is humourless, dull, and controlling. He often undermines and embarrasses Dawn, and is dismissive of her ideas of being an illustrator. His idea of a romantic proposal was a four-word notice in the newspaper — "Lee love Dawn. Marriage?" It is clear from an early stage that she stays with him out of a fear of loneliness rather than real love.
  • David Schaal as Glynn, also known as Taffy: The misogynistic, sexist warehouse manager at the company and Lee's supervisor.
  • Robin Hooper as Malcolm: An older staff member, he is worried about the prospect of redundancies and often challenges Brent's handling of the situation. David alternates between bothering him with heavy-handed attempts at "humour" and coldly dismissing him. In a Series 1 scene, David assures two workers who are standing near Malcolm that their jobs are safe and deliberately says nothing to Malcolm.
  • Sally Bretton as Donna: Introduced in Series 1, episode 2 as the daughter of Brent's friends Ron and Elaine, who has come to work at the office. She soon starts a relationship with Ricky.
  • Nicola Cotter as Karen Roper: Brent's personal secretary, hired because he insists that he needs an assistant, even though the branch is facing downsizing and redundancies.

Introduced in Series 2

  • Rachel Isaac as Trudy: Trudy is first introduced in Series Two as one of several of the new intake from the Swindon branch.
  • Howard Saddler as Oliver: Oliver is the only black person working in the office, and is the target for David's misguided attempts to show what a politically correct and racially tolerant man he is.
  • Julie Fernandez as Brenda: Brenda is a wheelchair user who suffers from David's attempts to portray himself as a tolerant and progressive person.
  • Stacey Roca as Rachel: Tim's new love interest.


SeriesEpisodesOriginally aired
First airedLast airedNetwork
169 July 2001 (2001-07-09)20 August 2001 (2001-08-20)BBC Two
2630 September 2002 (2002-09-30)4 November 2002 (2002-11-04)
Christmas226 December 2003 (2003-12-26)27 December 2003 (2003-12-27)BBC One
Revisited15 March 2013 (2013-03-15)



In June 1998, Merchant and Gervais made Seedy Boss, a 20-minute film starring Gervais, as part of Merchant's TV producer training for the BBC.[4] The pair met when Merchant was hired as Gervais' assistant at radio station Xfm; neither had any previous TV experience. Gervais's character was based on one he performed to amuse staff at the radio station.[5]

Ash Atalla showed the tape to BBC Two head Jane Root, who commissioned a series based on it.[6] Filming took place in an office at Teddington Studios.[7]

Unlike most British sitcoms, The Office used a single-camera setup (where multiple-camera setups were traditional) and no laughter track.[8] The style influenced subsequent comedies such as Peep Show, Twenty Twelve, Fleabag, and Motherland.



The show's theme song is "Handbags and Gladrags", performed by Big George, based on the Rod Stewart arrangement, and originally written in the 1960s by Mike d'Abo, former vocalist for the rock group Manfred Mann.[9][10] Gervais and Merchant also considered "Sitting" by Cat Stevens for the theme.[11] [better source needed]

In Series 1, episode 4, a version of the theme performed by Gervais (in character as Brent) was featured over the end credits. The first series also features Gervais performing "Free Love Freeway", and the Christmas Special includes him performing "If You Don't Know Me By Now".



Critical response


The show is considered one of the greatest British sitcoms of all time.[12] Series one currently holds a Metacritic score of 98 out of 100, based on 12 reviews.[13] Series two received similar acclaim, holding a Metacritic score of 93 out of 100, based on 16 reviews.[14] The Office Christmas specials were also well received, and hold a Metacritic score of 98 out of 100, based on 19 reviews.[15] The Office, overall, scores 97 out of 100 on Metacritic based on 47 critic reviews and is labeled a "Metacritic-Must Watch".[16] The Telegraph names it one of the ten best TV sitcoms of all time.[17] In 2019, The Guardian ranked it #6 on its list of the 100 best TV shows of the 21st century.[18]



At the British Comedy Awards in 2001, The Office won the Best New TV Comedy award. In 2002, it won the Best TV Comedy award, and Gervais the Best TV Comedy Actor award.[19][20]

In 2004, the series won the Golden Globe Award for Best Television series: Musical or Comedy, the first British comedy in 25 years to be nominated for a Golden Globe, and the first ever to win one. Gervais also received the Golden Globe For Best Actor in a Television series: Comedy or Musical.[21] The same year, the series also won a Peabody Award.[22]



The Office's success led to a number of localised adaptations produced for the television markets of other nations, creating an international Office franchise. They included the successful and Emmy-winning American remake starring Steve Carell as David Brent's counterpart, Michael Scott.[2]

Home video releases

DVD Name Region 1 Region 2 Region 4 Ep # Additional Information
Series One 7 October 2003 14 October 2002 1 July 2004 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 1 July 2004 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 7 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 TBA 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 November 2012 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, Comedy Connections featurette, broadcast wraparounds and celebrity interviews (including Hugh Jackman, Matthew Perry, Richard Curtis and Ben Stiller).



