The Office is a sitcom first broadcast in 2001 on BBC2.
It starred Ricky Gervais, who also co-wrote and co-directed the series with Stephen Merchant.
What’s the format?
The show is filmed as “a fly-on-the-wall documentary about modern office life”, but without any sort of narrator as you might expect. There is a noticeable difference in the way the characters behave when they are being caught on film as opposed to playing to the camera as they do most of the time. There are also often talking head moments where the four main characters are interviewed by the program makers, but we never hear the questions being asked, and we have no idea as to the identity of anyone behind the camera.
(That is until the script book came out and we learnt that Samantha Norton, a fictional BBC producer was most likely asking the questions and telling the crew what to film.) At no point does the production crew interfere with the events unfolding in each episode.
Is it any good?
The humour in the series comes from both the observations of mundane office life, and also arguably the greatest comic creation since Alan Partridge (or Basil Fawlty, take your pick), in the form of the office boss, David Brent.
It’s set in Slough. And of course it’s good. Well, I would say that, would you expect an impartial view from someone who runs a fan site about something?
I must confess to having literally lost count of the number of awards The Office has won. To be fair, a lot of the awards aren’t really very important, and so it doesn’t matter, but to give you an idea, it’s normal to expect the show to win any category it’s been nominated in.
2000 British Comedy Award for Best New TV Comedy
2001 South Bank Comedy of the Year award
Mackenzie Crook, who plays Gareth in the series, was also nominated for a best newcomer award at the 2000 British Comedy Awards. He lost out to the popular Johnny Vegas for his role in Happiness, although easily had Lee Mack from the Sketch Show beaten.
At present, the show stands at two series, and this may be all we get to see of it. But there have been rumours of an Office Christmas Party special, although one for this year seems unlikely.
Does the show have a message?
I’ll leave this answer to the Gervais man himself, in a quote from this interview, for those of you who like sources.
“That’s what’s dangerous,” he says. “It’s OK for a couple of years to have a lovely, cozy job, but you don’t want to wake up at 60 and go, aw, fuck, I was gonna write a book. Shit, I forgot. I was drinkin’ in a bar with all my mates, but they wrote books. Fuck.’” He laughs. “That’s the terrible thing.”
The (very much incomplete) history of The Office
I won’t lie to you, this doesn’t make great reading, but it will be a joyous find for Ricky Gervais’ unauthorised biographers in twenty years time or something.
I might add some pictures at some point, perhaps one of those graphs like on that BBC2 show, you know the one.
Anyhows, as the story briefly goes, Gervais was working at XFM with Steve Merchant as his assistant. Steve was training as a BBC producer, and part of this was to make a film about something, and he decided to do a comedy with his mate Gervais starring as a boss character that Gervais would often improvise They made a half hour pilot which was good enough for the BBC to give them a series, which they were allowed to write and direct. I’ll put some more details in this bit sometime. Maybe.
September-Trailers first shown
Three or maybe four trailers were shown for the new series. Here for the sake of completeness.
30th August-First Episode shown
What is now a landmark in British comedy went by relatively unnoticed at the time. Comedy shows had made use of the fly-on-the-wall documentary style, but none had played the comedy quite so subtly as to be mistaken for a genuine documentary, which some people did in the early days of The Office.
Also very few people had heard of anyone in the show; Ricky Gervais was known only to those who watched the 11 O’Clock show or his radio show, or his chat show-but trust me, back then, this wasn’t very many people. Martin Freeman was recognisable if you were the kind of person who watched comedy shows late at night on BBC2, Mackenzie Crook had been in the 11 O’Clock show, but was so bad in it that I thought The Office might not be worth watching. Everyone else would really only be known by their friends and family, and a lot of people, albeit stupid people, would think the show was a real documentary.
6th September-Second Episode shown
And so on and so forth for a few weeks.
