The Office (British TV series)

The Office is a British television mockumentary sitcom first broadcast in the UK on BBC Two on 9 July 2001. Created, written, and directed by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, and produced by Ash Atalla, the programme follows the day-to-day lives of office employees in the Slough branch of the fictional Wernham Hogg paper company. Gervais also stars in the series, playing the central character David Brent.

The Office
Cringe comedy
Created byRicky Gervais
Stephen Merchant
Written byRicky Gervais
Stephen Merchant
Directed byRicky Gervais
Stephen Merchant
Opening theme"Handbags and Gladrags" arranged by Big George
Country of originUnited Kingdom
No. of series2
No. of episodes12 (and 3 specials) (list of episodes)
Executive producer(s)Anil Gupta
Jon Plowman
Producer(s)Ash Atalla
CinematographyAndy Hollis
Editor(s)Nigel Williams
Running timeapprox 30 minutes
Production company(s)Capital United Nations Entertainment
The Identity Company
Original networkBBC Two
BBC One (specials)
Original release9 July 2001 (2001-07-09) 
27 December 2003 (2003-12-27)
Related showsThe Office (US series)
Le Bureau
La Job
Os Aspones
External links

Two six-episode series were made, along with a pair of 58-minute Christmas specials. When it was first shown on BBC Two, ratings were relatively low, but it has since become one of the most successful of all British comedy exports. As well as being shown internationally on BBC Worldwide, channels such as BBC Prime, BBC America, and BBC Canada, the series has been sold to broadcasters in over 80 countries, including ABC1 in Australia, The Comedy Network in Canada, TVNZ in New Zealand, and the pan-Asian satellite channel STAR World, based in Hong Kong. The show was first shown in the United States on BBC America in 2003, and later on Cartoon Network's late night programming block Adult Swim from 2009 to 2012.[1]

The show centres on themes of social clumsiness, the trivialities of human behaviour, self-importance and conceit, frustration, desperation and fame. The protagonist David Brent was influenced by Basil Fawlty (played by John Cleese) from the acclaimed BBC sitcom Fawlty Towers.[2] The success of The Office led to a number of localised adaptations (based upon its basic story and themes) being produced for the television markets of other nations, resulting in an international Office franchise.[3]


The show is a mockumentary based in a branch of a large paper company called Wernham Hogg (where "life is stationery"), in the Slough Trading Estate in Berkshire. Slough is a large town immortalised for its lack of appeal by John Betjeman in his poem "Slough" ("Come, friendly bombs and fall on Slough/It isn't fit for humans now...").[4] The office is headed by general manager David Brent (Gervais), aided by his team leader and Assistant to the Regional Manager Gareth Keenan, played by Mackenzie Crook. Much of the series' comedic success stems from Brent, who frequently makes attempts to win favour with his employees and peers with embarrassing or disastrous results. Brent's character flaws are used to comic effect, including numerous verbal gaffes, inadvertent racism and sexism, and other social faux pas.

The other main plot line of the series, and many of the more human elements found therein, come from the unassuming Tim Canterbury (Martin Freeman), whose relationship with bored receptionist Dawn Tinsley (Lucy Davis) is a major arc in the series. Their flirtation soon builds to a mutual romantic attraction, despite her engagement to dour and laddish warehouse worker Lee (Joel Beckett).


Actor Character Appearances
First Last Series 1 Series 2 Specials
Ricky Gervais David Brent "Downsize" "Christmas Special, Part 2" Main
Martin Freeman Tim Canterbury Main
Mackenzie Crook Gareth Keenan Main
Lucy Davis Dawn Tinsley Main
Stirling Gallacher Jennifer Taylor-Clarke Main Recurring Guest
Oliver Chris Ricky Howard "Judgement" Main Does not appear
Ralph Ineson Chris Finch "The Quiz" "Christmas Special, Part 2" Main Recurring Guest
Patrick Baladi Neil Godwin "Merger" Does not appear Main Guest
Stacey Roca Rachel "Interview" Does not appear Main Does not appear
Elizabeth Berrington Anne "Christmas Special, Part 1" "Christmas Special, Part 2" Does not appear Main

