The Office (UK TV series)

The Office
Genre Sitcom
Created by Ricky Gervais
Stephen Merchant
Written by Ricky Gervais
Stephen Merchant
Directed by Ricky Gervais
Stephen Merchant
Starring Ricky Gervais
Martin Freeman
Mackenzie Crook
Lucy Davis
Oliver Chris
Patrick Baladi
Stacey Roca
Ralph Ineson
Stirling Gallacher
Ewen MacIntosh
Opening theme "Handbags and Gladrags" by Big George
Country of origin United Kingdom
No. of seasons 2
No. of episodes 12 (and 2 specials) (list of episodes)
Executive producer(s) Anil Gupta
Jon Plowman
Producer(s) Ash Atalla
Cinematography Andy Hollis
Editor(s) Nigel Williams
Running time approx. 30 minutes
Production company(s) Capital United Nations Entertainment
The Identity Company
Original network BBC Two
BBC One (Christmas specials)
Original release 9 July 2001 (2001-07-09) – 27 December 2003 (2003-12-27)
Related shows The Office (US series)
Le Bureau
La Job
Os Aspones

The Office is a mockumentary sitcom that was first broadcast in the United Kingdom on BBC Two on 9 July 2001. Created, written and directed by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, the programme is about the day-to-day lives of office employees in the Slough branch of the fictitious Wernham Hogg Paper Company. Gervais also stars in the series, playing the central character, David Brent.

Two six-episode series were made, along with a pair of 45-minute Christmas specials. When it was first shown on BBC Two, it was nearly cancelled due to low ratings, but it has since become one of the most successful of all British comedy exports. As well as being shown internationally on BBC Worldwide, channels such as BBC Prime, BBC America and BBC Canada, the series has been sold to broadcasters in over 80 countries, including ABC1 in Australia, The Comedy Network in Canada, TVNZ in New Zealand and the pan-Asian satellite channel STAR World, based in Hong Kong. The show began airing in The United States on Cartoon Network's late night programing block, Adult Swim on 18 September 2009 until 2012.

The show centres on themes of social clumsiness, the trivialities of human behaviour, self-importance and conceit, frustration, desperation and fame.

The success of the show led to a number of localised adaptations (based upon its basic story and themes) being produced for the television markets of other nations, resulting in an international Office franchise.[1]


The show is a mockumentary based in a branch of the large fictitious paper company Wernham Hogg (where "life is stationery"), in the Slough Trading Estate in England. Slough is a town immortalised for its lack of appeal by John Betjeman in his poem "Slough" ("Come, friendly bombs and fall on Slough/It isn't fit for humans now...").[2] The office is headed by regional manager Brent, aided by his team leader Gareth Keenan played by Mackenzie Crook. Much of the series' comedic success stems from Brent, who frequently makes attempts to win favour with his employees and peers with embarrassing or disastrous results. Brent's character flaws are used to comic effect, including numerous verbal gaffes, inadvertent racism and sexism, and other social faux pas.

The other main plot line of the series, and many of the more human elements found therein, come from the unassuming Tim Canterbury (Martin Freeman), whose relationship with bored receptionist Dawn Tinsley (Lucy Davis) is a major arc in the series. Their flirtation soon builds to a mutual romantic attraction, despite her engagement to the dour and laddish warehouse worker, Lee (Joel Beckett).


A comparison between characters in different series is available here.

Main characters

The Office is essentially a character-based comedy, portraying the people who work in an office environment. While being more of an ensemble piece than star-driven, four characters are the primary focus of the show:

David Brent

Main article: David Brent

David Brent is the general manager of the Slough branch of Wernham Hogg paper merchants. Possessing a very narcissistic personality, he believes he is a successful maverick in the business world and a Renaissance man, talented in philosophy, music and comedy. Although he thinks he is patient, funny and popular, others perceive him as annoying, rude and selfish. His immature behaviour comes across as he bumbles around the office – always hovering around the camera – telling unfunny jokes, performing hackneyed impressions, and generally getting into trouble by talking before thinking. Brent thinks he is a kind, politically correct man, but his preoccupation with this position, and the discrepancy between it and his often patronising (and at times offensive) jokes, gets him into trouble.

Tim Canterbury

Main article: Tim Canterbury

Tim Canterbury is a sales representative at Wernham Hogg. Unlike David, Tim is witty and considerate. His humour and kindness make him one of the most likeable employees in the office, but at 30 he still lives with his parents and works at a job he believes to be completely pointless. He maintains his sanity by pursuing an improbable romance with receptionist Dawn Tinsley and by playing practical jokes on Gareth. Although he wishes to leave Wernham Hogg to study psychology, his insecurity prevents him from taking any significant action. During Series One and Two, he also fails to further pursue a relationship with Dawn. Chosen as David's successor at the end of Series Two, he declines and lets Gareth take the position, which, however, doesn't keep him from playing pranks on Gareth.

