Algonquin Kids' Table: The Office
Page Five

Leonard Pierce - 03:17pm Aug 3, 2003 PST

Actually, one of the few things I find unbelievable about the series is the fact that he was ever up for promotion. He flaunts his gross insubordination and general idiocy before his superiors, flagrantly lies to the person who he'd be replacing in the hierarchy, and is caught and called on it.

Well, just playing the scriptwriter's advocate, it's mentioned a time or two that he raised profits in his branch by a significant factor, and this is all the board would likely have looked at, especially since they never had to work with him and possibly hadn't even met him. Assuming Jennifer Taylor Clark was one of the two dissenting votes ("You don't need luck when you've got 71% of the population behind you"), we can assume that 5 of the remaining 6 didn't know enough or care enough about what a clown he was, as long as he could keep increasing the profit margins.

But, who knows? Maybe Neil at Swindon is even more of a moron. Or, as horrifying as it sounds, maybe the Wernham Hogg board is comprised of 5 David Brents.

Gary Mairs - 03:20pm Aug 3, 2003 PST

Or, as horrifying as it sounds, maybe the Wernham Hogg board is comprised of 5 David Brents.

Which strikes me as the ideal scenario for the third season, once they've finished off Slough.

Leonard Pierce - 03:33pm Aug 3, 2003 PST

Also (God, do I ever shut up?), Phil -- your mentioning The Larry Sanders Show got me to thinking. You're correct that Larry is much more identifiable than David; the closer analog, it occurs to me, is "Hey Now" Hank Kingsley. Clueless, arrogant, oblivious to the limitations of his talent, a perfect balance of toady and bully, forever condemned to second-banana status: Brent and Kingsley have a lot in common.

Phil Nugent - 03:40pm Aug 3, 2003 PST

Starting with the fact that I'd jump off a roof if I ever caught myself identifying with either one of them.

Matthew Best - 06:43pm Aug 3, 2003 PST

Which strikes me as the ideal scenario for the third season, once they've finished off Slough.

Alas, there will be no third season. Gervais is on record as saying that he will only do one more episode, a Christmas special, at the end of this year. After that, no more.

Has the second series not been shown in the US yet? If not, I will shut up about it.

Gary Mairs - 08:05pm Aug 3, 2003 PST

It hasn't, and we'd - or at least I'd - be much obliged if you did...thanks.

Gus Sheridan - 08:08pm Aug 3, 2003 PST

Nope. We're still being pummelled ceaselessly by the first six.

X-post with Gary.

Phil Nugent - 08:25pm Aug 3, 2003 PST

If Matthew has seen the second season, maybe the rest of us could continue to make rash guesses about what's in those episodes, and Matthew could later grade us according to who's furthest off the mark. I know I'd love a chance to impress the room with a demonstration of the kind of deductive instincts that once led me to bet money that Deputy Andy had murdered Laura Palmer.

Gary Mairs - 09:10pm Aug 3, 2003 PST

Didn't he?

Hayden Childs - 08:39am Aug 4, 2003 PST

Matthew, I'm curious if the standards for office decorum are different in Great Britain than here in the States. For instance, at my job, I'm 99% sure that anyone caught lying to their bosses, making horribly sexist comments in the presence of co-workers in or out of the office, or wasting money like Brent (such as with the training session) would find themselves right-sized by the end of the day. I suspect (although I have no statistics on this and am way too lazy to check) that the legal system in Britain isn't as permissive in allowing employees to bring lawsuits against their employers for inappropriate conduct.

This is not to say that I have a problem with civil actions; in fact, I think that the ability of employees to seek legal sanction of their complaints is a point of great progress in this country. I'm just trying to make the point that this aspect (Brent not only avoiding firing, but actually being up for promotion) in the arc of the first season of The Office throws my American sensibilities for a loop. The show handles these issues in an insanely funny way, but the same plot points would not work in an American version of the show.

Tom Block - 12:18pm Aug 4, 2003 PST

I think yíall have been smoking that wacky backy again.

Up above Davey wrote:

There is one moment where Brent explodes, although in typically repressed fashion, and itís probably the most shocking moment of the first season in that its the one time where his desperate need to be liked gets buried under outright hostility ("Yeah, and from behind because your breath stinks like onions, I didn't tell you that did I?"). Its a window into the seething core of David Brent and its more than a little horrifying (witness Timothy's even more agog than usual reaction).

