Office, The (UK)-The Christmas Specials (2003)
Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Featurette-The Office: Closed For Business Documentary
Music Video-Full Band Version of 'Freelove Freeway'
Audio Commentary-Directors' commentary - Episode 2
Easter Egg-"If You Don't Know Me By Now" bloopers
|Year Of Production||2003|
|Running Time||137:06 (Case: 717)|
|RSDL / Flipper||RSDL||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||1,2,3,4,5,6||Directed By||
Roadshow Home Entertainment
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.78:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.78:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||Yes, Small scene during the credits of both episodes.|
“If I'm really being honest, I never really thought it would have a happy ending"
"Life isn't about endings is it? It's a series of moments"
After the second season of The Office concluded Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant produced a two part Christmas special which continued the plot approximately three years after the final episode. The premise this time is that a BBC crew has returned to the office to document what has changed since their prior production wrapped up. Most of the characters from season two remain, although there have been some minor cast changes. The main characters however remain unchanged as described in my season one review here and season two review here, so I won’t repeat them again.
Beware - there are major spoilers below!
Nearly three years have passed since a BBC documentary crew visited the Slough branch of paper company Wernham Hogg to record the everyday goings on in a typical workplace. Former general manager David Brent (Ricky Gervais) is now working as a travelling salesman after successfully suing the company for unfair dismissal and using the payout to record his own single. Brent remains resentful at his treatment yet continually visits the office where he remains unaware that no-one really wants to see him there. He blames the BBC for his unflattering portrayal in their documentary, The Office - self-denial leading him to believe that they left out all his good qualities for editorial reasons. Although his single release (If You Don't Know Me By Now) was an abject failure, he remains convinced of his own talents and regularly guests on varied low-brow TV shows or pub nights as a celebrity. Needless to say these appearances are always a complete disaster. Not helping his showbiz career is his useless agent Peter (Steve Brody), who obviously hasn't got a clue. Former receptionist Dawn Tinsley (Lucy Davis) and Lee (Joel Beckett) are now living in Florida where Lee lounges about most of the time and Dawn cares for Lee's sister's baby. As the documentary crew interviews Dawn it is obvious that she is dissatisfied with her new circumstances, whereas Lee is oblivious to anyone apart from himself. What's more - the insensitive Lee has squashed her ambitions as an illustrator because he says they have now "moved on". When the crew offer for her and Lee to return to Slough for a reunion Dawn makes excuses, but Lee jumps at the chance because it will be a free trip. Back in the office Gareth Keenan (Mackenzie Crook) is in charge and running things like a real Territorial Army dictator but this doesn't mean that he is free from Tim Canterbury's (Martin Freeman) practical jokes. The new office receptionist, however, doesn't play along. Now that Gareth has moved into the manager's position his old desk has been taken by the heavily pregnant and self-absorbed Anne (Elizabeth Berrington). It's horrifying that Anne is actually more annoying than Gareth, and Tim's working environment remains a hell on earth. The flame that Tim holds for Dawn remains as strong as ever so we can imagine his response when learning from the interviewing team that Dawn will be returning for the Christmas party. Although he rationalises that he and Dawn will never be together, the thought of seeing her again invokes a deep response. The humiliation of her earlier rejection however remains large in the office, where absolutely everybody knows what happened.
Plans for the Christmas party are in progress and former employees are invited. When overall manager Neil Godwin (Patrick Baladi) asks whether David will be bringing a date, David confirms that he indeed has several girlfriends and so will need two tickets. Finchy (Chris Finch - Ralph Ineson) doesn't believe this and launches into his usual cruel ribbing. Finchy is correct, of course, that David has no girlfriends, so David and Gareth start scouring internet dating sites looking for suitable dates. Gareth is a bit more realistic than David when entering David's statistics on the internet dating site - which causes some offence. After another disastrous celebrity pub appearance David blames his co-performers for his particularly poor reception. The resulting confrontation leaves Brent covered in his own beer with ears stinging.