Gareth Keenan

Main article: Gareth Keenan

Gareth Keenan is Tim's selfish deskmate and enemy. Gareth is a humourless jobsworth with few attractive personality traits. He is obsessed with his military service in the Territorial Army and annoys Tim with thoughtless, pretentious comments. He takes pride in being "Team Leader", not realising his title is mostly meaningless, he imposes the little authority he has on his co-workers. He is stubborn and insensitive. Tim and Dawn repeatedly insinuate homosexuality through questions about his military experience. Apparently proud of his close connections with David and glossing over David's poor treatment of him, he later – during the Christmas special – gets back at David by patronising and humiliating him in front of the cameras.

Dawn Tinsley

Main article: Dawn Tinsley

Dawn Tinsley is the company receptionist and Brent's dogsbody. She frequently has to put up with his attempts at humour and social interaction. Like her friend and co-worker Tim, she is aware of the sad state of her life – she has been in a long, rocky engagement with her fiancé Lee, a surly warehouse worker, and gave up illustrating children's books to pursue her current fruitless career. During the Christmas special, Dawn and Lee return from their illegally prolonged US vacation.

Secondary characters

Several other recurring characters, although not central to the episodes, played an important role in the series. These include:

Keith Bishop (Ewen MacIntosh): Keith works in the accounts department. Heavy set, slow-talking and apparently emotionless, he is a man of few words. When he does speak, his comments can be eloquent and sometimes disturbing.

Chris Finch ("Finchy") (Ralph Ineson): A "bloody good" outside sales representative, he is probably the only character in the series who is genuinely and deliberately mean. He is brashly confident, openly sexist, rasping-voiced with a natural flair for bullying others with swift, humiliating putdowns, Brent being his usual target. He likes to dominate conversations and is successful with women, but shows a humourless violent attitude when he loses the staff quiz in Series One. David describes him as his "best friend" but actually acts more like a lackey, laughing at his jokes and attempting to impress him to feel popular only to be repaid with verbal abuse.

Jennifer Taylor-Clarke (Stirling Gallacher) Brent's immediate supervisor in Series One, nicknamed Camilla Parker Bowles by him, is a serious-minded professional, and Brent's behaviour and comedy-driven style of management are shown to be puerile and ineffectual by contrast. At the end of the Series One she is made a partner in the firm and, during Series Two, repeatedly reprimands David for inappropriate behaviour.

Lee (Joel Beckett): Tinsley's fiancé who works in the company's warehouse. She met him in school and they have been together ever since. Whilst not mean, Lee is extremely dull, humourless and casually critical of her ideas of being an illustrator while having no problem with embarrassing her in front of people. His idea of an amorous proposal was a four-word notice in the newspaper — "Lee love Dawn. Marriage?". It is clear from an early stage that she stays with him out of a fear of loneliness rather than real love. Lee has a somewhat violent temper, which is shown when he holds Canterbury against a wall, simply for starting to dance with Dawn.

Glynn aka Taffy (David Schaal): The misogynistic, sexist warehouse manager at the company and Lee's supervisor, who is seen as being very slack and has little respect for anyone who works outside the warehouse, particularly management.

Malcolm (Robin Hooper): An older staff member, he is naturally most worried about the prospect of redundancies and therefore often challenges Brent's handling of the situation, criticising his relaxed attitude, his lack of management ability and several incidents, such as hiring a personal secretary when the office is facing redundancies. Brent openly dislikes him, sneering at Malcolm's criticisms and openly lying about "faking" the high blood pressure that cost him a promotion and saved the Slough office from closure. Malcolm does not appear in Series Two, having presumably been fired.

Ricky (Oliver Chris): Introduced as Brent's new temp in the pilot, and a recent graduate. He was prominently featured in episode three, where he and Canterbury form a team for trivia night. The two end up winning, successfully answering a tie-breaker question on Shakespeare against Finch.

Donna (Sally Bretton): Introduced in Series One, Episode Two as the daughter of Brent's friends Ron and Elaine, who has come to work at the office. She makes a quick impact in the office, starting a relationship with Ricky, but fails to reciprocate Keenan's romantic feelings towards her.

Karen Roper (Nicola Cotter): Brent's personal secretary, hired because he insists that he needs an assistant. Several of the staff are apprehensive about Brent hiring new and unnecessary personnel while the branch is facing downsizing and redundancies. She is not seen in Series Two.