By the end of the first series not much was known about The Office, it was just another comedy show on BBC2 that at had least tried to do something a bit different in terms of style, and it’s observations about the general awfulness of office life. Things really started changing in early 2002, when….
Sometime January-This site launches
Sadly this site didn’t have any effect on the shows fortunes, what with it just being the stapler section and an episode guide probably. But I did start this off before the popularity of The Office dramatically increased…
Sometime early 2002 The BAFTAS, The Stereophonics single and the first series is repeated
I should really know these fairly recent dates, but I’m not sure, and vague beats inaccurate in my book. The two BAFTA awards the show won were for best new comedy series and best comedy actor. The Office also picked up a best new comedy award from that comedy awards thingy that ITV show.
The Stereophonics’ single of Handbags and Gladrags at about the same time as the first series is repeated. The song got to number one, and quite often the DJ playing it would mention The Office, and say how they quite liked it. This was a turning point. Rumour has it that the Stereophonics offered their version of the song to be used on the show, but I guessed the producers preferred the Big George version or something.
Early September-The DVD release
Can neither remember nor care too much about the exact date for this, but it was only a few days before the second series starts. The DVD broke certain BBC records, I think for selling very quickly or something. The signing and launch at HMV was certainly very popular, as were signed copies of the DVD on eBay soon afterwards.ricky gervais red paperclip
30th September-Second Series starts
This was big.
Most every magazine had something about The Office somewhere, even WebUser gave this site a mention! This episode of The Office got the highest ratings of both series, and was the most watched show on TV (between 10-10.30) that night.
The Office didn’t get higher viewing figures until the Specials were shown on BBC1.
4th November-There will be more
Gervais finally confirms we will see more of David Brent!
Sometime a bit later-Sold to 60 countries!
Forgive me if the dates are getting ridiculously vague, but I doubt that this happened all at once, so…
It’s been reported The Office has been sold to over 60 countries, with America being the only country to remake the series, while all the others are just going to subtitle or dub it.
14th December-British Comedy Awards
The Office wins again! It’s got to the point where you just expect The Office to win everything it’s nominated for.
Gervais confirms that he wants the special to go out at Christmas time, and also that it will be set at Christmas. The running time is looking to be 60-90 minutes, but we don’t know if this will be one show, or split into half hour episodes.
Series 2 is shown in the US. Not great news, but I’m trying to get into the habit of remembering to update this page a bit more often.
December 26th and 27th
The two specials are shown on consecutive nights on BBC1, with ratings of 6.5m and 5.5m respectively. (Subsequentlly, the shows are to be edited together, and called the special.)
January 25th – Gervais picks up two Golden Globes
It was on this day that Ricky Gervais truly became unstoppable, as he followed up the shock of having the first non-US show to be nominated in the Best Television – Musical or Comedy, and be the first non-US person to be nominated for Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy, by going on to win both awards. Sex and the City and Will and Grace were brushed aside, as were Matt LeBlanc’s efforts in the final series of Friends.
Transcending mere mortals now, we can but be thankful for this new demi-god who walks among us, this pinnacle of evolution, this unofficially ultimate endeavour of mankind. Thousands of years from the time of Adam it has taken our humble species to reach this point, and now we can but wait for the waves of love to flow through our hearts, for this my friends, is the end of our collective journey.
That said, I never thought much of the other contenders. Anyone bored enough on a Sunday afternoon to have stuck on BBC2 and have seen Monk will know it’s not really up there with the award winners yet, and Bernie Mac for the Bernie Mac Show? Please.
As for Friends, it is rubbish. Rubbish.
Foregone conclusion really.
March 16th – Royal Television Society Programme Awards 2003 (link)
It was on this day that Ricky Gervais truly became unstopable. Well, not this time, as shock, horror, The Office only takes one award from the evening!
The Office won the Situation Comedy and Comedy Drama award, beating Marion & Geoff and Peep Show.
Gervais didn’t win Comedy Performance, losing out to the double act of David Walliams and Matt Lucas from Little Britain.