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The Office: The Complete First Season (DVD)


The Office: The Complete First Season (DVD)

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The BBC sitcom The Office doesn't just try to wring new jokes out of pointless meetings and technology breakdowns, and it isn't some sympathetic, refrigerator-door-ready "They'll Do It Every Time" cartoon. It's an unrefined, savage dissection of ego, power, and salaryman desperation, populated by at least three peerless comic creations. Ricky Gervais co-created the series with Stephen Merchant, and he stars as the regional manager of a paper manufacturer located in the industrial London suburb of Slough. Gervais is a "Mr. Goodtimes" kind of boss, unduly proud of his sense of humor and prone to winning his employees' affection by letting them goof off more than they work. In The Office's mockumentary structure, Gervais makes himself the subject by barging into shots even when he's not being interviewed, and by carrying on a running rap–partly to himself, partly to his coworkers, and mostly to the camera, which he acknowledges with furtive glances while fidgeting with his tie. Gervais converses in garbled management-speak like "an office runs on efficiency of communication," and he maintains his regular-guy cred by pasting on a knowing grin and tossing out worn catchphrases like "been there, done that, bought the T-shirt." His right-hand man, Mackenzie Crook, is a wiry, officious army reservist with a pointless loyal streak and an intense power consciousness, which he displays by turning little tasks into crusades. Crook's opposite number is Martin Freeman, an overeducated desk-jockey whose work shirts don't fit and who spends most of his day nursing a hopeless crush on dowdy, sarcastic receptionist Lucy Davis. (Judging by the interviews on the Office DVD, Freeman's reactions to institutional stupidity are modeled on Merchant's.) Each of the six episodes that make up the first season of The Office–now collected on a single DVD, with a bonus disc of deleted scenes and interviews–strings together incidents from the idle hours of a working day, capturing the forced jocularity and thinly veiled sexual hostility of a confined, neutral space. Stretches of every episode are intentionally, almost painfully unfunny, but the dead spots build to a kind of mega-absurdity, in which even the scrape of hard plastic chairs in carpeted meeting rooms and the '80s pop hits played at happy hour in white-collar pubs become innately hilarious.