Neil Godwin (Patrick Baladi): Brent's counterpart at the Swindon branch; his immediate superior. He is young, charming, professional and energetic, a more competent manager than Brent, and has a better relationship with staff. Brent is hugely resentful and jealous of him, and makes occasional, often childish attempts to either undermine or rival him. He grows increasingly exasperated with Brent's incompetence, poor judgement and failure to do his job properly.

Rachel (Stacey Roca): She is bubbly and attractive and starts a relationship with Canterbury. After a deluded Gareth reveals his plans to seduce her, Tim is shocked when she begins to pressure him to make a greater commitment. He realizes that his ongoing love for Dawn is far greater than his feelings for Rachel and breaks off the relationship.

Trudy (Rachel Isaac): Welsh Trudy is first introduced in Series Two as one of several of the new intake from the Swindon branch. Almost immediately, she establishes herself as something of a good-time girl, blending in well with the rest of the staff and enjoying a booze-fuelled birthday celebration in her honour at the office. Her casual, sexually charged nature does not go unnoticed by the male members of staff, with David often trying to take advantage of this only to be ignored.

Oliver (Howard Saddler): Oliver is good-natured and tolerant, which is lucky for him as he is the only black person working in the office. Because of this he becomes the target for most of David's well-meaning but hideously misguided attempts to show what a politically correct and racially tolerant man he is.

Brenda (Julie Fernandez): Brenda naturally brings out the worst in Brent; she is not impressed by his patronising behaviour. She highlights the gap between Brent's vision of himself as a modern enlightened man and the reality of his ignorance and thoughtlessness. She uses a wheelchair, which results in her being stranded on a stairwell during a fire drill when David and Gareth decide they can't be bothered carrying her all the way down.

Rowan (Vincent Franklin): A training facilitator in who is progressively frustrated by Brent's attempts to undermine and take control of a team training session, often forcing it to veer off track.

Simon (Matthew Holness): Working in IT, he visits the office to install firewall software on the computers while discussing his theories with Keenan about Bruce Lee faking his own death so that he could go undercover and fight the Triads. An arrogant show-off and boaster, he claims to be the record holder of the fastest lap down at 'SuperKarts'.

Ray (Tom Goodman-Hill) and Jude (Jennifer Hennessy): The only two recurring characters in Series Two who do not work for Wernham Hogg. Instead, they work for a consultancy firm that organises business management seminars. They approach Brent about being a guest speaker at one of the seminars but are totally unimpressed with his unorthodox presentation on motivational techniques.

Helena (Olivia Colman): A reporter for the internal paper merchant newspaper who finds interviewing Brent quite difficult because he attempts to dictate what she should write in her article.

Anne (Elizabeth Berrington): The pregnant desk mate to Tim. She annoys him as she speaks continuously about herself and other topics no-one else is interested in. She coldly tells David that no one is interested in his invitation to go out for a drink, causing discomfort amongst her co-workers.

Carol (Sandy Hendrickse): Brent's blind date with whom he hits it off and who seems to like him.

Oggy aka 'The Ogg Monster' (Stephen Merchant): One of Gareth's best friends. His real name is Nathan.


Main cast

Minor cast

Series one and two

  • Joel Beckett as Lee
  • Jamie Deeks as Jamie
  • Jane Lucas as Sheila
  • Ewen MacIntosh as Keith
  • Emma Manton as Emma
  • Ron Merchant as Gordon
  • Alexander Perkins as Ralph
  • Phillip Pickard as Phillip
  • David Schaal as Glynn

Series one only

  • Sally Bretton as Donna
  • Oliver Chris as Ricky Howard
  • Angela Clerkin as Jackie
  • Yvonne D'Alpra as Joan
  • Robin Hooper as Malcolm
  • Vincent Franklin as Rowan (training facilitator)
  • Nicola Cotter as Karen Roper

Series two only


In total, there are fourteen episodes of The Office: six in each series and two 45-minute Christmas special episodes.

Critical reception

The show has received critical acclaim, and has been regarded as one of the greatest British sitcoms of all time.[3] Series one currently holds a Metacritic score of 98 out of 100, based on 12 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim".[4] Series two received similar acclaim, holding a Metacritic score of 93 out of 100, based on 16 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim".[5] The Office Christmas specials were also well received, and hold a Metacritic score of 98 out of 100, based on 19 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim".[6]

Awards and recognition

At the British Comedy Awards in 2001, The Office won the Best New TV Comedy award. In 2002, the series won the Best TV Comedy award, and Gervais the Best TV Comedy Actor award.[7][8]

In 2003, The Office won the Golden Globe Award for Best Television series: Musical or Comedy. It was the first British comedy in 25 years to be nominated for a Golden Globe, and the first ever to win one. Gervais was also awarded the Golden Globe For Best Actor in a Television series: Comedy or Musical.[9] The same year, the series won a Peabody Award.[10]

Music and theme song

The theme song for the show is "Handbags and Gladrags," arranged by Big George and originally written in the 1960s by Mike D'Abo, former vocalist for the pop group Manfred Mann.[11][12]

In series 1, episode 4, a version performed by Gervais (in character as Brent) was featured over the end credits.

