"I'm Waiting for a Blind Date and I Was Afraid You Were It!"
R. M. Fisher | New Zealand = Middle Earth! | 10/02/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"When we last left the staff of "The Office" it was at a crossroads: secretary Dawn and her fiancee Lee were headed for the States, Gareth was headed for a promotion, and everyone's least favourite boss David Brent had been made redundant. The only person not heading in a new direction (unless you count downwards) was the person who never moves at all: Tim, the every-man of the show whose future prospects were looking monotonous and bleak.
Now, three years later the BBC documentary crew have come to film a follow-up show and see where their previous stars have ended up. Gareth is on a power trip as the new management boss of the office, though he wields about as much respect as David did in his day. Tim is miserable, unsuccessfully trying to bond with the new secretary who is utterly baffled at his jokes and seated next to Anne, a woman with appalling manners and long-winded stories. Dawn is tanned in Florida, but without a real job permit she's forced to babysit full-time for the mean-spirited Lee's sister's baby.
And David. Oh boy. Reduced to a cleaning-produce salesman, he's attempting in his evenings to break into show business by guest appearances at pubs and nightclubs. However, the general public at large despise him, and he's beginning to realise what the rest of the world has always known: he's a pathetic schmuck. And here is where the show takes its most astonishing turn - in the first two seasons, we alternatively cringe and laugh at David's behaviour, but now we are made to feel profound pity for him. One scene in particular, in which David eats alone in an empty food court, actually brought tears of pity to my eyes. No one deserves to be this lonely.
But the Christmas party is looming. David pops into the office uninvited on a regular basis, and the manager Neil is so fed up that he tricks David into agreeing to bring a hot date to the party. Desperate, David seeks the help of a dating agency, which results in several appalling dates and brings up many misogynist, sexist and size-ist comments that only David Brent could possibly come up with. Meanwhile, Tim is bracing himself for Dawn's imminent arrival and praying that he won't humiliate himself yet again.
There are a couple of things I didn't quite agree with: Neil has always been a reasonable and likeable man in the past, but here acts quite jerky toward David (or maybe he's just reached the end of his rope in regards to his ex-employee), and Gareth seems a bit under-used. Worse however, was the complete lack of lines given to Jennifer, who has always been my favourite character. But the repulsive Chris Finch is finally told what we've all wanted to tell him since day one, and the actress playing Anne is so good that the creators probably wished they'd found and put her on the show sooner.
There is one scene that I really must point out simply because it's quite subtle but adds a lot to the overall playing-out of the show. When the staff pick out their Secret Santa names, Jamie (the *other* nice guy in the office), looks at his, smiles and promptly swaps it with Tim, who is in the process of declaring he can never buy his candidate a present. Later on, when Trudy is handing out the anonymous gifts, Gareth looks at his commando-soldier with distaste and demands to know who gave it to him. In the background we see Jennifer look at Jamie and mouth "was it you?" to which he nods. Given the fateful turn that Tim's Secret Santa gift takes, we can see that Jamie purposefully gave up his original name to give Tim once last chance. I never expected *this* show to make me go - "Awwww".
The entire two-part finale plays out to perfection. With the same wry humour, humdrum lives and scarily accurate portrayal of human behaviour, anyone who has been a fan of "The Office" will not be disappointed. Just when you think things can't get any worse for these characters, the heavens open and God (or at least the writers) throws them a curveball that may revive their fortunes. The performances here are Oscar-worthy, and I'm not exaggerating. From David's decline into depression and renewal of hope, to Tim's face when he hugs Dawn goodbye to the strains of "I Want You Back For Good", to Dawn's quintessential scene (don't worry, you'll know it when you see it), the talent here surpasses the television screen that displays it.
The Christmas send-off is the best possible ending to an amazing show, giving us everything we expect and more; the resolution to the Tim/Lee/Dawn love triangle in particular is done with a simplicity and poignancy I just didn't think this show could possess. At the same time we're expecting a `real life' ending, we're praying for a happy ending, and though I just can't give it away, I promise that you'll be more than satisfied. "
So funny I forgot to laugh
G. Manino | Boston, MA | 11/11/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The Office hit me hard, much to the dismay of my coworkers who had to listen to my analysis of the series ad nauseum. Lots of people have reviewed this series, and I don't think another summary is necessary. But I wanted to offer a slightly different take on why this thing "got in amongst me" as much as it did.
