Series / The Office (UK)

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British Mockumentary Work Com (2001-2003) in the style of a fly on the wall, created by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant.

The main setting is the administrative office of paper supplies company Wernham Hogg, presided over by Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist David Brent. His Number Two, Gareth Keenan, is an unpleasant, pathetic loser with a military obsession. The most sympathetic character is Tim Canterbury, the witty clerk whose friendship with receptionist Dawn Tinsley borders on the romantic. The series was met with great critical acclaim and won several awards, hailed for its original style and subtle, insightful humour.

The series is a mockumentary: the characters are very aware of the cameras being on them, all the time. Brent in particular is given to preening and showing off for the camera, and Gareth explicitly notes that he's only behaving a certain way because "they're filming".

Inspired the highly successful and more well-known American adaptation of the series. Also highly successful is the German remake Stromberg, wherein the main protagonist Bernd Stromberg (the German version of David Brent) works for an insurance company. It has also inspired French (Le Bureau), French-Canadian (La Job), Chilean (La Ofis), Israeli (HaMisrad), and Swedish (Kontoret) remakes, as well as still in-development Chinese and Finnish versions.

Came twenty-fifth in Britain's Best Sitcom.

This show provides examples of:

  • Accidental Hero: Brent saves a number of redundancies at the Slough branch by not taking a promotion, but only by accident. It turned out he was never actually offered the job as he failed the medical due to high blood pressure.
  • Ain't Too Proud to Beg: David begs Neil and Jennifer not to make him redundant.
  • Amusing Injuries: David Brent headbutting his new receptionist.
  • Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better: David plays this game with Ricky when they talk about Dostoevsky. He keeps returning with more facts that he's obviously just looked up, only for Ricky to keep out-doing him with even more information. David just gives up in the end.
    David: Were we talking earlier about Dostoevsky's House of the Dead?
    Ricky: Yeah I think we mentioned it.
    David: Which he wrote in 1862. I was just going to say that it wasn't his first major work.
    Ricky: Wasn't it?
    David: No. His first major work was Notes from the Underground, which he wrote in St Petersburg in 1859.
    Ricky: Really?
    David: Yup. Definitely.
    Ricky: Well, of course, my favourite is The Raw Youth. It's basically where Dostoevsky goes on to explain how science can't really find answers for the deeper human need.
    David: Yeah... he does. [Glances at his watch and leaves]
  • Ascended Extra: Keith. Gervais and Merchant liked the deadpan persona that Ewan MacIntosh created, so they gave him more lines and used him as Mr. Exposition.
  • Aside Glance: Tim and David both do it constantly.
  • Asshole Victim: No one can say Gareth doesn't deserve to be on the wrong end of Tim's pranks.
  • Audience Surrogate: Tim's role is partly this. He's not quite the Only Sane Man, but he is the one we're supposed to identify with.
  • Bad News, Irrelevant News: Trope Namer. The bad news is the Slough branch is being closed. The good news is that David's been promoted. The staff don't see it this way, describing it as "bad news and irrelevant news".
  • Bait-and-Switch: When we first see Dawn and Lee in Florida, she's holding a baby, which would presumably end any chance of romance with Tim. But she then mentions that it's Lee's sister's baby.
  • Belated Happy Ending: Tim and Dawn in the Christmas Special.
  • Benevolent Boss:
    • David thinks he is, but he's really The Alleged Boss. He goes into Bad Boss territory when he accepts a promotion knowing it will mean most of the staff losing their jobs.
    • Jennifer, who shows incredible patience when dealing with David, even when he openly lies to her about sacking someone and she gets insulted by the guys in the warehouse.
    • Neil, by contrast, is much sterner and quickly grows weary of David's antics.
  • Birthday Episode: Tim in series one. Trudy in series two.
  • Blatant Lies: Jennifer asks David if he has made any redundancies. David lies about sacking the non-existent employee "Julie Anderton".
  • Bookends: In the first episode of series one, David hires a new forklift driver. In the final episode of series one, David fires the same man.
  • British Brevity: Fourteen episodes (two six-episode seasons and a concluding two-part Christmas Special). Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant felt that as it is supposed to be a 'fly on the wall' documentary (rather than a work-com) it would stretch belief that the crew are still there months or years later. This is the biggest difference between it and the American version.
  • The Cameo: When David takes part in a "celebrity" blind date at a night club, he's joined by Real Life minor celebs Howard Brown, who appeared in a few adverts for the Halifax building society, and Paul "Bubble" Ferguson, a former Big Brother contestant.