The first series also features Gervais performing "Free Love Freeway" and the Christmas Special includes him performing "If You Don't Know Me By Now".

Home releases

DVD NameRegion 1Region 2Ep #Additional Information
Series One7 October 200314 October 20026This double disc DVD set includes all six episodes from the first series. Bonus features include the featurette How I Made The Office, deleted scenes, Wernham Hogg News, Slough slang glossary, and Wernham Hogg personnel file.
Series Two20 April 200420 October 20036This one disc DVD set includes all six episodes from the second series. Bonus features include a video diary, deleted scenes, out-takes, and a Slough slang glossary.
Christmas Special16 November 200425 October 20042This one disc DVD set includes both hours of the Christmas Special. Bonus features include a documentary on the making of the specials, the full uncut music video of David Brent's cover of "If You Don't Know Me by Now", a featurette on the making of "Freelove Freeway", and a Golden Globes featurette.
Complete Collection16 November 200422 November 200514This four disc DVD set includes all 12 episodes from the first and second series, and both parts of the Christmas special. Bonus features include the How I Made The Office documentary, a documentary on the making of the specials titled The Office: Closed for Business, a commentary on the second part of the Christmas special, deleted scenes, out-takes, a video diary, the full uncut music video of David Brent's cover of "If You Don't Know Me by Now", a featurette on the making of "Freelove Freeway", and a Golden Globes featurette.
10th Anniversary Special Edition22 November 201124 October 201114This four disc DVD set includes all 12 episodes from the first and second series, and both parts of the Christmas special. Bonus features include the How I Made The Office documentary, a documentary on the making of the specials titled The Office: Closed for Business, a commentary on the second part of the Christmas special, deleted scenes, out-takes, a video diary, the full uncut music video of David Brent's cover of "If You Don't Know Me by Now", a featurette on the making of "Freelove Freeway", and a Golden Globes featurette. Exclusive to this box set is the never-seen-before 20-minute pre-pilot, Comedy Connections featurette, broadcast wraparounds and celebrity interviews (including Hugh Jackman, Matthew Perry, Richard Curtis and Ben Stiller).


In addition to the original two series and two Christmas-specials, Gervais and Merchant have revived the David Brent character for a pair of specials commissioned by Microsoft UK, and a made for charity short in 2013 entitled "The Office Revisited". The Brent character will also be featured in the upcoming 2016 film David Brent: Life on the Road, this time with the contributions of Gervais but not Merchant.

"The Office Values" and "Realising Potential"

In 2004, Microsoft UK commissioned two 20-minute corporate videos featuring Brent being interviewed by Jeff Merchant, a Microsoft employee who becomes increasingly exasperated by Brent's antics. Brent is obviously resentful of the company's success. He believes he has what it takes to become the next managing director of Microsoft and continually drops hints to that effect. While not on general release, the videos emerged on the Internet in 2006. The clips also appeared on certain peer-to-peer networks. Microsoft was unhappy with the leak, stating that the videos "were never intended to be viewed by the public".[13]


  1. Garrison, Laura Turner. "Exploring the International Franchises of The Office". Splitsider.
  2. "John Betjeman: Slough". Worlds Poetry. Retrieved 29 January 2015.
  3. Guide, British Comedy. "Top 50 TV Sitcoms - British Comedy Guide". Retrieved 25 September 2016.
  4. "The Office (UK)". Retrieved 25 September 2016.
  5. "The Office (UK)". Retrieved 25 September 2016.
  6. "The Office (UK)". Retrieved 25 September 2016.
  7. "Past Winners 2001". British Comedy Award. Retrieved 29 January 2015.
  8. "Past Winners 2002". British Comedy Award. Retrieved 29 January 2015.
  9. "Ricky Gervais' Surprise at Globe Win". Retrieved 29 January 2015.
  10. 63rd Annual Peabody Awards "The Office 63rd Annual Peabody Awards" Check |url= value (help). Peabody Awards. Retrieved 29 January 2015.
  11. "The Office: Ricky and Steve on production". Retrieved 29 January 2015.
  12. "Handbags and Gladrags by Rod Stewart". Song Facts. Retrieved 29 January 2015.
  13. "Microsoft unhappy at Gervais leak". BBC News. 30 August 2006. Retrieved 23 August 2008.

Further reading

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