For starters, I never thought of this series as a comedy. Yes, it has some very funny moments. (OK, it has some hilarious moments.) But they're not what define this series.
At its core, I think it's about David Brent and Tim Canterbury, two people who are really two sides of a single coin. Superficially, they couldn't be more different. One demands attention, the other shuns it. One is a juvenile and utterly self-deluded egomaniac, while the other is principled and sensitive. But both are finding it impossible to get what they want out of life. They're insecure and frightened, and they wear their dysfunctional personalities like suits of armor. Unfortunately, this comes at a high price. They are being dishonest with themselves and with the other people in their lives. In retaliation, life periodically dishes out humiliation, sort of like the shock the rat gets when he takes the wrong turn in the maze. We're on the wrong path, and Zap, we're not going to be allowed to get away with it.
The other (wonderful) characters in the series exist mainly to put David and Tim in situations that reveal who they are. We find out that neither Tim nor David seem to respect themselves. Tim sells out his dream to return to college by staying on the job for a paltry promotion. He eventually refuses a high position, allowing his bizarre desk mate Garreth to get the job instead. David is consumed by jealousy as he sees others (especially his new boss, Neal) getting the respect and success that elude him. But he prances sycophantically around the abusive and hateful Finch, whom he considers a friend.
In each episode David and Tim have failures and crises that seem to happen in parallel. As David embarrasses himself with his guitar during the staff training day, Tim acts out and ultimately humiliates himself by asking Dawn out at the wrong time. In the incredible episode in which David gives his horrifically embarrassing comedy welcome to the "Swindon lot," Tim is literally stuck against the wall by Dawn's jealous boyfriend.
Tim wants a relationship, and David wants ego-gratification, and by the final episode Tim has a (great) girlfriend in Rachel, and David has a gig as a motivational speaker. Both manage to bring these potential successes crashing down.
In this final episode Tim and David each have their one honest moment, but it's too little, too late. Tim, defined by his fear of taking chances, takes the ultimate chance with Dawn. Although the sound is off, we suspect he says those Three Little Words. David, having been scathingly sarcastic and insubordinate to Neal, must beg the man for his job. Sad ironies abound. There are no happy endings.
Now it's Christmas, three years later. Dawn is living in the States with her odious, soul-crushing fiancé Lee, who is content to sponge off of his sister and her husband. Tim, having refused David's job, is under the boot of Garreth, and has an even more foul desk mate (Anne) than Garreth was. David sells cleaning supplies, and supplements his income with "celebrity" appearances so humiliating that even he can sense it.
Situations develop that threaten to propel David and Tim even deeper into irredeemable despair. David must find a date to bring to the Christmas party, challenged to do so by the recently engaged Neal. Dawn visits the Office for Christmas. Tim must not only face her, but must watch as the last vestiges of her hope for a future in Illustrating are destroyed by Lee.
But it's Christmas, dammit, a time for giving and receiving gifts. David receives a gift from a woman that he has clearly never gotten in his life. Finch notices the change immediately. Tim gives a gift to Dawn in the form of Three Other Little Words. They mean so much to her that they instantly change her life, and, presumably, his.
In these twelve half-hours, Gervais and Merchant demonstrate the consequences of failing to be honest with ourselves. The Christmas special brings it around full circle, and we are shown the path to redemption.
Watch this wonderful series. You could learn something important."
*All your wildest dreams come true!!*
Glutious Maximus | Norman, Ok | 09/01/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I was in England when they showed the Christmas Specials on the BBC. And as I am an avid fan of The Office, this was the day(s) that I had been waiting for for months! The special is not only the BEST ending to a series that I have ever seen, it is also the first time I have cried FOR SHEER JOY at the ending of it~
You will laugh with pain for the characters, and sit in awkward silence not knowing whether to laugh or cry for David/Tim/Dawn. It will fill all the gaps in your heart that the two season left! It contains all the painful David Brentisms only much more intensified as he is a despraite man at the end of his pitiful rope. Tim is at his all time low, while Gareth is at his all time high. And Dawn, well, you will see!
I definatly recommend this to anyone with a brain who has seen and loved The Office. It is simply The Best!"
