Office, The (UK)-Series One (2001)

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Released 1-Dec-2011

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Main Menu Introduction
Menu Animation & Audio
Featurette-Comedy Connections: The Office
Featurette-Documentary
Deleted Scenes
Interviews-Cast & Crew-Introductions by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant
Interviews-Cast & Crew-Short Interviews
Easter Egg
Easter Egg-Disc 2 - Extended version of the training video
Interviews-Cast & Crew-Web based videos
Featurette-The Full Pilot
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2001
Running Time 354:33 (Case: 717)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Ricky Gervais
Stephen Merchant
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Ricky Gervais
Martin Freeman
Mackenzie Crook
Lucy Davis
Ralph Ineson
Oliver Chris
Stirling Gallacher
Sally Bretton
Joel Beckett
Vincent Franklin
Robin Hooper
Case Amaray-Transparent-S/C-Dual
RPI $49.95 Music Mike d'Abo


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

“I suppose I've created an atmosphere here where I'm a friend first, boss second. Probably an entertainer third."

     Around twenty five years after the classic BBC comedy Fawlty Towers was produced, the team of Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant created, wrote and directed the first six episodes of The Office. Gervais also stars in the series as David Brent, manager of the Slough branch of paper company Wernham Hogg. The industrial town of Slough is presented in the opening credits as a grey boring town, and Wernham Hogg is a grey boring office in a grey boring town. In David Brent we have a creation that rivals the legendary Basil Fawlty. Brent is egotistical, incompetent, ruthless, and uncaring. He is also frustrated, clumsy, unconsciously racist and sexist. Above all however he is desperately sad and lonely. Acting as Brent's self-appointed second in charge is Gareth Keenan (Mackenzie Crook), a cadaverous stick insect of a man, who has delusions of hardness as an aspiring SAS operative - although only serving in the volunteer based Territorial Army. It is pointed that when Gareth refers to himself as the assistant regional manager Brent quickly corrects him as being the assistant to the regional manager. He is a real sycophant with tongue firmly down the back of Brent's trousers. Gareth's main protagonist in the office is Tim Canterbury (Martin Freeman) who is the unimaginably bored sales representative who dreams of a better future and who is secretly in love with the office receptionist Dawn Tinsley (Lucy Davis). Dawn also dreams of a better future but is stuck in an unsatisfying relationship with fiancé Lee (Joel Beckett) who works in the warehouse.

     Unlike most sitcoms the situations presented in The Office are not played purely for laughs. This is rather a study of interpersonal relations and how circumstances can forge your life experiences. Although Brent presents as an obnoxious twit much of the time, he is not an unsympathetic character. His nervous habits such as constant tie adjustments and glances to camera indicate an insecurity that he tries to cover with bluster. Brent wants to be popular but tries too hard - he craves positive feedback and fame. As Gervais writes in the box-set booklet, "Brent doesn't represent evil, or nastiness or even ignorance. He's just a little out of place. Out of time. His worst crime is that he confused respect with popularity." When David looks down at the camera lens after yet another faux-pas we share his pain and embarrassment - and perhaps we also feel a little bit better about ourselves knowing that we are not so bad after all.

     Gareth's ambitions don't extend further than eventually replacing Brent as office manager, meanwhile imagining that his work with the Territorial Army gives him military credibility. Gareth has an unhealthy obsession with things military and things sexual - with a decidedly bent approach to both topics. Above all Gareth is immature and foolish - not recognising when the p*** is being taken and not comprehending how ridiculous his actions are much of the time. Tim is a thirty-ish everyman who is desperately bored and unsatisfied with life. He still lives at home with his mother and has dreams of breaking out of the daily rut but never actually does anything about it. His silences and stares to camera following a Brent or Keenan comment say more than a thousand words. Tim flirts with Dawn who is similarly frustrated but again feels tied down to a dead end job and a dead end relationship. Along with these four main characters we have an assortment of minor characters that each play their parts with stunning accuracy. Most of us can recognise a familiarity with the people of The Office - but most of us will hope that we are not part of that reality.

