The Office: The Complete Second Season
January 19, 2003
Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant, ,
Starring: Ricky Gervais, Martin Freeman, Mackenzie Crook, Lucy Davis, Patrick Baladi, Joel Beckett, Ben Bradshaw, Yvonne D'Alpra, Jamie Deeks, Patrick Driver, Julie Fernandez, Stirling Gallacher, Ralph Ineson, Rachel Isaac, Jane Lucas, Ewan Macintosh, Tony MacMurray, Emma Manton, Alexander Perkins, Philip Pickard, Stacey Roca, Howard Saddler, ,
Much to everyone’s surprise, the British comedy, The Office has taken the world by storm. Who could have guessed that a mockumentary on the day-to-day inner workings of a paper supply office would be a massive hit in its home country and a critical darling here in North America? It has also won two Golden Globes (for Best Comedy and Best Actor in a Comedy), upsetting many established American shows (like Friends and Sex and the City). BBCAmerica viewers were already hip to what all the fuss was about and now the rest of the country can too with the release of second season on DVD.
The second series begins with the merging of rival branches, Swindon and Slough. Office manager David Brent (Gervais) has a new group of employees to deal with, including a new boss (Baladi). They aren’t nearly as tolerant of his antics or his lackadaisical attitude as are his long-suffering crew. Tim (Freeman) has a new girlfriend but still secretly pines for Dawn (Davis) and continues to torment the dweeby Gareth (Crook).
Ricky Gervais brings the perfect air of pathetic desperation to the role of David Brent. His character wants so badly to please everyone, to be the life of the party and make everyone laugh. More often than not, people are laughing at him as opposed to laughing with him. To be honest, he brings it on himself. David is often crude and tactless. He is really the architect of his own disastrous fate. Gervais’ brilliant creation is every awful boss you’ve ever had rolled into one person. However, David isn’t a one-note punchline. The last episode of the season brings out another side of David that we haven’t seen before-one of vulnerability.
The first season maintained a balance of very funny, laugh-out-loud moments with uncomfortable ones. The second season purposely upsets this balance by emphasizing situations that are truly cringe-worthy because they have a real ring of honesty to them. For example, there is a scene where David introduces himself to his new staff and he tries to tell a few jokes to break the ice. He bombs badly and doesn’t stop, even when it is painfully obvious that no one finds him the least bit funny. Where most shows would cut away to the next scene, The Office keeps its camera trained on David. There is the occasional cut to a reaction shot-a shocked or upset look on someone’s face-but for the most part, the show stretches the scene out to an almost unbearable length.
This is not to say that The Office doesn’t have its truly funny moments. In one episode, a talent show for charity is organized. After one couple does a fantastic homage to Saturday Night Fever (1977), a jealous David cuts some dance moves of his own in a truly surreal moment that is hilarious.
Many moments of levity in the show are also provided by Tim, clearly the audience surrogate because he is the most normal and therefore easily identifiable character. He often looks at the camera after something absurd happens, as if to say, “What the hell was that?” He also pulls all sorts of deserving pranks on Gareth, a pathetic toady who has gotten a lot meaner in this season (during a fire drill, he and David leave a girl in a wheelchair stranded in a staircase while everyone else makes it outside to safety).
Ricky Gervais introduces the first two extras on the DVD. The first one is a 13-minute collection of deleted scenes. Alas, there is no real context for where this footage fits in with the rest of the season but they work as stand-alone skits. One highlight features an interview with Tim where he reveals that Gareth’s favourite band is Mike and the Mechanics and how this drives him crazy.
There are also seven minutes of outtakes, which amounts to a pretty standard blooper reel as actors blow lines as they try to keep a straight face.
The highlight of the extra material is a video diary that looks at the making of this season. The mindless boredom of Gervais and Stephen Merchant trying to brainstorm ideas and dialogue gradually degrades into childish antics to an effort to procrastinate and avoid the inevitable-doing some work. In many respects, it is an anti-featurette in that it really isn’t your usual puff promo piece but isn’t really a straight-forward, this-is-how-we-did-it documentary either.
Anyone who has worked in a 9-to-5 office job will instantly identify with and relate to the drudgery and boredom that The Office captures so perfectly. The documentary format not only savages the current fascination with reality programs, but also pushes the boundaries of what is funny. Along with Mike Judge’s cult film, Office Space (1999), The Office is one of the best satires of the office politics and culture that millions of people experience daily.