  • Captain Obvious: To make up for manhandling him the previous day, Lee gives Tim a wrapped bottled-shaped gift.
    Gareth: Probably a bottle of something.
    Gareth: Look at the shape.
  • Casanova Wannabe:
    • Gareth is a particularly repulsive hence spot-on example. Contrast this with his American counterpart Dwight, who is apparently quite the Kavorka Man.
    • David Brent also, particularly with his new secretary in Series 1.
  • Christmas Episode: which was also the Grand Finale.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Rachel does not reappear in the Christmas specials.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Gareth and Keith.
  • Comically Missing the Point: Given the nature of the series, it happens with alarming regularity. David reads John Betjeman's "Slough" at the end of "New Girl".
    • Also notable is the Training episode, where Gareth somehow misses the point of every single exercise the instructor puts the staff through.
  • Comic Role Play: The training episode! "See, I fazed you."
  • Crapsack World: One of the themes of the series was the soul-destroying nature of working in an office for a paycheck and largely watching your dreams die horribly slow and painful deaths.
    • Talented artist/receptionist Dawn wanting to be an artist, but stuck working a dead-end job with a deadbeat lover who constantly belittles her talent, because he doesn't want her to give up the paycheck that supports the two.
    • Tim, who has dreams of going to university to study psychology, ends up abandoning them when he gets promoted. Even more alarming is in his rationalization to Dawn, he starts using management speak that is very similar to how David talks.
    • Keith says his job is just a stopgap and he wants to get into music.
    • David says he could have been successful in music, but gave it up for his job at Wernham-Hogg. When he actually tries to start a musical career, it doesn't go well. Apparently the people who actually enjoy their mundane jobs are talentless hacks.
  • Creator Cameo: Stephen Merchant has a small part as Gareth's mate Oggy.
  • Cringe Comedy: It's almost physically painful to watch at times. A standout example is the second season premiere, where David follows an effortlessly funny introduction from his new boss, Neil, with an incredibly desperate comedy routine based on obscure inside jokes about other employees in the corporation. And despite nobody responding to the jokes, not even the one guy present who actually knows the employees being joked about, he just continues to double down on the schtick until he eventually just sits down in frustration.
  • Dating Service Disaster: David has a few in the Christmas special.
  • Death Faked for You: The tech support guy, Simon, is convinced that Bruce Lee's death was a cover-up to allow him to go Deep Cover Agent and bust up the Triads. Gareth, of course, believes him.
  • Deconstructed Character Archetype: David Brent. The bulk of the series paints him as a Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist, yet the Series 2 finale and ensuing Christmas specials reveal that he's actually a very lonely and frustrated man.
  • Digging Yourself Deeper: David normally does this without anyone prompting him.
  • Don't Explain the Joke: David Brent is constantly doing this, as part of his chronically misfiring sense of humour. He explains other peoples' jokes too, apparently just to prove that he gets it. In one instance, where he explains a misunderstanding involving Blue Peter star Peter Purves in an instructional video, it's actually helpful for US viewers. On the other hand, David gets mad at Gareth for explaining his jokes (mostly for making explicit David's innuendos which weren't true).
  • Downer Ending: Series two ended with David being sacked and Dawn leaving after rejecting Tim. The Christmas specials gave them more of a Happy Ending with David finding love and Tim and Dawn finally getting together.
  • Establishing Character Moment:
    • Gareth is first seen creeping up on Tim, whacking him over the head with a newspaper and yelling "whasssup", establishing his irritating character.
    • In Chris Finch's first scene, he shows himself to be a bully and a jerk who treats Brent as a Butt-Monkey.
  • The Friend Nobody Likes: One of the central themes of the show is that you spend far more time with your coworkers than you do with your actual friends, family and loved ones. Tim lampshades this in the last episode, saying your work-mates are just people you share the same bit of carpet with for most of the week. Several characters also embody this trope, most notably David Brent (who tries so hard to be everybody's friend in spite of how unlikeable he is for the most part), and Chris Finch (who probably knows nobody really likes him, but doesn't really care).
  • Forbidden Fruit: David warns the men in the office to keep away from Donna, as she's the daughter of his best friends. It doesn't deter Ricky though.
  • Gag Penis: The one in Gareth and David's joke about the black man's cock ("bigger than the bread bin").
  • The Ghost: Anton, Jeff Lamp, Pete Gibbons. Neil in series one.