Downsize (36:05)

     A BBC camera crew is conducting a fly-on-the-wall documentary of the Slough branch of paper company Wernham Hogg. David Brent introduces himself as the perfect boss - a real people manager, an entertainer, who is an inspiration and friend to his staff as well as a true professional. Sales representative Tim has the misfortune of being seated next to Gareth who is the self-appointed team leader and also a "trained operative" with the Territorial Army. Gareth's self-awareness is obviously a long way short of reality. Tim and Gareth bait each other constantly which somewhat relieves Tim's all-encompassing boredom. Tim's only other interest in the office is the branch receptionist Dawn who is engaged to Lee from the warehouse. There is an unsaid and unfulfilled affection between Tim and Dawn which further adds to the frustrations of their working life. Brent's manager Jennifer Taylor-Clark (Stirling Gallacher) meets with David and informs him of the bad news that there will be redundancies following a planned merger between Swindon and Slough branch offices. The branch which will take the brunt of retrenchments is yet to be decided and depends on efficiencies to be made in each area. Brent tries to reassure the staff but things do not look good for Slough branch. New temporary team member Ricky (Oliver Chris) is introduced around the office by Brent who tries to impress with his off-colour jokes and banter. An especially cruel practical joke on Dawn ends in the worst possible way with one of the most excruciatingly awkward moments ever portrayed on TV. Dawn sums it all up by calling Brent a "sad little man".

Work Experience (32:56)

     David hires Donna (Sally Bretton) who is lodging at his house as a favour for a friend. Brent sees himself as a type of chaperone for Donna, however it is soon apparent that she has been around and has a mind of her own. The staff are worried about possible redundancies and so David tries to reassure them - badly. After some bawdy jokes about Donna are bandied about during the meeting Brent decides to take action on the sexist branch culture - obviously unaware that he is one of the worst offenders. Gareth's Territorial Army interrogation skills come into play when an image of David's head on a pornographic image appears in a staff e-mail. Gareth takes it upon himself to find the perpetrator in typically officious style. David's manager Jennifer re-visits Slough branch and is critical of the branch's progress in making efficiencies. After experiencing some very unsavoury jibes in the warehouse Jennifer returns to David's office where Gareth reveals his suspicions on Tim being the source of the pornographic e-mail. When the actual offender is revealed to be Brent's mate Chris Finch ("Finchy") (Ralph Ineson), Brent backs down on punishment options and is left seriously embarrassed - again.

The Quiz (34:14)

     The annual Wernham Hogg pub quiz night is on again with Brent and Finchy teaming up again as perennial winners. Whereas Brent is an ignorant prat, Finchy is a really nasty, spiteful, bully who mercilessly teases David and continually puts him down. Brent's blind spot however means he fails to see this side of Finch and so goes along with the relentless ribbing. It is also Tim's thirtieth birthday which, in common with most of Tim's life, is another non-event. With a radio hat birthday present from mum, and a giant inflatable p**** from Lee and Dawn, his day can hopefully only get better. Tim and Dawn have some fun at Gareth's expense but a crack at Lee backfires badly. David's quiz night confidence is threatened by the discovery that Ricky, who is teaming with Tim, was a winner on TV quiz show Blockbusters. When Ricky and Tim eventually win the quiz after a tie-breaker Finchy characteristically does not take the result well and blames Brent for the loss. After a few more drinks Finch challenges Ricky to a winner-take-all bet that he can throw Tim's shoe over the pub. With the throw accomplished, and bet won, Finch wins the challenge. The party breaks up leaving Tim by himself, pondering his life outside the pub - alone, dateless and missing a shoe.

Training (34:37)

     Ricky Gervais' self-professed favourite episode sees Rowan (Vincent Franklin) being brought in to facilitate a staff development and customer awareness training day to the staff at Slough branch. Dawn has earlier confessed that her relationship with Lee is on the skids, and Tim thinks he might be in with a chance. The training day presents an opportunity for them to be together and there is plenty of sexual tension and body language on show. As training commences Brent can't bear to be out of the limelight and continually undermines the efforts of Rowan. Training degenerates further when Gareth and David's fantasies are revealed and role plays get out of control. David decides to take over with some musical interludes including his self-written "hit" - "Free Love on the Free Love Freeway". Tim publicly resigns in disgust at the utter pointless boredom of the training day and office life, but returns to ask Dawn out in front of the assembled staff. Dawn however rejects the offer because she has just got back together with Lee thus delivering Tim one of the most wincingly humiliating moments of series one.