Television short


A Comic Relief charity short was made in 2013 entitled The Return of Brent[23] (also known as The Office Revisited).

YouTube shorts


In 2013, Gervais developed a series of videos, and released them on his YouTube channel entitled "Learn Guitar with David Brent". Within three months, the series had collected over 2 million views.[24]



The Brent character also featured in the 2016 film David Brent: Life on the Road, this time with the contributions of Gervais but not Merchant.

Other media


In 2004, Microsoft UK commissioned two 20-minute corporate videos, entitled "The Office Values" and "Realising Potential", featuring David Brent being interviewed by Jeff (played by Stephen Merchant), a Microsoft employee who becomes increasingly exasperated by Brent's antics. Brent is obviously resentful of the company's success. He believes 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. 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".[25] During the first video, Brent plays the guitar, the lyrics advocating his ideas in opposition to Microsoft and technology.


  1. ^ "The Office comes to Adult Swim". IGN. Retrieved 25 May 2019.
  2. ^ a b Garrison, Laura Turner. "Exploring the International Franchises of The Office". Splitsider. Archived from the original on 31 July 2016. Retrieved 6 May 2013.
  3. ^ "John Betjeman: Slough". Worlds Poetry. Archived from the original on 20 February 2015. Retrieved 29 January 2015.
  4. ^ "About The Office – British Comedy Guide". British Comedy Guide. Retrieved 9 July 2021.
  5. ^ "Stephen Merchant: The Office boy". The Independent. 19 July 2013. Archived from the original on 18 June 2022. Retrieved 9 July 2021.
  6. ^ "Ricky Gervais... Obviously". rickygervais.com. Retrieved 9 July 2021.
  7. ^ "BBC – Comedy: The Office – The Definitive Guide – Inspiration". bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 9 July 2021.
  8. ^ RadioTimes https://www.radiotimes.com/tv/comedy/the-office-20-anniversary-sitcoms-rt-rewind/
  9. ^ "The Office: Ricky and Steve on production". BBC.co.uk. Retrieved 29 January 2015.
  10. ^ "Handbags and Gladrags by Rod Stewart". Song Facts. Retrieved 29 January 2015.
  11. ^ "04 January 2003/Transcript – Pilkipedia". www.pilkipedia.co.uk. Retrieved 22 August 2019.
  12. ^ Guide, British Comedy. "Top 50 TV Sitcoms – British Comedy Guide". British Comedy Guide. Retrieved 25 September 2016.
  13. ^ "The Office (UK)". Metacritic. Retrieved 25 September 2016.
  14. ^ "The Office (UK)". Metacritic. Retrieved 25 September 2016.
  15. ^ "The Office (UK)". Metacritic. Retrieved 25 September 2016.
  16. ^ "The Office (UK)". Metacritic. Retrieved 19 June 2023.
  17. ^ Hogan, Gerard O'Donovan, Ben Lawrence, Chris Harvey, Andrew Pettie, Neil Midgley and Michael (10 November 2015). "The 10 best TV sitcoms of all time" – via www.telegraph.co.uk.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  18. ^ "The 100 best TV shows of the 21st century". The Guardian. 16 September 2019. Retrieved 23 September 2019.
  19. ^ "Past Winners 2001". British Comedy Award. Retrieved 29 January 2015.
  20. ^ "Past Winners 2002". British Comedy Award. Retrieved 29 January 2015.
  21. ^ "Ricky Gervais' Surprise at Globe Win". BBC.co.uk. 26 January 2004. Retrieved 29 January 2015.
  22. ^ "The Office 63rd Annual Peabody Awards". Peabody Awards. Retrieved 29 January 2015.
  23. ^ "The Return of Brent". YouTube.
  24. ^ "Ricky Gervais breaks 2m barrier for Learn Guitar With David Brent". Radio Times. Retrieved 10 May 2021.
  25. ^ "Microsoft unhappy at Gervais leak". BBC News. 30 August 2006. Retrieved 23 August 2008.

Further reading

  • De Jongste, Henri (2020) Playing with Mental Models: Humour in the BBC Comedy Series The Office. John Benjamins Publishing Company ISBN 9789027261137
  • Griffin, Jeffrey, “The Americanization of The Office: a comparison of the offbeat NBC sitcom and its British predecessor.” Journal of Popular Film and Television 35 (2008): 154–16
  • Schwind, Kai Hanno. "‘Chilled-out entertainers’–multi-layered sitcom performances in the British and American version of The Office." Comedy Studies 5.1 (2014): 20–32.
  • "Ricky Gervais". Screen online.org.uk. Retrieved 27 January 2015.
  • Walters, Ben (1 December 2005). The Office. BFI TV Classics. London: BFI Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84457-091-1.