ICYMI: Lauren Pattison on The Office
Prop'a Geordie lass Lauren Pattison meets the inimitable David Brent for the very first time in our TV comedy column
Upon hearing the cult comedy I’ve never seen is The Office (UK version obvs), I know there are bound to be people who can’t believe I’ve not watched it. In my defence, and sorry if what I’m about to say sends you off on one, but I was only seven when The Office first came out so it passed me by. I know I could have returned to it when I was older but I’ve been busy to be honest, making lists of things I need to do and then not doing them. Very busy.
So here we go. Now, first thing's first, watching The Office 19 years after it first aired proved to be quite difficult initially, because I kept getting excited seeing people whose careers have now sky-rocketed. It’s Aunt Hilda from the Sabrina reboot! Look, look at Martin Freeman’s little face – you’re gonna be Bilbo Baggins in a bit mate! MACKENZIE CROOK LOOKS SO YOUNG. Also, Tiff Stevenson pops up in one. Hi Tiff.
Once I’d stopped having to rewind the show to rewatch bits I’d missed because I’d been distracted googling each actor, I started to realise why it was such a hit. Taking the format of a mockumentary following the goings-on in the office of a Slough paper company, this toe-curlingly-cringey comedy is exactly the kind of awkward British humour we get behind as a nation.
The stuff that really makes me laugh is anything that holds a mirror up to our own lives, and The Office does just that. We have all met a David Brent or two in our time, we’ve sat through pub quizzes with people we want to stab in the eyeballs with the designated pen. The charity episode will surely provide many a viewer with painful flashbacks to being hostage in the workplace during fundraising attempts.
The writing is absolutely sublime. Everything is so subtly done, allowing the humour to spring from the awkwardness that’s been created, rather than a script obviously packed with unnatural lines to fit a laugh track, and it’s that which gives it such a richly realistic quality. That doesn’t mean the writing itself isn’t funny – it bloody is. It seems to genuinely capture how people speak, giving it that authenticity that helps ramp up the cringe because it feels so real. It’s as dry as cranberry juice and I love it.
You can’t help but love the characters too – for as much as they make you wince, you recognise them as the harmless and unintentionally hilarious souls we meet in everyday life. I love Dawn (Lucy Davis) and the heart she brings to the show, but it’s Gareth (Mackenzie Crook) who steals it for me. He’s one of the least self-aware people you’ll ever meet and every Monday morning he’ll claim to have had an ever wilder threesome with some girls you don’t know because they work in a different office. He’s undeniably a loveable loser.
I genuinely didn’t realise there were so few episodes made – it’s such a huge part of British comedy culture, I’d just assumed it ran for years. When Netflix informed me that there were no more to watch, I was bitterly disappointed. What am I meant to do now Netflix, my actual work? I don’t think so. Saying that, there’s something quite refreshing about a show finishing while it’s still in its prime, leaving us wanting more before we have a chance to be disappointed at the outcome and for it to lose what we loved about it (I’m looking at you, Lost.)
It also worked wonders for fixing the complex I have whenever I’m doubting my comedy abilities and think getting an office job might suit me. I wouldn’t last a day with Brent as my manager, and I salute all of you out there who have to.
Anyway, I’m going to move on to something a bit longer, the American version, to fill the void… see you in a bit.