  • Gilligan Cut:
    • David assures Jennifer that the news about the proposed merger with Swindon (and possible redundancies) will not leave the room. In the next scene everyone is discussing it.
    • Having just been reprimanded by Jennifer for telling a racist joke, David jokes with a group of employees about smoking weed. Cut to him being reprimanded by Jennifer again.
  • Girl-on-Girl Is Hot: Gareth certainly thinks so:
    Rowan: Gareth, quick trust exercise: what's your ultimate fantasy?
    Rowan: Okay, er, Tim?
    Tim: I never thought I'd say this but can I hear more from Gareth?
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Lee spots Tim getting a bit too close to Dawn and immediately shoves him against the wall. In another scene Lee threatens him for asking Dawn out. It takes Tim a while to realise he's just joking this time.
  • Happily Ever After: Mocked in an after-the-fact (out of character) documentary. Dawn and Tim's actors think the two characters will go on to a happy life together, only to be shot down by Ricky Gervais, who basically says, 'Only if it's funny.'
  • Hate Sink:
    • Chris Finch has zero redeeming qualities. Following that, Lee is a terrible boyfriend. Tim's pregnant co-worker Ann is also very rude and self-absorbed.
    • Neil was apparently meant to be this but is less hateable than Chris.
    • Downplayed with the warehouse workers in the end. They're pigs, but seeing them tell off Anne the obnoxious pregnant woman makes them almost admirable.
  • Hello, Nurse!: Rachel. Tim, Gareth, Keith and Lee all think so.
  • Hopeless Suitor: Gareth to Rachel. It's a mark of his self delusion that he can't understand why a girl like her would prefer Tim.
  • Hufflepuff House: The rest of the office: Keith, Emma, Jamie, Sheila, Ralph, Ben.
  • Humiliation Conga: In the final few episodes David loses his job, then finds out the motivational speakers won't be using his services again. He's reduced to begging Neil not to fire him. It gets even worse in the Christmas specials when he goes on a few disastrous blind dates and is reduced to degrading personal appearances in grubby night clubs. Finally he gets banned from the office and the Christmas dinner. He can't even persuade anyone to come out for a drink with him.
  • Hypocritical Humour:
    • David gives belittling nicknames to people, but when he finds out the staff have nicknamed him Mr Toad and Bluto, he gives them a lecture about nicknames being hurtful. He gets called out on it by one of the guys in the office.
    • Moments later, Brent then suggests that they start by picking on one of the other overweight people in the office, who wears glasses as well.
    • David's attitude to the mocked up porno picture of him changes when he finds out it was his "best mate" Chris Finch who did it. He once again gets called out on it.
  • In Da Club: Deconstructed in the last ten or so minutes of "New Girl".
  • Intra-Franchise Crossover: David Brent has made a couple of guest appearances on the American version.
  • Jerk Ass:
    • Chris Finch and Lee. Neil is also a bit of this, albeit more subtly.
    • Brent also qualifies despite the more sympathetic aspects of the character. This is the guy who tried to throw his staff under the bus for a promotion and then lied that he turned it down (when in fact he failed a medical) to make them think he was a hero.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: While it may have seemed mean to ban David from the office, Neil was correct that as an ex-employee, there was no good reason for David to just keep turning up for a chat and disrupting the staff at work.
  • Kavorka Man: Chris Finch is an obnoxious, arrogant and sexist bully, and not particularly attractive, yet he is successful with women.
  • Kick the Dog:
    • Finchy does this to Brent a lot. The Dog Bites Back in the final episode.
    • David reduces Dawn to tears when he pretends to fire her in the first episode.
  • Kick Them While They Are Down: Neil subtly does this to David a few times in the Christmas episodes. He keeps reminding David that he said he'd be bringing a woman to the party.
  • Known Only by Their Nickname: Gareth's friends Oggmonster, Jimmy the Perv, Fishfingers and Gobbler.
  • Limited Advancement Opportunities: Tim, Gareth, Neil and Jennifer all get a promotion over the course of the series. Brent is offered promotion too, but fails the medical.
  • Love Triangle:
    • Dawn, Lee and Tim.
    • Rachel, Tim and Gareth (in Gareth's mind at least)
  • Manchild: Brent. He has to be the centre of attention, has an immature sense of humour, and never takes responsibility for anything. He reacts to being reprimanded by Neil the way a petulant schoolboy would.
