The Office: Episode 1
by Annie Wu, posted May 30th 2006 10:09PM
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(S01E01) In the beginning, Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant decided to create a mockumentary comedy about the painful emptiness of office life. And it was good.
The Office debuted in England in 2001 and later aired on BBC America, where I promptly fell in love with the show. I think I was watching Monty Python's Flying Circus on BBCA when a commercial popped up, promoting the premiere of The Office. It featured a scrawny fellow named Gareth (played by Mackenzie Crook, who would later be the wood-eyed pirate from Pirates of the Caribbean) talking about office relationships. He had a horrible bowl haircut and dark circles under his eyes, and yet I thought he was the most hilariously adorable thing I had ever seen. At that moment, I promised myself to watch. Little did I know I would soon have a new favorite show.
I suggest you American-version fans rent or buy the DVDs and watch along. You might even notice that this episode bears a striking similarity to the American pilot. That's because a large portion of the US script was pulled out from this episode word-for-word (save for a few Americanizations, like changing "Camilla Parker-Bowles" to "Hillary Rodham-Clinton").
This episode started off with a terribly awkward moment that set up the viewer for what kind of pain was to come. David Brent (Ricky Gervais) finished a phone conversation with a friend by jokingly asking, "How is Elaine? She left you yet?", only to stammer a good-bye, hang up, and glance at the camera, saying, "... She has left him. I forgot about that." I like a good show that hurts so much that I have to watch from between my fingers.
As Brent showed around a new temp, Ricky (played by Oliver Chris, Boyce from Green Wing), viewers met everyone in the office. The company, Wernham-Hogg, sold paper, so the atmosphere was less than exciting. Workers quietly went about their business, despite Brent's desperate attempts to funny up the environment (with Billy Bigmouth, comics on the walls, random stuffed monkeys on coat-racks, and other pointless novelties). We also learned that there were trust issues against Brent, especially since the news of a possible downsizing. The only person with full faith in Brent is the Assistant (to the) Regional Manager, Gareth. He's pale and scrawny, but he talks like a manly sort of guy, boasting about his fixed-up car and Territorial Army activities (the TA is pretty much a volunteer army of part-time soldiers).
We also first learned of the relationship -- or lack thereof -- between Tim and Dawn (played by Martin Freeman and Lucy Davis). They were doing some innocent flirting throughout the episode, playing with each others' hair instead of working. Just as Tim invited Dawn to a post-work drink toward the end of the episode, we were introduced to Dawn's fiancé, Lee, who worked at Wernham-Hogg's warehouse. Watching Tim and Dawn hold back their feelings for each other will remain a recurring theme in the series. I've always felt that the best part about their "relationship" was the importance of Gareth. Tim and Dawn (especially Tim) constantly picked on Gareth with childish jokes and teasing.
Tim: You're a twat, Gareth. You're a twat and a knob-end.
Gareth: I'm still not listening, so it's not offending me.
Tim: Alright, so you won't hear this... You're a cock, you're a cock, you're a cock... You're a cock.
For Tim and Dawn, these pranks and jokes were like mini-dates, time for bonding, since they couldn't actually go out with each other. One of the first pranks we saw Tim play was the encasement of Gareth's stapler in jelly (pictured). The moment also allowed for Brent to promote himself as a humanitarian (this will happen throughout the series) when he watched Gareth fish out the stapler with his fingers ("No! Eat it out! There's people starving in the world... which I hate," he said, making a point to look at the camera).
The episode ended with yet another painful moment. I remember cringing so much while watching this for the first time. To show Ricky just how fun he is in the office, Brent decided to play a little practical joke on Dawn.
Brent: As you are aware, there are going to be redundancies. And you've made my life easier, in as much as I'm going to have to let you go first.
Dawn: What? Why?
Brent: Why?... Stealing. Thieving.
Dawn: Thieving?... What am I meant to have stolen?
Brent: Post-it notes.
And so it continued, until Dawn broke down into tears. "That was... a joke there," Brent finally said, to which Dawn replied, sniffling, "You wanker. You're such a sad little man." Brilliant.
Ladies and gentlemen, that was when I became hooked. Just 30-minutes of this hilarious, agonizing pain had me sold. More cringe-worthy moments and biting irony to come next week with the second episode, aptly named "Episode 2" (ooh).