Main characters

David Brent

David Brent is the general manager of the Slough branch of Wernham Hogg paper merchants. Insecure, and totally narcissistic, he believes he is a successful maverick in the business world and a Renaissance man, talented in philosophy, music and comedy. Although he thinks he is patient, funny and popular, others perceive him as annoying, rude and selfish. His immature behaviour comes across as he bumbles around the office – always hovering around the camera – telling unfunny jokes, performing hackneyed impressions, and generally getting into trouble by talking before thinking. Brent thinks he is a kind, politically correct man, but his preoccupation with this position, and the discrepancy between it and his often patronising (and at times offensive) jokes, gets him into trouble. His cluelessness regarding his awkwardness, his lack of empathy, his unquenchable thirst for gratification, and his ridiculous way of trying to save face are the driving comical forces of this show.

Tim Canterbury

Tim Canterbury is a sales representative at Wernham Hogg. Unlike David, Tim is witty and considerate. His humour and kindness make him one of the most likeable employees in the office, but at 30 he still lives with his parents and works at a job he believes to be completely pointless. He maintains his sanity by pursuing an improbable romance with receptionist Dawn Tinsley and by playing practical jokes on Gareth. Although he wishes to leave Wernham Hogg to study psychology, his insecurity prevents him from taking any significant action. During Series One and Two, he also fails to further pursue a relationship with Dawn. Chosen as David's successor at the end of series 2, he declines and lets Gareth take the position, which, however, does not keep him from playing pranks on Gareth.

Gareth Keenan

Gareth Keenan is Tim's selfish deskmate and enemy. Gareth is a humourless jobsworth with few good personality traits. He is obsessed with his military service in the Territorial Army and annoys Tim with his pretentious comments. He takes pride in being "Team Leader", not realising his title is mostly meaningless, and he imposes the little authority he has on his co-workers. He is stubborn and insensitive. Tim and Dawn repeatedly insinuate homosexuality through questioning him about his military experience using double entendres. Apparently proud of his close connections with David and glossing over David's poor treatment of him, he later – during the Christmas special – gets back at David by patronising and humiliating him in front of the cameras.

Dawn Tinsley

Dawn Tinsley is the company receptionist and Brent's dogsbody. She frequently has to put up with his attempts at humour and social interaction. Like her friend and co-worker Tim, she is aware of the sad state of her life – she has been in a long, rocky engagement with her fiancé Lee, a surly warehouse worker, and gave up illustrating children's books to pursue her current fruitless career. During the Christmas special, Dawn and Lee return from their illegally prolonged US vacation.

Jennifer Taylor-Clarke

Jennifer Taylor-Clarke (Stirling Gallacher) was Brent's immediate superior in Series One. Nicknamed Camilla Parker Bowles by him, she is a serious-minded professional, and Brent's behaviour and comedy-driven style of management are shown to be puerile and ineffectual by contrast. At the end of Series One she is made a partner in the firm and, during series 2, repeatedly reprimands David for inappropriate behaviour.

Ricky Howard

Ricky Howard (Oliver Chris) was introduced as Brent's new temp in the pilot, and a recent graduate. He was prominently featured in episode three, where he and Tim form a team for trivia night. The two end up winning, successfully answering a tie-breaker question on Shakespeare against Finch. His past experiences at game shows, including winning Blockbusters, causes Finch to wind him up after beating him and Tim at "Throwing" claiming "Screw Blockbusters, Screw Bob Holness and screw your Gold Run!".

Chris Finch

Chris Finch ("Finchy") (Ralph Ineson) is a "bloody good" outside sales representative, he is the only character in the series who is genuinely and deliberately narcissistic. He is brashly confident, openly sexist, rasping-voiced with a natural flair for bullying others with swift, humiliating putdowns, Brent being his usual target. He likes to dominate conversations and is successful with women, but shows a humourless violent attitude when he loses the staff quiz in Series One. David describes him as his "best friend" but actually acts more like a lackey, laughing at his jokes and attempting to impress him to feel popular only to be repaid with verbal abuse. Finch is such a bad loser at the quiz, he exclaims he and Brent can beat the team who beat them at many other things, so decides he can beat them at "Throwing", and if he throws anything they choose over the building, they will win the quiz and the champagne instead (which they eventually do, with Tim's shoe being the nominated object).

