The Office

I was eighteen or so in 2001. I vaguely remember, watching TV in bed one night, catching the end of a program I initially took to be a documentary. It was about people working in an office. I watched a bit of it, but soon found the main boss character so nauseating, so up himself, that I couldn’t watch any more.

I hadn’t watched The Office since then. Even after I twigged that it was a comedy, it just sort of crept under my radar. In the twenty years since it first aired, I had caught clips of it of course; but I’d never sat down to watch a full episode or series properly. Last night, however, I noticed that the beeb were re-airing the first two episodes of the first series on bbc2, introduced by commentary from various celebrities, including Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant. What they were saying piqued my interest, so I decided to watch the episodes properly in full today.

My parents paid me a visit today. I hadn’t seen them in ages, and it was a lovely visit. As independent as I like to be, Mum and Dad still have a knack of sorting things out. After a very nice lunch, and after they had said goodbye, though, I settled down to see what The Office was about. I now honestly believe that what I found myself watching was a work of genius: I’ve only watched the first two episodes so far, but they made me laugh out loud harder than I have done in months. The observation and characterisation was sublime. David Brent is still a monster, but what I once found nauseating I now recognised as a great, great comment on human nature and the kind of sickening lack of self awareness we see in so many people these days.

Indeed, it occurred to me that we could detect whiffs of Brent in the pompous prick currently running the country. Both men are hideously un-self aware with grossly inflated egos; both think they are far more popular and likeable than they really are. If that is so, though, then it makes me wonder if the BBC could be repeating this series now specifically to make a political point.

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