David and Gareth vet through the dating agency referrals where the usual unconsciously sexist and racist banter takes place. David's continual visits to the office are starting to grate on Neil as they prove to be disruptive to work. Gareth informs the office staff that Dawn will be returning for the Christmas party and also reminds everyone of Tim's infatuation for Dawn - much to Tim's embarrassment. David's first date ends in disaster as his inappropriate conversation topics fall flat. It's clear that David needs a lot of practice in charming the ladies. Dawn returns to the office and there is an awkward but fond reunion with Tim. Gareth tries to show off in his new position, but Tim and Dawn waste no time in winding him up - just for old time’s sakes. Anne provides some words of wisdom to Dawn in her blunt fashion which goes down like a lead balloon, meanwhile David's further meetings with dating agency respondents continue to go badly. Gareth organises a "secret Santa" but fails to get into the spirit of Christmas giving. Keith (Ewen MacIntosh) provides some advice to Tim in the lunchroom as only he can. Don't we just love the "big" Keith scotch egg moments! David and his black dog Nelson (named after Nelson Mandela which proves that David is not racist - so there!) are finally banned from the office after another confrontation with the increasingly spiteful Neil, but the staff fail to rise up and respond to David's invitation for a drink after work. Anne again demonstrates her rude bluntness by telling him that "no-one wants to have a meeting with you, and no-one wants to have a drink with you. You don't even work here". This is too much for Tim who pipes up and offers to have a drink with David later. After another disastrous gig and lonely night in a cheap hotel, David fantasises after a few mini-bar drinks that sooner or later the company will beg to take him back.
It's party night but David is left on his own as the office staff go out for a pre-party dinner. Later that night as the festivities start Neil and Finchy query David on the whereabouts of his date - obviously sceptical that there is one. When Lee and Dawn arrive Tim tries to stay cool but it is obvious by the inane banter that they are very uncomfortable about the current situation - especially given that Lee has seen the prior documentary and so knows that Tim is keen on Dawn. Fortunately Lee's bogun mates from the warehouse arrive and dish out some harsh treatment to the obnoxious Anne (beans and muff!). Lee joins them for darts which leaves Tim and Dawn to have some quality time together. Eventually David's date Carol (Sandy Hendrickse) arrives and – surprise, surprise - she is actually very nice, and, what's more, likes his jokes and conversation! Lee decides it is time for he and Dawn to leave so Dawn regretfully says her farewells after first finding her "secret Santa" gift. In the taxi to the hotel Dawn opens her present and sees from the contents that it must have been from Tim. Those contents lead her to think about what she is leaving and where she is going. Back at the party Tim is looking forlorn but David is revelling in his good luck in finding the perfect date. Amazingly enough Carol also thinks David was very nice so they promise to meet again before she leaves to go home. After a few more jibes from Finchy and a reference to David's "dog" (i.e. Carol) David finally gets some backbone and tells Finchy to "fu*k off". A real "YES" moment for David. As the party proceeds we see Dawn renter the office from the background and make her way towards Tim. They kiss passionately and leave the room holding each other tightly. The second "YES" moment for the series. It seems that at last Tim and Dawn and David might have found redemption and possible future happiness.
In conclusion as David narrates to the documentary camera - "You need three things to have a good life: one - a meaningful relationship, two - a decent job of work, and three - to make a difference." The staff of "The Office" have showed how we interact with our fellow man in a way that few other TV or film presentations have made. Long may the characters of "The Office" remain in our memories.
The Office - The Christmas Specials is the fourth disc included in The Office Special Edition four disc box-set.
The video is presented in the original 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen and is essentially identical in quality to the series one and series two transfers reviewed earlier. 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 nightclubs, the office party, and when Brent is alone in the hotel room. There is also a bit of aliasing in the venetian blinds. These however were minor distractions only. Given the nature of the source material this is a very good presentation overall.
