Saturday, February 15, 2003


4. The Office (BBC America). Yes, you may believe the hype - this British import is indeed the funniest show on TV (at least until Curb Your Enthusiasm starts back up this fall). Like most British comedy series, it helps to have a working knowledge of U.K. pop culture to get some of the jokes (or maybe I should amend that to "most good British comedy series" - I don't think you need a tutorial on the finer points of post-Falklands England to know why the discarded Kleenex is sticking to the girl's face on Men Behaving Badly), but the meat of the show - the soul-deadening existence too many of us live for a third of our weekday underneath vitamin-leaching fluorescents - is universal enough to make any Westerner wince. (Those of you who couldn't make it through Office Space for reasons other than the gangsta rap on the soundtrack will want to give this a wide berth.) I haven't seen a sitcom so pitch-perfect since the glory days of The Larry Sanders Show, and for that I bow to Ricky Gervais, who co-created and co-writes the show in addition to portraying David Brent, the stunningly inept grinning goon of a lower-middle-manager who is the blinkered sun at the center of this show's universe. Every sneaky glance into the camera (the show is structured as a mock documentary - hmmm, one of these days somebody should come up with a clever compression of that phrase), awkward attempt at bonding with his staff and ham-fisted management homily ("You don't have to be mad to work here, in fact we ask you to complete a medical questionnaire to ensure that you are not") is perfectly, painfully executed (in this day and age, a successful comedy should inspire as many cringes as chuckles). No matter where you've found yourself disdainfully employed, you will recognize this character - the back-slapping bastard who fancies himself a regular bloke and the life of the office but can't quite get the look of desperation out of his beady little eyes.

Oh, Jesus. Maybe I am that character.


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