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Series / The Office (UK)

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"The people you work with are just people you were thrown together with."
Tim Canterbury

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 for the Slough branch of paper supplies company Wernham Hogg, presided over by Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist David Brent (Gervais). His Number Two, Gareth Keenan (Mackenzie Crook), is an unpleasant, pathetic loser with a military obsession. The most sympathetic character is Tim Canterbury (Martin Freeman), the witty clerk whose friendship with receptionist Dawn Tinsley (Lucy Davis) 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, far longer-running, 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.

Has a follow-up film that specifically follows Gervais' character, David Brent: Life on the Road.

Came twenty-fifth in Britains Best Sitcom.

This show provides examples of:

  • Abhorrent Admirer:
    • Sheila clearly fancies Oliver, which he regards with equal parts bewilderment and horror.
    • David to his new secretary.
  • Accidental Hero: Brent becomes a hero when he saves a number of redundancies at the Slough branch by not taking a promotion. But it was only because he was never actually offered the job as he failed the medical. He takes the credit anyway.
  • Agree to Disagree: David's attempt at this in "Motivation" is quickly shot down by Neil:
    David: Let's agree to disagree.
    Neil: No. Let's agree that you agree with me.
  • Ain't Too Proud to Beg: David begs Neil and Jennifer not to make him redundant.
  • All There in the Manual: The U.S. DVD release of the first series had a glossary explaining British slang and cultural references.
  • Always Someone Better: Neil to David. Although the latter would never admit it, Neil enjoys the social and professional success that Brent craves.
  • 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]
  • Armor-Piercing Question: Simon delivers a great one to Tim:
    Tim: Yeah, if you were gonna send an undercover spy, why wouldn't you send the most famous Asian film star in the world? (Rachel laughs)
    Simon: Gone off Dawn, have you?
  • 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. Although he is arguably an example due to being cross with David for not paying his staff.
  • A Birthday, Not a Break: Tim's birthday sees him repeatedly insulted by Chris Finch, cheated of the victory his quiz team earned, stripped of one of his shoes which is thrown over the office building, and left walking home alone shoeless after everyone else has gone.
  • 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 Brownnote  and Paul "Bubble" Fergusonnote 
  • Captain Obvious: To make up for manhandling him the previous day, Lee gives Tim a wrapped bottle-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. Although Gareth did score with a married woman in Chasers.
    • David Brent also, particularly with his new secretary in Series 1 and when he's too drunk to pull Lindsay.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Rachel does not reappear in the Christmas specials.
  • 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".
    • In "Training", 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. There's also the lame motivational speech and the disastrous dance.
  • Dating Service Disaster: David has a few in the Christmas special.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Tim is the most consistent example, David has his moments where he's actually witty when not performing for the camera. Finchy is a Deconstructed, meaner example.
  • 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.
  • Diegetic Soundtrack Usage: The "Training" episode ends with David singing and playing "Handbags and Gladrags".
  • Digging Yourself Deeper: David normally does this without anyone prompting him.
  • The Dog Bites Back: After years of being Chris Finch's Butt-Monkey, Brent finally snaps in the Christmas special when Finch insults his date:
    David: Chris, why don't you fuck off?
  • 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 Peter Purves (best known as the presenter for Blue Peter between 1967 and 1978 and the actor for Doctor Who companion Steven Taylor) 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.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: David eventually manages to find love and Tim & Dawn eventually manage to get together, both in the series finale, but only after spending years going through the soul-crushing hell of the uncompromisingly rigid white-collar office workplace (with David additionally losing his job and facing constant public humiliation in the process of trying to regain his footing).
  • Embarrassing Browser History: In "Work Experience", a pornographic image with David's face is circulated across the office. After a prolonged hunt to find the perpetrator, David acuses Tim, who then reveals that it was actually Finch, and explains it is quite easy to trace the search history of anyone using an office computer. David then asks nervously if anyone knows how to delete a browser history.
  • 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.
  • Firing Day: In the first season finale, Alex, a new warehouse recruit, is made redundant by Brent. It's established in the first episode that Brent hired him because he took a liking to him despite him being unsuitable, so this is one of the few times we see him behaving like a proper boss.
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • Freudian Trio: During the celebrity dating show, Bubble is the Id (making rude innuendo and tongue-in-cheek chauvinistic remarks), Howard Brown is the Superego (the refined, well-spoken accountant), and David Brent is the Ego (or rather, he constantly tries to be both the Id and the Superego depending on which he thinks will make him more popular).
  • Gag Penis: The one in Gareth and David's joke about the black man's cock ("bigger than the bread bin").
  • Genre Deconstruction: Of the Work Com. When the cameras are on him, David Brent attempts to be the funny, charismatic sitcom boss, and he constantly (and desperately) compares himself to great comedians, but it's incredibly obvious he's just an ordinary bloke working in a mundane office where people just want to do their jobs and collect a paycheque.
  • 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?