  • Men Are Uncultured: Mainly played straight, as most of the men are boorish and ignorant. Finch sneers at Ricky for being university-educated. The warehouse guys are even worse. When we first see them, they're watching a video of two dogs having sex. Averted by Ricky, who knows a lot about Dostoevsky, and Tim, who claims to like ballet, Proust and Alain Delon. Lampshaded by Tim:
    Tim: I don't know where we're going tonight. Obviously Finchy's a sophisticated guy, and Gareth's a culture vulture, so you know will it be opera, ballet? I don't know. I know the RSC's in town, so er... having said that at Chasers, it's Hooch for a pound and Wonderbras-get-in-free night tonight. So I don't know, I don't know who'll win, it's exciting. I'm staying out of it.
  • Metaphorgotten: Done by David. During an exercise on how not to deal with an irate customer, when acting as the customer he shouts "I think there's been a rape!" and says to always get attention, and when acting as the manager, has the other person say his room number, then states his hotel doesn't go up to that floor and that some complaints will be fake.
  • Mood Whiplash: Tim and Dawn are having a laugh at Brent's latest faux pas, when Lee spots them getting a little too physical for his liking. He pins Tim up against a wall, then storms off with Dawn running after him. The episode ends with Tim sitting at his desk in stunned silence.
  • The Nicknamer: David has a habit of giving often insulting nicknames to people. He calls Malcolm, a bald older employee, Kojak. But he doesn't take it well when he finds out the staff have nicknamed him Bluto and Mr Toad.
  • Not That There's Anything Wrong with That: Brent does this a lot. He tells a mildly homophobic joke in front of Neil, only to then realise that Neil might be gay (he isn't, as it turns out) and trips over himself trying to explain why that would be alright. He ends up giving him a lecture about safe gay sex.
  • No OSHA Compliance: David knowingly hires a forklift driver who hasn't passed his forklift driver's test. He also lies about the man being health and safety trained.
  • Office Romance:
    • Tim and Dawn, though they don't actually get together until the end of the final episode. Tim and Rachel. Donna and Ricky.
    • Gareth claims to have had loads in other offices, but his interactions with women throughout the series suggest this is Blatant Lies.
    • In series one David hires a pretty young secretary apparently in hopes of having one of these, but it doesn't go to plan. Accidentally headbutting her probably didn't help.
  • Oh, Crap!: Tim whenever Lee is around.
  • One Dialogue, Two Conversations: Deliberately invoked by Tim and Dawn when they wind up Gareth. He thinks they're talking about military affairs, but they're actually insinuating that he's gay.
    Tim: If you ever take an enemy soldier prisoner, would you have to search him?
    Gareth: Yeah, it's possible. Yeah.
    Tim: Right, so let's just say you've taken him prisoner, you're doing a full body search, you find something hard, you can feel it, you know what it is. Do you just say to him, 'I know you've got a big weapon, give it to me now'? Or...?
    Gareth: I'm not gonna ask him, I would just get it out myself.
    Tim: Right. And what happens - you're going into battle situation - are up the front with your men, or are you coming up the rear?
    Gareth: Well, depends.
    Dawn: It's possible you'd come up the rear?
    Gareth: It's possible, yeah.
    Tim: That's all we wanted to know.
  • The Peter Principle: David embodies this. There are some hints that he was previously a good sales rep, which presumably led to his promotion to a job for which he was wholly unsuitable.
  • Pet the Dog:
    • David standing up for Gareth when Donna insults him in "The New Girl."
    • Tim agreeing to go out for a drink with David when everyone else shuns him in the Christmas special.
  • Pixellation: In the Comic Relief episode, a group of them gang up on Ben and pull down his trousers and underwear. Being a documentary, the offending images are pixelated.
  • Pointy-Haired Boss: David
  • Postmodernism: David Brent fancies himself as the kind of easy-going 'cool' boss people watch on the telly, and he self-consciously references other people's jokes and attempts to set 'a vibe' to get both his staff and the viewers to like him. But, since real life doesn't have a screenwriter creating a tone and vision, Reality Ensues when he painfully learns that that kind of stuff won't fly in 'real' life.
  • Precision F-Strike: Possibly only done twice across the entire series, with the post-watershed airing of the series meaning they didn't need to be bleeped out. Both come from David, upon being told he's redundant, and telling longtime friend Chris Finch where to go;
    David: Oh 'fucking hell.
    David: Chris — Why don't you fuck off.
  • Professional Butt-Kisser: Gareth to David. His attitude to David changes noticeably once he becomes the boss.