New Girl (34:12)

     Donna turns up late for work after having been partying hard with someone from within the office. Brent's protective nature comes to the fore and Gareth looks for clues as to the identity of the other party. Despite imminent downsizing the Slough office is interviewing for a new secretary for David. Showing true staff selection skills David ignores the male applicant and hires the blonde girl Karen Roper (Nicola Cotter). Tim confirms again that he has resigned but - anyhow - he did not ask Dawn out and therefore was not rejected in front of everyone. Brent's efforts to impress Karen have predictably disastrous results although he does find out that she will be attending the pub after work. Gareth gives a one-on-one OH&S training session to the obviously disinterested Donna but has ulterior motives. Brent and Finchy take off after work to their regular Wednesday night session at "Chasers" with Tim and Gareth in tow. Finchy sleazily cracks onto most of the girls whilst David tries his hardest to chat up Karen. When Donna arrives with companion, who happens to be temporary employee Ricky, the ever vigilant Gareth gets delivered one of the best put-down lines in the series. Is he a weasel faced ass or an assed faced weasel? Gareth's fortunes take a turn for the better when he picks up and is seen at the conclusion "swinging" off into the night.

Judgement (34:18)

     It's the day Jennifer announces plans for Slough and Swindon branches. Amazingly the board of directors have decided to promote David - assuming he is happy about sacrificing his staff who will bear the brunt of job losses. David accepts after a millisecond of hesitation. Despite a "pep" talk from David Tim confirms that he is leaving - and by the way - he did not ask Dawn out and therefore was not humiliated in front of everyone. The staff are on edge about their future and, after prompting, David announces the bad news that most of them will go - but the silver lining is that he is will be the new supervising manager. Not surprisingly this goes down like a lead brick, with Gareth particularly devastated. At the end of financial year party there are a few surprising twists - Tim in a funk of gloom changes his mind about resigning, David's loyalty to his staff (or more accurately a failed health test) causes a change of fortunes, Dawn thinks wistfully about lost opportunities and dead-end futures with 10cc's "I'm Not In Love"/Spandau Ballet's "True" playing poignantly in the background.

     This episode is a great conclusion to Series One with more pathos than you could poke a stick at. The final party scenes are a depressingly familiar depiction of the cold cynical nature of office life, where self-interest is the only certainty.

     The Office - Series One is the first disc included in The Office Special Edition four disc box-set.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     The video is presented in the original 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. Being filmed in a pseudo-documentary style with standard definition cameras means there were frequent intentional losses of sharpness due to camera zooms and quick pans. Overall however there is nothing to complain about with good colours and accurate skin tones. Despite the deliberate drabness of the office environment the sombre hues of white, grey and brown are distinct and clearly defined with lots of detail evident. The only video problems were some visible compression artefacts and graininess during dimly lit scenes such as at the pub. These however were minor distractions only. Reviews of the 2003 release of The Office - Series 1 refer to constant pixelization however I thought this was only a minor issue as far as this transfer was concerned. Given the nature of the source material this is a very good presentation overall.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     A Dolby Digital 2.0 audio track encoded at 192 Kb/s is the only offering but is a very acceptable effort. All the dialogue is clear and synchronised with the video. With surround encoding activated there was a surprising amount of incidental office sounds such as phones ringing and typewriters coming from the surround channels. There was no subwoofer activity that I noticed but then it wasn't required either. The English subtitles appear accurate and are easy to read.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Menu

     The menu on both discs includes short animations with office background noises.

Extras included on Disc One

Introductions by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant

     Gervais and Merchant preface each episode with short and sometimes amusing snippets about various aspects of the production including character development and recurring themes. The comments aren't restricted to the episode about to be watched and beware that there are spoilers included. These short pieces are really interesting but we should wish for a more comprehensive commentary on each episode. They are also available in expanded form as the "Web Videos" special feature on disc two. You can skip past the comments and go straight to the episode if desired.