Neil Godwin

Neil Godwin (Patrick Baladi) is Brent's counterpart at the Swindon branch and eventually his immediate superior. He is young, charming, professional and energetic, a more competent manager than Brent, and has a better relationship with staff. Brent is hugely resentful and jealous of him, and makes occasional, often childish attempts to either undermine or rival him. He grows increasingly exasperated with Brent's incompetence, poor judgement and failure to do his job properly and is therefore instrumental in David's redundancy.


Rachel (Stacey Roca) is a bubbly and attractive co-worker who starts a relationship with Tim. After a deluded Gareth reveals his plans to seduce her, Tim is shocked when she begins to pressure him to make a greater commitment. He realises that his ongoing love for Dawn is far greater than his feelings for Rachel and breaks off the relationship.


Anne (Elizabeth Berrington): Only appearing in the Christmas special, she is Tim's pregnant desk mate. She annoys him as she speaks continuously about herself and other topics no-one else is interested in. She coldly tells David that no one is interested in his invitation to go out for a drink, causing discomfort amongst her co-workers. However, an encounter with Glynn at the office party causes her to run out of the office in tears.

Secondary characters

Several other recurring characters, although not central to the episodes, play an important role in the series. These include:

  • Keith Bishop (Ewen MacIntosh): Keith works in the accounts department. Heavy set, slow-talking and apparently emotionless, he is a man of few words. When he does speak, his comments can be eloquent and sometimes disturbing.
  • Lee (Joel Beckett): Dawn's fiancé who works in the company's warehouse. She met him in school and they have been together ever since. Lee is humourless, dull, and controlling. He often undermines and embarrasses Dawn, and is dismissive of her ideas of being an illustrator. His idea of a romantic proposal was a four-word notice in the newspaper — "Lee love Dawn. Marriage?". It is clear from an early stage that she stays with him out of a fear of loneliness rather than real love. Lee has a somewhat violent temper, which is shown when he holds Canterbury against a wall, simply for starting to dance with Dawn.
  • Glynn aka Taffy (David Schaal): The misogynistic, sexist warehouse manager at the company and Lee's supervisor, who is seen as being very slack and has little respect for anyone who works outside the warehouse, particularly management.
  • Malcolm (Robin Hooper): An older staff member, he is naturally most worried about the prospect of redundancies and therefore often challenges Brent's handling of the situation, criticising his relaxed attitude, his lack of management ability and several incidents, such as hiring a personal secretary when the office is facing redundancies. Brent openly dislikes him, sneering at Malcolm's criticisms and openly lying about "faking" the high blood pressure that cost him a promotion and saved the Slough office from closure. Malcolm does not appear in Series Two, having presumably been made redundant.
  • Donna (Sally Bretton): Introduced in series 1, episode 2 as the daughter of Brent's friends Ron and Elaine, who has come to work at the office. She makes a quick impact in the office, starting a relationship with Ricky, but fails to reciprocate Keenan's romantic feelings towards her.
  • Karen Roper (Nicola Cotter): Brent's personal secretary, hired because he insists that he needs an assistant. Several of the staff are apprehensive about Brent hiring new and unnecessary personnel while the branch is facing downsizing and redundancies. She is not seen in Series Two due to David proclaiming she was 'Last in, first out'.
  • Trudy (Rachel Isaac): Welsh Trudy is first introduced in Series Two as one of several of the new intake from the Swindon branch. Almost immediately, she establishes herself as something of a good-time girl, blending in well with the rest of the staff and enjoying a booze-fuelled birthday celebration in her honour at the office. Her casual, sexually charged nature does not go unnoticed by the male members of staff, with David often trying to take advantage of this only to be ignored.
  • Oliver (Howard Saddler): Oliver is good-natured and tolerant, which is lucky for him as he is the only black person working in the office. Because of this he becomes the target for most of David's well-meaning but hideously misguided attempts to show what a politically correct and racially tolerant man he is.
  • Brenda (Julie Fernandez): Brenda naturally brings out the worst in Brent; she is not impressed by his patronising behaviour. She highlights the gap between Brent's vision of himself as a modern enlightened man and the reality of his ignorance and thoughtlessness. She uses a wheelchair, which results in her being stranded on a stairwell during a fire drill when David and Gareth decide they cannot be bothered to carry her all the way down.
  • Rowan (Vincent Franklin): A training facilitator who is progressively frustrated by Brent's attempts to undermine and take control of a team training session, often forcing it to veer off track.
  • Simon (Matthew Holness): Working in IT, he visits the office to install firewall software on the computers while discussing his theories with Keenan about Bruce Lee faking his own death so that he could go undercover and fight the Triads. An arrogant show-off and boaster, he claims to be the record holder of the fastest lap down at 'SuperKarts', something which he claims experts have said would make him the best Formula 1 racer in the country.
  • Ray (Tom Goodman-Hill) and Jude (Jennifer Hennessy): The only two recurring characters in Series Two who do not work for Wernham Hogg. Instead, they work for a consultancy firm that organises business management seminars. They approach Brent about being a guest speaker at one of the seminars but are totally unimpressed with his unorthodox presentation on motivational techniques.
  • Helena (Olivia Colman): A reporter for the internal paper merchant newspaper "Inside Paper" who finds interviewing Brent quite difficult because he attempts to dictate what she should write in her article.
  • Carol (Sandy Hendrickse): Brent's blind date with whom he hits it off and who seems to like him.
  • Oggy aka 'The Ogg Monster' (Stephen Merchant): One of Gareth's best friends. His real name is Nathan.