  • Put on a Bus: David's secretary between series one and two.
    David: Last in, first out.
  • The Quiet One: Keith is a man of very few words.
  • Real Song Theme Tune: "Handbags and Gladrags", in a version similar to the cover by Welsh rock band Stereophonics.
  • Red Herring: While waiting outside for his final date to arrive, David spots an obese woman walking towards him and assumes it's her. To his relief, she's there to meet someone else.
  • Romantic False Lead:
    • Lee, coming between Tim and Dawn.
    • Rachel in the second series.
  • Running Gag:
    • Keith says something grossly inappropriate, before taking a huge bite from a scotch egg.
    • Gareth forgetting the "to the" in his job title:
      Gareth: Gareth Keenan, assistant manager.
      David: Assistant TO THE manager.
  • Sarcasm-Blind: Sarcasm is completely lost on Gareth.
  • Separated by a Common Language: "Because fanny means your arse over there. (Beat) Not your minge."
  • Seven Minute Lull: David gets caught in the middle of a (lame) dirty joke in the Seven Minute Lull at the end of "The Party."
  • Shared Universe: David Brent goes on to appear in two episodes of The Office (US), placing both shows in the same continuity. The same goes for the 2016 film Life on the Road.
  • Show Within a Show: The Office is also an in-universe show, a fly-on-the-wall BBC documentary about everyday life in an office.
  • Shutting Up Now:
    • Finch, who usually has an endless supply of witty ripostes, is reduced to stunned silence when Brent puts him in his place for insulting his date.
    • Brent's problem is he never knows when to do this, so he just keeps digging.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: Used intentionally (and hilariously).
  • The Starscream: Gareth to David. Made more explicit in a deleted scene in which Gareth comes in to commiserate with David for being made redundant, but it's clear he just wants to know if he has a chance of getting David's job. He quickly loses respect for David once he becomes manager and purposely embarrasses him in the Christmas special.
  • Stylistic Suck: David Brent's music, and particularly his cover of "If You Don't Know Me By Now".
  • Sucks At Dancing: David, with his cringe-makingly memorable attempt at sexy dance moves at an office party, which boil down to spasmodic and random arm movements, grunting, and gyrating.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Anne for Gareth in the Christmas special. After Gareth gets promoted, Tim gets another obnoxious, pedantic and irritating person to share his desk with. There's even a passing resemblance.
  • "Take That!" Kiss: Tim gives Gareth one, just to wind him up.
  • Tempting Fate: David dares Neil and Jennifer to sack him. A few minutes later they do exactly that.
  • Theme Tune Cameo: The "Training" episode ends with David singing and playing "Handbags and Gladrags".
  • The Thing That Would Not Leave: Three years after being fired David still regularly shows up at Wernham Hogg. Gareth politely hints that he shouldn't really keep turning up unannounced, but David is oblivious.
  • Throw the Dog a Bone: Tim passes over the chance to take David's job and suggests that Neil give it to Gareth instead. Gareth never learns of this and the tone of their relationship never changes, but this moment of kindness says a lot about Tim's character.
  • Touch of Death: In a deleted scene, Simon the IT engineer claims Bruce Lee could burst every blood vessel in a person's body merely by touching them on the chest, but says he would never try it on a person "just in case". Gareth suggests they "test it out on stray cats".
  • Trust-Building Blunder: Every time David tries one of these it backfires horribly.
  • Tyrant Takes the Helm: Averted. Gareth resolves to be a much harsher and more unforgiving boss than David, but despite his somewhat neurotic personality, proves himself to be a rather standard office boss.
  • Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist: David Brent walks a fine line, as he is so pathetic that it's increasingly difficult not to sympathize him. By the Christmas Special, he borders woobie territory.
  • Wacky Marriage Proposal: Lee's proposal to Dawn was done by way of a small piece in a newspaper.
    Dawn: I think he had to pay for it by the word because all it said was, "Lee love Dawn. Marriage?" Which...I like, because it's not every day you get something that's both romantic and thrifty.
  • Wham Line: David to Finch:
    Why don't you fuck off?
  • What Does She See in Him?: Lee and Dawn. Although they're engaged, Lee is never shown being nice to Dawn, and is instead seen being horrible to her on several occasions. Word of God concedes this, admitting that they had originally intended to make the Tim / Dawn / Lee triangle to be more of a match of equals, but since Tim by default ended up getting more screen-time he couldn't help becoming more likeable.

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