    • There's a callback to this in a deleted scene where Dawn and Rachel torment Gareth by pretending to be lesbians.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Hope Spot: David gets one at the end of series 2 when it seems there's a chance Neil and Jennifer will reconsider his redundancy. We learn in the Christmas special that he still lost his job.
  • 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 Jennifer and 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 making degrading personal appearances in seedy nightclubs. Finally he gets banned from the office and the Christmas dinner. He can't even persuade anyone to go out for a drink until Tim takes pity on 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 should at least start by picking on Keith, who also happens to be overweight and 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.
    • David complains that one of his blind dates is less attractive than she was in her photo. She later mentions that he also sent an unrepresentative photo of himself.
  • The Illegal: Lee and Dawn's stay in the US between series 2 and the Christmas specials is not entirely legal. Having entered the country to visit Lee's sister, they wind up staying three years on a 90-day visa, working odd jobs for money under the table since they don't have work permits. On the other hand, the sister isn't charging rent and Lee thinks that this leaves them not too badly off.
  • In Da Club: Deconstructed in the last ten or so minutes of "New Girl". Chasers is revealed to be a tacky, seedy place in which apart from the music, is no fun at all unless you are completely drunk.
  • Interrogation by Vandalism: Played for laughs. When Gareth is extremely possessive of his stapler, and has labelled it "Garet", Tim seizes it and dangles it out of the office window.
    Tim: I'm going to let this go, unless you stop acting like a fool.
    Gareth: Well, you won't, so...
    Tim: (Letting it go) Well, I have, so...
    Gareth: What if that kills someone?
    Tim: They'll think you're the murderer. It's got your name on it.
    Gareth: Why would a murderer put his name on the murder weapon?
    Tim: To stop people borrowing it?
  • Intra-Franchise Crossover: David Brent has made a couple of guest appearances on the American version.
  • It's What I Do: David says this in the first episode of the second series, soon after he has told the "black man's cock" joke, when the Swindon intake have not grasped that they're supposed to laugh at everything he says.
  • Jerkass:
    • 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.
  • Jerks Use Body Spray: When David Brent affects a contrived cool-guy persona for a motivational speaking gig, he changes shirts in front of his bemused client and hoses himself down with body spray, catching his Beleaguered Assistant in the face. He isn't hired back.
  • Karma Houdini: Chris Finch's prank - photoshopping Brent's face onto some porn - goes unpunished. Which diminishes Brent's authority in the office, as he was adamant that, when found, the culprit would be punished - only to change his mind when it's revealed that his "best mate" was responsible.
  • Kavorka Man: Chris Finch is an obnoxious, arrogant and sexist bully, and not particularly attractive, yet he is seen to be reasonably 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: Kick The Son Of A Bitch when they're down more like. 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, knowing how slim David's chances are of actually finding a date. Note the Stunned Silence from Neil and Finch when David does bring along an attractive woman.
  • Known Only by Their Nickname: Gareth's friends Oggmonster, Jimmy the Perv, Fishfingers and Gobbler. Although the Oggmonster did reveal under questioning from David that his real name is Nathan.
  • Limited Advancement Opportunities: Gareth, Neil and Jennifer all get a promotion over the course of the series. Tim is offered one but turns it down. Brent is offered one 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.
  • Manipulative Editing: David accuses the BBC of doing this to the show itself throughout 2003 Christmas specials, claiming that there was a great deal of footage featuring him being a Benevolent Boss and genuinely likable person, only to be cut in favour of the material that made him look comically incompetent. This being David Brent, it's clear that he's lying through his teeth.
  • Meaningful Name: Slough has two definitions, depending on the reading. Both of them quite aptly describe the Wernham Hogg office: First, as pronounced in the show (to rhyme with "now"), it means a bog, a morass, or a place of despair, referring to how David runs the place. Second, read with an "f" at the end, it means to cast off or shed, or something that has been shed like a snake's skin, referring to the threat of redundancy hanging over the office and David's final fate.
  • 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". However, he doesn't take it well when he finds out the staff have nicknamed him "Bluto" and "Mr. Toad".
  • Noodle Incident: Prior to the office quiz night, Gareth cringes at the memory of what happened at the last one, when David went to great lengths to disprove the answer to a question about Mr. Spock note .
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Office Romance: A few.
    • Donna and Ricky in the first series. As both characters get Put on a Bus after that, we don't know how it panned out.
    • Dawn and Lee, although they work in different departments.
    • Tim and Rachel in the second series, although it's clearly a case of Tim settling for Rachel because Dawn's engaged to Lee, and he eventually ends it.
    • The biggie, though, is Tim and Dawn, whose UST is evident throughout the show. They finally get it on in the finale after Dawn comes to her senses and dumps Lee.
    • Gareth claims to have had loads in other offices, but his interactions with women throughout the series suggest this is a case of 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.
    • Finch and Trudy, although it's more a case of casual sex (in the car park, no less) as opposed to a relationship.
  • 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."
    • David also tries to cheer Gareth up when he makes him cry in the Season 1 finale.
    • 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 seems to have some sales skills, but he's a terrible boss. He's extremely self-centered and spends most of his energy trying to get his employees to think he's cool rather than manage the office properly. Gervais responded to criticisms that Brent would never reach a management position with a retort that a brief look around any kind of corporate-style organization (including The BBC) would reveal that major positions were being filled by people who were even worse than Brent.
