Here's a tip: Don't watch The Office when you're depressed
about the pointlessness of your work life, or when you're fed up with
your boss' idiotic policies. After watching a few episodes, you may
find yourself telling off your boss and packing up to move to a
commune in the middle of nowhere, just to get away from the banal
horror of it all. Why? Because The Office is so spot-on with
its depiction of the worst aspects of the work world, where dreams
are suffocated and idiots reign supreme.
The second season of The Office picks up exactly where the
season left off. Tim has been promoted to a lead sales position,
leading him to abandon his fragile dream of quitting and going back
to college, and the Slough office of Wernham Hogg has incorporated
the Swindon office, so a bunch of new faces have appeared at the
office. Meanwhile, David is having a hard time dealing with the fact
that he has a new boss... who is much better-liked than he is.
The Office continues with its quasi-documentary feel; the
camera wanders around the office, sometimes peering through windows
or focusing on side details as well as capturing the central point of
action in a scene, and the characters show with occasional sidelong
glances that they're aware of the camera's presence in the room.
Intercut with the episodes are short interviews with the various
characters as well, offering a chance to see characters like David
"talk the talk" before we see all too clearly that they
have no clue how to actually "walk the walk." It's a quite
interesting approach to filming the series, and it certainly gives
the show a great deal of believability.
The same characters take center stage as in the first season: Tim,
Gareth, David, and Dawn. Tim is, in a sense, the least dysfunctional
one of the group, in the sense that he's aware of his own
shortcomings (for instance, he's 30 years old and still lives with
his parents) and views them with a kind of self-deprecating humor.
Yet part of the bitter irony of The Office is that even though
Tim clearly loathes some parts of his job, like dealing with Gareth,
he's still too insecure to step away from the stultifying,
often-disagreeable, but undeniably safe environment of the office and
strike out for fresh pastures. That's a common thread in these
episodes, in fact; we learn that Dawn once had higher aspirations
than being a receptionist, and still clings to them in a vague way,
and even David begins to realize that his mental image of what his
job is like doesn't stand up to reality now that the reorganization
brings his bosses into "his" territory more often.
The Office defies conventional notions of what "comedy"
is. There are no jokes, per se, other than the practical jokes that
the characters play on each other; there's no laugh track; there are
no funny one-liners. The humor comes from the all-too-realistic
absurdities of people behaving the way people do, and from the way we
see the hypocrisy and distorted self-image of characters like David
and Gareth revealed in their behavior, without the characters
themselves realizing it. But most of all, the humor, if we can call
it that, comes from recognizing what we see in The Office as
representing, in one way or another, the maddening idiocies of our
own work lives.
How much you'll appreciate The Office really depends on how
much of the work world you've experienced. It's like the comic strip
Dilbert: I read it in college and found it pointless and not
funny... but years later, after several different jobs, the humor
hits home and it's one of my favorite strips of all time. So too with
The Office, except that the more that you relate to what's
going on, the more you'll cringe rather than laugh. Perhaps even more
so than the first season, The Office cuts close to the bone,
with episodes that verge on the unwatchable, simply because they're
so well done, capturing the pathetic and embarrassing
aspects of people's behavior with such fidelity. You might say you'd
rather have your teeth pulled without anesthesia
than work in a real-life place like The Office... but the
horrible thing is, you probably already do, to one extent or another.
The second season DVD of The Office contains all six half-hour
episodes plus special features on one disc. I only received a "check
disc" for this review, so I can't comment on the packaging.
The Office appears in a clear, natural-looking anamorphic
widescreen transfer at the show's original aspect ratio of 1.85:1.
The image is very crisp in close-up shots, but a bit softer at
further distances. The print is nicely clean and free of flaws or
The Dolby 2.0 soundtrack offers a clean and satisfactory listening
experience. The dialogue is nicely clear and easy to understand, with
no muffled parts; background sounds are well balanced with other
aspects of the track. English subtitles are also available.
Probably the most notable thing about the special features for The
Office: The Complete Second Series is that they reveal that Ricky
Gervais is just as annoying in real life as he is on-camera in his
role as David Brent; just watching his introductions to the deleted
scenes and outtakes will probably make you want to reach through the
screen and smack him upside the head.
In any case, the deleted scenes run about 13 minutes, and consist of
footage that looks like it was cut late in the process, as the image
quality is just as good as the final episodes. This is the section
that will be of the most interest to fans of the show, though they
run without any explanations or commentary. The outtakes, running
seven minutes, are not very interesting; rather than really funny
bloopers, they're mainly just shots in which the actors burst out
laughing in the middle of the scene. Lastly, we get a 20-minute
"video diary" from co-creators/writers Ricky Gervais and
Stephen Merchant; this sounds a lot better than it really is, since
all it amounts to is random behind-the-scenes footage of them (mostly
Gervais) fooling around.
Office: The Complete First Series, then the Complete
Second Series is an obvious choice for a purchase. Painfully
funny, true to the absurdities of real life, and very creative, The
Office is well worth picking up. Highly recommended.