Algonquin Kids' Table: The Office
Page Five

Gus Sheridan - 12:27pm Aug 4, 2003 PST

Okay, so, "The Quiz".

I may have been worn down by the constant badgering, hectoring and questioning of my sanity/basic humanity that I've endured around here, but I liked it. Much better than I did the ep I saw (but can't remember at this point) months ago when The Office began its run on BBC America.

One thing I didn't notice previously is how David keeps glancing into the camera. Mostly when he does something clever, but sometimes it's just a nervous tic, as if he cannot possibly forget that the thing's there. Everyone else seems to more or less ignore it, but David seems obsessed. He keeps looking at it as if expecting a response. And giving it that odious little smile. The one that says, "I'm clever, aren't I? Iam, right? Love me? Please?" Is it ever hinted at that David wants to use the documentary as a stepping-stone to something else?

And David's completely Finch's bitch. I can't remember exactly who that actor and/or the character of Finch reminds me of, and it's making me nuts. Such utter gracelessness and juvenile competitiveness. Capped by Tim's obvious self-loathing at having gone along with the shoe-throwing. Who was Tim's quiz partner, by the way? I couldn't find him on the BBC's Office web page.

There's no Office on tonight. "The Quiz" is apparently the ep designated to appear this week repeatedly, though.


Matthew Best - 12:33pm Aug 4, 2003 PST

[In response to Hayden's post]

Gervais is asked about this frequently, and he always insists that bosses like Brent are much more common than you would expect - and he points to the BBC as a particular example.

There's a case for saying that the standards for decorum in any particular office are set by the boss to a large extent. The idea of employees bringing legal action against bosses does go against the English grain, I think. We like to think of ourselves as not being as sue-happy as you lot, anyway.

Having said that I would guess that in the real world Brent would not last long, but people like him , but slightly more circumspect, might easily succeed.


Gus Sheridan - 12:34pm Aug 4, 2003 PST

Well, great. Tom just posted about "The Quiz", as well, and sounded about ten times smarter on the subject.


Hayden Childs - 01:31pm Aug 4, 2003 PST

There's a case for saying that the standards for decorum in any particular office are set by the boss to a large extent. The idea of employees bringing legal action against bosses does go against the English grain, I think. We like to think of ourselves as not being as sue-happy as you lot, anyway.

Having said that I would guess that in the real world Brent would not last long, but people like him , but slightly more circumspect, might easily succeed.

Oh, no doubt. I've certainly worked for people as psychologically appalling as David Brent, but not in large corporations. At least one former boss of mine used to lay into me regularly, but this was a small business he owned. It took me months to quit that damn job, and I never thought once of suing him, although I used to wish that I at least had the presence of mind to tape one of his hissy fits. At one large corporation, a former division head used to hold conferences in the men's room. My immediate boss, his subordinate, was a women, and she would take her frustration at being excluded out on her staff.

Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that Brent's moments of sexual harrassment (as Tom posted so eloquently a few posts back) are over-the-top just enough to get that guy fired, whereas I agree that a slightly more restrained person could maintain and even excel at his or her job. Those moments are surreally exaggerated just enough to make me laugh until tears come to my eyes, but in retrospect, they are also the least realistic parts of the show.

Who was Tim's quiz partner, by the way? I couldn't find him on the BBC's Office web page.

That was Ricky, the intern. Another moment of David Brent's pychological discomfort with women involves the intern's romance with Donna, Brent's charge. Brent is so appalled that he can hardly speak to the intern any more.


Leonard Pierce - 04:11pm Aug 4, 2003 PST

Who inspired yet another uncomfortable (but funny) class-war moment, when Finchy and David lay into Ricky and Tim for being overeducated, layabout college boys. Finch lays an accusation of being a work-slacking goldbrick on Ricky, who retorts that he worked his way through college. Finch responds, basically, by saying "Oh, yeah? What was your job, watching telly?" It's a lame joke, but Finch comes across as the winner through sheer force of personality.

It's interesting to note that the one character who, for lack of a better phrase, comes out ahead -- the one guy who puts it over on everyone, who seems comfortable in his job (and his skin), the guy who gets laid, the guy who speaks freely -- is the monstrous Finch.


Phil Nugent - 04:13pm Aug 4, 2003 PST

Hey, the guy's got a good pitching arm.


Davey Schmitt - 07:29pm Aug 4, 2003 PST

Nice post, Tom, on how the throwaway peripheral moments in the show tend to define the characters more than the situational machinations they're run through, or even their more explicit verbal admissions to the camera. Take Gareth, who's easily the most cartoonish of the show's characters (albeit a riotously funny cartoon); there's not a more perfect moment that utterly defines him (outside of the skittish gropings at the inflatable penis you mentioned) than when he's adlibbing along with one of David's ridiculous songs at the training seminar and instinctively inserts the backup-singer lyric "she's dead" as a response to David's "she's gone". All of Gareth's other big moments (his beautifully graphic mime of a sniper bullet's trajectory, his breakdown over his two-hole punch, the sheepishly incriminated glance he gives the camera from the sidecar of the pub swinger's motorbike, his inquiries about elves, and his dancefloor self-defence demonstration) get their laughs easily and with a good deal of grace, but that little "she's dead" is the moment where he stops being the show's Squiggy equivalent and spontaneously becomes primally, pathetically human.


Gus Sheridan - 07:50pm Aug 4, 2003 PST

Gareth reminds me of Barney Fife.


Chris Roberson - 10:00pm Aug 4, 2003 PST

his dancefloor self-defence demonstration

I'd be more inclined to call it a demo of hand-to-hand combat techniques. Striking upward from the tip of someone's nose isn't taught in self-defense classes, as it can quite easily kill that person. In combat, of course, that may be what you're trying to do.


Davey Schmitt - 10:06pm Aug 4, 2003 PST

Gareth was dancing. With a woman. Surely it was self defence.


Phil Nugent - 11:35pm Aug 4, 2003 PST

He was thinking of David the whole time.

And I, for one, have just had the unusual sensation of feeling offended on behalf of Barney Fife.


Gus Sheridan - 11:37pm Aug 4, 2003 PST

Gareth's nowhere near as endearing or recognizably human as Fife, but he has some similar traits, what with his self-defense and weapons stuff.

EDIT: Or more succinctly, you could empathize with Barney. You didn't view him as pathetic or loathsome, if for no other reason than that his heart was in the right place. While ineffectual, he wasn't malicious.


Matthew Best - 06:47am Aug 5, 2003 PST

I also liked the way when Brent phones the Speaking Clock instead of Finch (who he's supposed to be sacking), and this is revealed by Jennifer who puts it on the speaker phone, in amongst all the embarrassed shuffling about, Gareth quietly checks his watch.


That's it for the first exciting round of the Algonquin Kids' Table! We don't have a topic for next month yet, but we're sure that it will be at least this thrilling, if not more so.

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.”