What every "Office" fan has been waiting for
E. A Solinas | MD USA | 10/17/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
""The Office" is one of the most devastatingly real comedies in years, with clueless manager David Brent and his swarm of deadened cubicle workers. But the series ended on a sour note -- receptionist Dawn rejected everyman Tim, ghoulish Gareth became the boss, and boss David ended up "redundant." Now, in "The Office Special," Ricky Gervais brings 'em all back for some second chances.
Three years have passed, and the BBC has returned to The Office. Not a lot has changed: Gareth (Mackenzie Crook) is in charge, but wields no power and gets no respect. Tim (Martin Freeman) is still floundering in a dead-end job, and longing after Dawn (Lucy Davis). Dawn has moved to Florida with her fiancee Lee, and is unhappily working for her future sister-in-law. And David Brent (Ricky Gervais) has become an unsuccessful musician/cleaner salesman/Z-list celebrity, who has squandered his severance package on producing a single.
But the filmmakers bring all the people back for a reunion over the holidays, including flying Lee and Dawn back to the UK. David struggles to find a date for the holiday party (with his usual show of unconscious prejudice), and Tim is given one final chance to win his beloved Dawn over. Will Dawn finally choose the man who adores her? Will David find love himself?
A lot of people felt unsatisfied by the dour ending of "The Office's" TV run -- it may have been realistic, but it left many viewers as miserable and unfulfilled as Tim was. Now Gervais gives us a different ending -- a much happier one. Even at their most unlikeable and idiotic, it was hard not to like or pity the people in The Office. Even the ridiculous David.
Now Gervais serves up the Special. It's a satisfying one -- for one thing, it resolves the love triangle that tantalized viewers from the beginning of the show. Romantics will be left teary-eyed and smiling, and lovers of realism may be satisfied by the lack of mawkish overemoting. And David -- who started off as an ignorant git, but gradually became pitiable -- finds some sort of contentment.
It's not quite as you'd have it -- Gareth is strangely low-key, considering he was so prominent in the series. And Neil has undergone a bit of a personality shift. But "The Office Special" displays what people love best -- the mix of ridiculous and real, with the dull paper company and its frustrated employees. Even though three years have passed, nothing is really different.
Gervais is a comic genius as David -- he still makes idiotically sexist, prejudiced comments and tries to court public adoration, but only makes an idiot of himself. Despite that, his loneliness is striking. Freeman and David are lovely as Tim and Dawn, putting a quiet depth into their sometimes touching, sometimes awkward scenes together.
"The Office Special" is undeniably the end of the "Office" series -- it wraps things up so well that there is nowhere to go after this. The dark comedy of the series is still here, but given a softer edge that fans will love. Pure genius, and hinting at future greatness for Gervais' works."
Brilliant and sublime - regardless of what pro reviewers say
TMac | USA | 11/21/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Nancy Franklin wrote a review of "The Office Special" in the New Yorker's October 25th issue, the first sentence of which reads, "Nobody who has seen the BBC series "The Office" has anything bad to say about it, and there's a reason for that: it's perfect." I couldn't agree more with her on that count; the first two seasons constitute the best sitcom ever made. However, proceeds to damn "The Special" through faint praise, calling it "less satisfying" and saying that Gervais and Merchant "bowed under the pressure" to give fans a happy ending. She concludes the review by saying, "Still, one can't help wishing that Gervais and Merchant had left well enough...alone. We needed a sequel to "The Office" as much as we need a sequel to "Pride and Prejudice."
Franklin is completely wrong in her analysis here, and here's why. "The Office Special" can't be viewed as a "sequel" to the original series; it's more of a corollary.
The half-hour episodes of the original series were so compelling because no other work (sidebar: I believe the lofty word "work" applies to this stuff) has captured the awful, crushing, dingy mundanity of our lives like "The Office." Enough has been written on that count which doesn't need to be rehashed here. "The Special," on the other hand, accepts those facts, but appends them with this: our real triumps in life come in the face of that very mundanity, and they are the very few, very small moments of joy we manage wrench away from Our Office every now and again. That sounds sappy in print, but I think it's important to keep in mind as you view (and invariably re-view) "The Special."
So what we have here is NOT a sequel, and don't feel guilty about the happy endings. "The Office" as a whole wouldn't be as true to life if it didn't exhibit the little redeeming moments that other reviewers have pointed out here. The brilliance of "The Office Special" is that it shows just how incredible a moment of "connect" (a la D.H. Lawrence) can be. Watch the last ten minutes of "The Special," again and again, as it shows and says all this in a manner that I can't.