December 11, 2004

David Brent: Man of the Year

I have to admit that, of all the things that I have experienced this year, there is one - a television show, an out-of-nowhere cult hit, that has gotten my attention. It's a show that has received a Golden Globe, has gotten much word of mouth, and has given me a greater respect for comics writer Will Pfeiffer (not that I didn't have it already...)

I'm talking, of course, about The Office. Half "Mockumentary", half non-traditional sitcom, it features the goings-on at Wertham Hogg, a fictional British paper company, and its mostly unusual boss, David Brent. Thanks to Netflix, I am enjoying the "Christmas special", made three years after the series. (The above link will get you a copy of both seasons, the special, and some other bits).

The series has almost all the cliches of an office show - the receptionist, the sweet worker, the semi-tyrannical second-in-command, the obnoxious salesman - but what makes it work is that it avoids all the typical sitcom cliches. (Of couse, NBC is "adopting" the show, changing it for an American audience. Hopefully, since the cast includes Jenna Fischer, who wrote and directed the hilarious Lollilove, it should be) This is a show that dares (as many good British shows do) to go into the uncomfortable places, and finds humor not in overexaggerated behavior, but in the subtle silences, in the nuances, and quite slightly less-than-perfect behavior.

All of the characters sparkle - David Brent, who is the boss who has read one too many "business leadership" books; Tim and Dawn, a couple that should-be-but-can't (and trust me, having been in that kind of relationship myself, it is drawn very realistically), and Graham, who once admitted that he was thinking if there was a boy who could swim faster than a shark. (Don't ask). The writing, acting, performances, etc. are all top notch, and I defy you not to laugh at all of this. (It also, quite smartly, ended after two years, easily avoiding jumping the shark)

And so, in this blogger's eyes, David Brent deserves the title "Man of the Year." This is one of those hidden treasures that, hopefully, will not remain hidden for long.

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