  • 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, the predictable happens when he painfully learns that that kind of stuff won't fly in 'real' life.
  • Prank Gone Too Far: In the pilot episode, David makes a prank out of pretending to fire Dawn the secretary and gets defensive when she bursts into tears. The scene cements him as a thoughtless Pointy-Haired Boss with a hugely inflated opinion of his own sense of humour.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The Resenter: David clearly resents Neil's easy charm and popularity, not to mention his promotion over David (especially stinging as it was actually David who was first choice for said promotion ... only he failed the medical) and of course, Neil's eventual firing of him. He's outright asked if he resents Neil in the Christmas special, and denies it. By the end of the series, Neil seems to resent David as well the understated, not-entirely-unjustified contempt for a man whose antics he's clearly had enough of.
  • 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.
    • Dawn and Tim tricking Gareth into saying double entendres that make him sound like hes discussing gay sex.
  • 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."
  • Small Name, Big Ego: David is absolutely convinced that he's the life of the office and is a world-class musician, philosopher, and stand-up comedian. Everyone else he comes into contact with thinks differently. He does however seem to be at least partially aware that he isn't as great as he thinks he is, given how he reacts to people pointing it out, or otherwise not treating him as he feels he deserves. For example, when he tried giving Tim career advice which was rejected out of hand, he grew quite agitated, angry, and dismissive. Many of David's own illusions about himself are, of course, stripped away by the end of Series Two.
  • 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 David Brent: Life on the Road.
  • Show Within a Show: Aiding the realism of the show's mockumentary format, characters in the 2003 Christmas specials (which take place long after the initial two seasons were shot and aired) are aware that The Office exists in-universe and comment on events from previous episodes based on what was broadcast on the BBC (i.e. the episodes as we, the real-world viewers, saw them), with David taking particular ire at how awfully he comes across in the aired footage.
  • 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.
  • Soul-Crushing Desk Job: Most of the office, but Tim in particular.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: Used intentionally (and hilariously).
  • Standard Office Setting: The series is set in a small regional branch office of a large corporation, which shows off the range of this setting: there's a receptionist desk at the front, open space with a bunch of desks in the middle, and private office with a door for the office manager.
  • 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.
  • Stock Lateral Thinking Puzzle:
    • "Training" features the Fox-Chicken-Grain Puzzle as a team-building exercise. Most of the employees arrive at the correct solution note , but Gareth first frustrates Tim by suggesting solutions in no way within the parameters of the puzzle note , and then interrupts the explanation of the solution to read a laundry list of the problems he has with the premise.
    • Near the end of the Christmas Episode, David, Tim, and Gareth are having their first friendly conversation of the entire series; their dialogue suggests David has just posed the Doctor's Son puzzle to Tim and Gareth, who are both stumped.
  • 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 in the Comic Relief episode, which boil down to spasmodic and random arm movements, grunting, and gyrating.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: Might as well be called Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: The TV Show. David Brent constantly mugs for the camera and spouts one liners like he's a witty, plays-by-his-own-rules sitcom boss, but everybody just reacts to him with confusion, embarrassment, and occasionally disgust. In one of his very first scenes, he jokes to Dawn that every man in the office wishes they could wake up "at the crack of Dawn" and then doubles over laughing at his own tasteless joke while Dawn is just irritated and insulted.
  • 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.
  • The Thing That Would Not Leave: Three years after being fired (and after suing the company for unfair dismissal), David still regularly shows up at Wernham Hogg. Gareth politely hints that he shouldn't really keep turning up unannounced, but David is oblivious.
  • This Is My Side: In the first episode of the first series, Gareth slides a ruler between his desk and Tim's, to move things overlapping from Tim's desk. He says "One word, two syllables: demarcation". Later, in the same episode, Tim makes a pile of box files between their desks, so that he does not have to look at Gareth.
  • 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.
    • Lee reveals to Gareth that Dawn and Tim are making fun of him by reviving their game of tricking him into saying double entendres that make him sound like he's talking about gay sex. Gareth turns the tables by calmly calling them pathetic and walking off, leaving them looking very sheepish.
  • 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.
  • Unbuilt Trope: The series is a savage deconstruction of the Work Com, and its "zany" boss and "quirky" co-workers. Nowadays, the most popular example of that genre would be its own American version. So, effectively, this show is a deconstruction of its own remake and the American WorkComs that followed in its wake, a fly-on-the-wall documentary showing how irritating and obnoxious working for Michael Scott and his ilk would be in real life.
  • Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist: David Brent walks a fine line, as he is so pathetic that it becomes increasingly difficult not to sympathise him. By the Christmas Special, he's almost in woobie territory.
  • Unusual Euphemism:
    Chris Finch: So there I am, back of the cab, both of them got their laughing gear round the old single-barrel pump-action yogurt rifle.
  • 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, in the Christmas episode. It's very well-deserved.
    Chris, 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.