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It is with much regret that I begin to review one of the slickest, smartest and, most importantly, funniest comedies to come out of the BBC in years, knowing full well this season marks the premature final curtain for David Brent and his colleagues. The tradition of the BBC of recent times is to cease production on their finest exports at the peak of their powers, presumably to put and end to certain series’ overstaying their welcome. Well, if any series deserved to run for just that little bit longer, The Office would be it. Not only is it such a sharp and familiar series, the storylines created during the seasons one and two could do with a bit more fleshing out.

But let’s not forget the quality of this series, sure to bring more than a smile to anyone’s face. Every character is a version of some of the personalities present in every day office blocks around the world and the way they are carried off is absolutely spot on. Let’s take a look at what’s on offer because it may be the last time we see The Office given a full season’s run.

Office: Series Two, The
The Series
Changes have occurred since the end of season one, with the Swindon paper merchant staff merging with David Brent’s lot in Slough. Much to the chagrin of Brent, however, is the appointment of his equivalent in the Swindon offices as his boss, the slick and highly-popular Neil. There are many new faces to accompany those we came to know and love from the first series, with David Brent managing to raise the ire of basically all of them. There’s the black guy who is insulted by David’s lack of tact, the disabled girl who is left in the stairwell during a fire drill and the countless staff who are taunted by David’s bad jokes and cruel attempts at ‘having a laugh’.

Thankfully, though, the show doesn’t just turn into a series of David Brent lowlights. The self-important Gareth Keenan is still around, still tormented by office straight guy Tim. Watch on as Tim glues Gareth’s phone to the handset, hides all his belongings for charity and generally baits him into doing stupid things. Some of the funniest moments in the series surround Gareth trying to muscle in on the office good-looker Rachel, with Tim looking on in amazement at just what he says and does. Receptionist Dawn still has the chauvinistic Lee as a fiancé, yet has underlying feelings for Tim. Sound like something similar to your office? There’s plenty more where that came from.

Most of the humour comes from the slick editing and documentary-style format of the show, the interviews with staff proving a comedic highlight. Just try and keep yourself from bursting with laughter during one of those awkward or impeccably paced silences. Tim’s cynical outlook on life and his reserved approach to goal setting and women possibly provides the most human character and almost serves as the lead man when Ricky Gervais’ David Brent runs off the rails all too often.

The only real downside to the series is the fact that the series may well be too cringe-worthy for its own good. Too many times will you be watching David Brent make an ass out of himself and actually feel just plain uncomfortable, no matter how funny it actually is. This is tempered somewhat towards the end of the series where things get a little more series for the man in charge, but a better balance between the utter stupidity of David Brent and the antics of the rest of the staff possibly could’ve saved a few people from turning off.

Nevertheless, the laughs really do come thick and fast and there really isn’t a series like it on television at the moment. As I’ve said, the plan is to shelve the series indefinitely except for a couple of special episodes airing in the UK before Christmas which will hopefully make their way down to Region 4. Do yourself a favour and check out possibly the best comedy of recent times, if not one of the finest to come out of the BBC in history. Trust me, it’s that good.

Office: Series Two, The
Video
Rumour also has it that the series two release will be a two-disc set much like the first, with a whole disc dedicated to the extras. As this review copy is one a single disc the video transfer will most likely be slightly improved on the retail version, so bear that in mind.

The 1.78:1 transfer doesn’t look affected by the limited space on the one disc, with the sharpness maintained throughout and the colours looking as realistic as possible, with all the whites and grey of your traditional, boring office block. Aliasing creeps in on the odd occasion in the usual spots (blinds, ties, etc) and it will be interesting to see whether this becomes less of an issue when the two-disc retail release surfaces later down the track, if indeed it is a double at all. Nevertheless there’s nothing to distract you from the action, and the tears in your eyes will most likely hide any anomalies I’ve pointed out in the review.

Audio
The soundtrack shouldn’t be affected too much by the lack of the extra disc in the review copy so we can safely report that the 2.0 mix is as good as you’re ever going to get with this series. The front speakers are filled with the tripe coming out of David Brent and Gareth Keenan’s mouths along with the usual office ambient effects like ringing phones and photocopiers. Everything is crystal clear and will sound much better than the rather bland stereo mix we had during the television broadcast.

Extras
With successful series’ such as this one there is often the temptation to become complacent and merely churn out the episodes on a feature-less disc. Thankfully this is not the case with this release as the extras here are of some value at least.

First up is the hilarious deleted scenes package, looking as spick-and-span as the actual episodes themselves. We get to see Gareth parading around in lycra bike shorts, much to the amusement of Dawn and Tim, the stereotypical IT guy spinning another bogus yarn, this time about Bruce Lee, some more footage of Brent with his staff appraisals, Neil suffering through another of David’s silly little observations on the workings of the office, the girls teasing Gareth with lesbian undertones, Gareth gunning for David’s job and Tim and Dawn making fun of Gareth’s evacuation plan for disabled people, all in a neat little 12-minute package. Most of these could’ve slotted in nicely among the rest of the gags but were cut presumably due to time reasons. A great little package of clips that are well worth a look.

Office: Series Two, The
Next up are the outtakes from the series, and I’d be guessing these were only the tip of the iceberg. How you could stop yourself from laughing every time you play one of those scenes is beyond me, so we get to see some of the moments where the cast just can’t keep it together. A very funny package that goes a long way to showing how much fun the cast had doing the show.

Possibly the meatiest extra on this release is the video diary compiled by creators Ricky Gervais (who, if you didn’t already know, plays David Brent in the series) and Stephen Merchant. We witness the calamity that is writing the series followed by the even greater calamity that was filming it. There are also a few words from the one and only Elvis Costello at an awards night, behind the scenes red carpet footage, production footage and various other clips which make this 20-minute piece a great featurette to round things off.

Overall
This is a great comedy series, easily the sharpest and most impressively timed show of recent times. Those familiar with Australia’s Frontline will appreciate the incredibly poignant humour behind this series and will revel in the antics of the staff. It’s a shame some of it is too uncomfortable to laugh at on occasion but that’s only a minor complaint. The audio and video presentation is sound, though look for improvements in the transfer with the mooted 2-disc retail release, while the extras are a great accompaniment to the main event. Grab this disc as soon as it hits the shelves, though make sure you’ve snapped up the first season as well. So long, The Office. I’ll be waiting in anticipation for those two special episodes this Christmas.


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