Main cast

Minor cast


In total, there are fourteen episodes of The Office: six in each series and two 45-minute Christmas special episodes.

Critical reception

The show has received critical acclaim, and has been regarded as one of the greatest British sitcoms of all time.[5] Series one currently holds a Metacritic score of 98 out of 100, based on 12 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim".[6] Series two received similar acclaim, holding a Metacritic score of 93 out of 100, based on 16 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim".[7] The Office Christmas specials were also well received, and hold a Metacritic score of 98 out of 100, based on 19 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim".[8] The Office was named by The Telegraph as one of the 10 best TV sitcoms of all time.[9] In 2019, the series was ranked 6th on The Guardian's list of the 100 best TV shows of the 21st century.[10]

Awards and recognition

At the British Comedy Awards in 2001, The Office won the Best New TV Comedy award. In 2002, the series won the Best TV Comedy award, and Gervais the Best TV Comedy Actor award.[11][12]

In 2003, The Office won the Golden Globe Award for Best Television series: Musical or Comedy. It was the first British comedy in 25 years to be nominated for a Golden Globe, and the first ever to win one. Gervais was also awarded the Golden Globe For Best Actor in a Television series: Comedy or Musical.[13] The same year, the series won a Peabody Award.[14]

Music and theme song

The theme song for the show is "Handbags and Gladrags", arranged by Big George and originally written in the 1960s by Mike D'Abo, former vocalist for the pop group Manfred Mann.[15][16] The song "Sitting" by Cat Stevens was also considered by Gervais and Merchant to be the theme song for the show but was later rejected.[17]

In series 1, episode 4, a version performed by Gervais (in character as Brent) was featured over the end credits.

The first series also features Gervais performing "Free Love Freeway" and the Christmas Special includes him performing "If You Don't Know Me By Now".