Short Interviews

     Serious and non-serious interviews between episodes or over the closing credits by celebrities including Hugh Jackman, Matthew Perry, Richard Curtis and Ben Stiller, and some of the actors including Davis, Crook, and Freeman.

Easter Egg (Disc 1)

     David and staff perform his song "Free Love" as used in the "Training" episode. Includes a clapper board introduction. To access press "Enter" when the phone rings on the main menu. 1.78:1 aspect ratio with Dolby Digital audio at 192 Kb/s.

Extras included on Disc Two

The Full Pilot (19:26)

     1.33:1 aspect ratio with Dolby Digital audio at 192 kb/s. In this pilot the David Brent character is introduced in all his glory - albeit in a slightly cruder and sleazier presentation. The setting is different with fewer supporting characters - although their characteristics are similar. These characters are played by different actors - apart from Karen Roper (Nicola Cotter). There are the same off-colour and awkward jokes, and an inability to take a joke in turn. One major difference from the subsequent series is the use of a voice over which gives it more of a documentary feel.

Comedy Connections: The Office (38:46)

     1.78:1 aspect ratio with Dolby Digital audio at 192 kb/s. TV documentary on the creation of The Office and the creative collaboration of Gervais and Merchant. Discusses how the pilot and subsequent first series arose out of their demo tape known as "The Seedy Boss" which had become well known within the BBC and had achieved cult status. Some very interesting anecdotes including the reluctance of some within the BBC in having Gervais as the lead actor!

Web Videos

     1.78:1 aspect ratio with Dolby Digital audio at 192 kb/s.

     Interviews with Gervais and Merchant and some of the cast and other celebrities created for internet based content. Excerpts of these were included on the Series One disc as the comments between episodes.

Documentary (39:18)

     1.78:1 aspect ratio with Dolby Digital audio at 192 kb/s. Also entitled "How I Made The Office, by Ricky Gervais", this documentary is a light hearted expose hosted by Gervais and Merchant, and featuring Freeman, Crook and Davis. Some nuggets of useful information put together amongst amusing banter.

Deleted Scenes

     1.78:1 aspect ratio with Dolby Digital audio at 192 kb/s. Six deleted scenes with a splash screen giving text explanation of why the scenes were excluded. The splash lasts for thirty seconds and can't be skipped over. A "play all" function would have been nice. These are pretty funny even if they did not make the cut.

Easter Egg

     This Easter egg features the extended version of the "Who Cares Wins" video as seen in the "Training" episode. To access select "Deleted Scenes" from the main menu, then select "'Slough' by John Betjeman". After the splash screen closes and the screen darkens press "Enter". 1.78:1 aspect ratio with Dolby Digital audio at 192 Kb/s.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     This version is from a four disc box-set which contains both series, the Christmas specials, and a disc of special features. The two disc version of The Office: The Complete First Series appears to be identical in video and audio quality but does not have the comments interspersed amongst the episodes. Extras in common are the documentary and deleted scenes but the four disc version under review misses out on a mock Wernham Hogg company newsletter. The US version of the four disc special edition box set appears identical to this box set under review apart from different cover art work.

Summary

     In common with the creators of Fawlty Towers, Gervais and Merchant limited their work to a brief twelve episode run plus two Christmas specials. Gervais has said in the past that once you've told your story, just stop. Don't keep going. If you do, eventually, the audience will grow to hate you for it. Perhaps because The Office never outlasted its welcome it remains one of the very best pieces of entertainment ever committed to television.

     The video quality is very good. The audio quality is very good.

     The extras are good but fans really want a full commentary track on each episode.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Mike B (read my bio)
Friday, January 06, 2012
Review Equipment
DVDDenon DVD-3910 and Panasonic BD-35, using HDMI output
DisplayPanasonic TH-58PZ850A. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL).
Amplificationdenon AVR-4311 pre-out to Elektra Theatron 7 channel amp
SpeakersB&W LCR600 centre and 603s3 mains, Niles in ceiling surrounds, SVS PC-Ultra Sub, Definitive Technology Supercube II Sub

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