There's an equally revealing moment, one which cuts right to the core of what makes the guy tick. It comes when David is dressing down the entire office about the doctored porno picture of him thatís floating around, & he says ìWomen...are...dirty.î It'd be nothing more than a good example of how Davidís attempts to sound liberated usually lead him into saying something damning, but Gervaisí reading of that line has a truly nasty bite to itóas an expression of exposed consciousness it's not that big a leap to ìSomeday a real rain will come and wash all this scum off the streets.î Much of The Officeís humor is in the vein of Catch-22 & Lucky Jim, stories in which mediocrities are inexplicably endowed w/a wildly disproportionate amount of authority, but unlike Colonel Cathcart and Professor Welch, David Brentís mediocrity has a really ugly sexual element driving it. In the six episodes we not only see that he never gets laid, we see exactly why that is & the effect itís had on his character. Jennifer sees it, too, & she pushes the button directly when she says he doesn't ìhave the gutsî & isn't ìman enoughî to downsize the office. Her larger messageóthat he damn well better start making changesóflies right over his head, of course. For once he openly gives her the sneer that reflects his real feeling about having a woman for a boss before proving his manhoodóostensibly to her but really to himselfóby jumping all over the hapless Tim. (And of course the beautiful irony here is that his confronting Tim is only a reaction to the slur on his masculinityóthe porno pictureóthatís really nettling him at the moment.) Donna nails it when she says that David thinks sex is ugly, & that revulsion is a key even in his friendship w/Finchy. One of the series' least comforting insights is that even the Chris Finches of his world are appealing to some women, & the fact that Finchy can get laid while David canít keeps David in a subordinate position to him just as much as Finchyís ability to think on his feet. (One of Gervaisí bravest moments as an actor comes when David is interviewing the secretary applicant. The way he leans back in his chair, w/his legs spread apart & his pants bunched up around his crotch so that his genitals look like a bunch of swollen grapes...Well, all I can say is that thereís some truly hideous shit.)

That interview scene, with Davidís tortured preparations for it leading up to the shot of him splayed across his desk in a pin-up pose, brings up another point about the whole series, the demands of timing that the camera direction places on the cast & crew. So much of the humor depends on those glancing views of the charactersí responses where even a touch more emphasis would ruin the joke. Itís been a while since Iíve seen This Is Spinal Tap, but I donít remember even its camerawork having the discipline or fleetingness as that moment when Tim crosses the conference room to position his face in front of the lens just long enough to inform us that David went home to fetch his guitar, or the zoom-in past Tim and Donnaís horseplay to Dawnís inscrutable expression. (Is she feeling threatened by Donna? Bored and wishing she could join in the fun? Just zoned out from work and staring at the only movement going on in the office at the moment?)

As funny and knowing as The Office is, what really turns me on is the way it uses hundreds of details to create a fully conceived, lived-in universeóit has the same organic psychological constancy that grounds Altmanís movies and The Sopranos. Nothing Gareth actually says bespeaks his craven lot in life as purely as his attempt to just touch the inflatable penis while David plays w/it just out of his reach. That seemingly off-the-cuff way of picking out character responses is the thing that makes the series zip along; even considering the number of ads BBC America crams in between segments, Iíve never seen a show that just fucking moves the way this one does. One of its surest touches comes in the quiz episode just when things are starting to turn really sour. It makes perfect sense that David, Finchy, and Gareth would want it to be Timís shoe that Finch launches over the building, but I didnít notice the kicker until the second time I watched it. Scantly visible amidst all the hubbub, itís LeeóDawnís resentful, lower-class fiancÈe who pathologically picks on the white-collar Tim throughout the seriesówho makes it all possible by pinning Timís arms while the others grab his shoe. Itís at moments like that when I canít decide whether The Office is a work of genius or the purest common sense.

“I, for one, have just had the unusual sensation of feeling offended on behalf of Barney Fife.”
------------------------->Page Six

Page One
“Why has this show struck such a chord among comedy acolytes?”
Page Two
“What's hard is to write a funny episode of a sitcom where the cast and characters are strong enough to make everyone realize how goddamn funny it is.”
Page Three
“As goeth the character, so goeth the show as well.”
Page Four
“You can't help but feel a morbid curiosity about what's underneath the joyless smiles and the permanent layer of flop sweat.”
Page Five
“Alas, there will be no third season.”
Page Six
“I, for one, have just had the unusual sensation of feeling offended on behalf of Barney Fife.”