Home video releases

DVD NameRegion 1Region 2Region 4Ep #Additional Information
Series One7 October 200314 October 20021 July 20046This double disc DVD set includes all six episodes from the first series. Bonus features include the featurette How I Made The Office, deleted scenes, Wernham Hogg News, Slough slang glossary, and Wernham Hogg personnel file.
Series Two20 April 200420 October 20031 July 20046This one disc DVD set includes all six episodes from the second series. Bonus features include a video diary, deleted scenes, out-takes, and a Slough slang glossary.
Christmas Special16 November 200425 October 20047 October 20042This one disc DVD set includes both hours of the Christmas Special. Bonus features include a documentary on the making of the specials, the full uncut music video of David Brent's cover of "If You Don't Know Me by Now", a featurette on the making of "Freelove Freeway", and a Golden Globes featurette.
Complete Collection16 November 200422 November 2005TBA14This four disc DVD set includes all 12 episodes from the first and second series, and both parts of the Christmas special. Bonus features include the How I Made The Office documentary, a documentary on the making of the specials titled The Office: Closed for Business, a commentary on the second part of the Christmas special, deleted scenes, out-takes, a video diary, the full uncut music video of David Brent's cover of "If You Don't Know Me by Now", a featurette on the making of "Freelove Freeway", and a Golden Globes featurette.
10th Anniversary Special Edition22 November 201124 October 201114 November 201214This four disc DVD set includes all 12 episodes from the first and second series, and both parts of the Christmas special. Bonus features include the How I Made The Office documentary, a documentary on the making of the specials titled The Office: Closed for Business, a commentary on the second part of the Christmas special, deleted scenes, out-takes, a video diary, the full uncut music video of David Brent's cover of "If You Don't Know Me by Now", a featurette on the making of "Freelove Freeway", and a Golden Globes featurette. Exclusive to this box set is the never-seen-before 20-minute pre-pilot, Comedy Connections featurette, broadcast wraparounds and celebrity interviews (including Hugh Jackman, Matthew Perry, Richard Curtis and Ben Stiller).



Microsoft UK: "The Office Values" and "Realising Potential"

In addition to the original two series and two Christmas-specials, Gervais and Merchant have revived the David Brent character for a pair of specials commissioned by Microsoft UK, entitled "The Office Values" and "Realising Potential". In 2004, Microsoft UK commissioned two 20-minute corporate videos featuring Brent being interviewed by Jeff Merchant (played by Stephen Merchant), a Microsoft employee who becomes increasingly exasperated by Brent's antics. Brent is obviously resentful of the company's success. He believes he has what it takes to become the next managing director of Microsoft and continually drops hints to that effect. While not on general release, the videos emerged on the Internet in 2006. The clips also appeared on certain peer-to-peer networks. Microsoft was unhappy with the leak, stating that the videos "were never intended to be viewed by the public".[18]

Comic Relief: "The Office Revisited"

Additionally, a Comic Relief charity short was made in 2013 entitled "The Office Revisited"


In 2013 Gervais developed a series of videos, and released them on his YouTube channel entitled "Learn Guitar with David Brent".


The Brent character also featured in the 2016 film David Brent: Life on the Road, this time with the contributions of Gervais but not Merchant.


  1. "The Office comes to Adult Swim". IGN. Retrieved 25 May 2019.
  2. "Fawlty Towers 40th anniversary: Britain's finest sitcom was TV's most perfectly constructed farce". The Independent. Retrieved 25 May 2019.
  3. Garrison, Laura Turner. "Exploring the International Franchises of The Office". Splitsider.
  4. "John Betjeman: Slough". Worlds Poetry. Retrieved 29 January 2015.
  5. Guide, British Comedy. "Top 50 TV Sitcoms - British Comedy Guide". Retrieved 25 September 2016.
  6. "The Office (UK)". Retrieved 25 September 2016.
  7. "The Office (UK)". Retrieved 25 September 2016.
  8. "The Office (UK)". Retrieved 25 September 2016.
  9. Hogan, Gerard O'Donovan, Ben Lawrence, Chris Harvey, Andrew Pettie, Neil Midgley and Michael. "The 10 best TV sitcoms of all time" via
  10. "The 100 best TV shows of the 21st century". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 September 2019.
  11. "Past Winners 2001". British Comedy Award. Retrieved 29 January 2015.
  12. "Past Winners 2002". British Comedy Award. Retrieved 29 January 2015.
  13. "Ricky Gervais' Surprise at Globe Win". Retrieved 29 January 2015.
  14. "The Office 63rd Annual Peabody Awards". Peabody Awards. Retrieved 29 January 2015.
  15. "The Office: Ricky and Steve on production". Retrieved 29 January 2015.
  16. "Handbags and Gladrags by Rod Stewart". Song Facts. Retrieved 29 January 2015.
  17. "04 January 2003/Transcript - Pilkipedia". Retrieved 22 August 2019.
  18. "Microsoft unhappy at Gervais leak". BBC News. 30 August 2006. Retrieved 23 August 2008.

Further reading

  • "Ricky Gervais". Screen Retrieved 27 January 2015.
  • Walters, Ben (1 December 2005). The Office. BFI TV Classics. London: BFI Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84457-091-1.

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