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 copiers clattering from the surround channels. The English subtitles appear accurate and are easy to read. The only subwoofer activity was during David's music video, and the opening and closing song. Given the pseudo-documentary style of presentation and office environment the audio track is suitably clear and problem free.
|Surround Channel Use|
The menu on both discs includes short animations with office background noises.
1.78:1 aspect ratio with Dolby Digital audio at 192 kb/s. Collection of interviews with Davis, Crook, Freeman, Gervais and Merchant, including some actual and behind the scenes footage. Really interesting stuff with the cast giving their thoughts on favourite bits, working together, coping with Gervais' improvisations, and plot developments. It is clear that their work on The Office, and the relationships formed, means more to them than just a job. Merchant and Gervais can't help clowning about of course.
1.78:1 aspect ratio with Dolby Digital audio at 192 kb/s. Includes interviews obviously filmed at the same time as the "Closed For Business" footage with actual documentation of the Golden Globes award preparations and event. The Office won a pair of awards which seemed to catch everyone by surprise - including the camera crew who did not have a camera pointed at their table.
1.78:1 aspect ratio with Dolby Digital audio at 192 kb/s. Enjoy the full version of Brent's payout folly seen previously in short form during episode one. Looking more like George Michael than - well - George Michael, Brent's raspy voice actually isn't too bad - but the clichéd clip is hilarious. Not sure if Gervais actually sang the recorded vocals, but it could easily pass for a real music video.
1.33:1 aspect ratio with Dolby Digital audio at 192 kb/s. The other side of the David Brent double A release which includes "If You Don't Know Me By Now". The song seen during the training episode of the first series is given the full music video treatment, including a full band with backing vocals by none other than Noel Gallagher. Consisting entirely of behind the scenes footage it again could pass as a serious music video - apart from Gervais who can't help but fool around.
Merchant and Gervais talk through the second episode and add some interesting information although much of their commentary is telling us what we can already see on screen. As usual the two can't help but clown around which detracts a bit from the useful inputs. Merchant tries to keep thing on the rails but Gervais keeps diverting with comic asides. Nevertheless this is a worthwhile extra that adds a lot to understanding how the episode was planned out, and their thoughts about where it should head. A must listen for fans.
1.78:1 aspect ratio with Dolby Digital audio at 192 kb/s. To access click on the photocopier on the extras menu when it is copying. Ricky Gervais has a lot of trouble miming his song If You Don't Know Me By Now video clip. It must have taken a lot of takes!
This version is from a four disc box-set which contains both series, the Christmas specials, and a disc of special features. The Region 4 and Region 1 single disc version of The Office: The Christmas Specials appears to the be identical in video and audio quality and includes the same extras. 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.
As a conclusion to the first two series the Christmas Specials succeed brilliantly. Whereas series two ended on a rather depressing note, the conclusion here is one of redemption and hope. As they say in the classics - this will make you laugh and it will make you cry. It will make you shout "YES" as the penny finally drops for our protagonists. To their credit though, Gervais and Merchant have not left the viewer with a neat conclusion, but have left enough to keep us wondering whether Tim and Dawn, and David and Carol will remain together. Even if they don't work out, we at least see that they have turned a corner and have changed for the better. Ultimately however these two episodes will restore your faith in human nature and the philosophy that hope springs eternal.
In common with the creators of Fawlty Towers, Gervais and Merchant limited their work to a brief twelve episode run plus the 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.
|DVD||Denon DVD-3910 and Panasonic BD-35, using HDMI output|
|Display||Panasonic 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 Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL).|
|Amplification||denon AVR-4311 pre-out to Elektra Theatron 7 channel amp|
|Speakers||B&W LCR600 centre and 603s3 mains, Niles in ceiling surrounds, SVS PC-Ultra Sub, Definitive Technology Supercube II Sub|