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February 18, 2010

Season 1, Episode 1: Downsize

At first glance The Office, staring Ricky Gervais’s as David Brent, is the story of an obnoxious fat man who needs a life. His social ineptitude is eclipsed only by his ego. He has a supporting cast of the regular sitcom variety. There is the Kramer/Ross Gareth played by Mackenzie Crook, the Elaine/Rachel in Lucy Davis’s Dawn, and the Jerry/Chandler in Ricky&Martin Freeman’s characters. The show even has the classic life like but not quite gags that are the life blood of your classic sitcom. Stapler Jello, it’s like a John Dorian daydream in Scrubs, or Morgan getting locked in the claw machine in Chuck. In fact at first I was so sure that that’s what I was seeing at the end of the show I was like “That’s it? No redemption? Just roll credits?”  It was like I was watching No Country For Old Men again (Shudder).

What I almost missed is that it is the story of an obnoxious fat man who needs a life. A man whose social ineptitude is only eclipsed by his ego. A show with all the gags and characters of a regular run of the mill sitcom. Yet at the same time it was none of that. It was just a day at the office, with the all the monotony and stupidity that a day in the office entails for every coffee wielding drone in the world. It transforms David from Scrubs’ Dr. Kelso in to your inept boss at work. Gareth from a bumbling idiot, to that schmuck in accounting who makes you fill out three pages of paperwork for a $2.50 post it not pads. The intimate setting of the “documentary” puts you in The Office, it’s like Gareth says “I’m not talking to myself they’re filming”.

You’re not watching TV; you’re watching your office. David Brent is not the sitcom buffoon; he is just like nine out of ten supervisors in any corporation, showing off the classic symptoms of Peters principle, exhibited by the many that have risen to their level of incompetence. Now having reached his personal ceiling in the corporate world, deep down he realizes he is incompetent at his job and is constantly looking for validation from his employees.

The Office is Funny not for its classic sitcom comedy, but because of familiarity to any employee of the corporate monster. But it stays funny because it never tries to be anything else than just that, there is no fall and redemption, no moral of the story, no OH so that’s what happens to him. It’s just a day at the office and now it’s time to go home, good night.

Rated a solid 4.5

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