The Office - Christmas Specials Review
It’s three years after the documentary team left behind the cheerful halls of Wernam Hogg paper merchants, and the daily joy of the Slough Industrial Trading Estate, and now the employees have found infamy after the broadcast of the documentary it’s time to revisit them and see how they are getting on with their lives.
Despite his pleas at the end of the second series David Brent (Ricky Gervais) was not allowed to keep his job, he’s now a travelling salesman – though quick to point out he’s not a cold caller – and his position has been filled by Gareth Keenan (Mackenzie Crook). Of course the role was offered to Tim (Martin Freeman), but he passed it up because he didn’t want to spend his life in a paper merchant, he was planning on leaving, but three years on he’s still there, and it looks like he’s rather regretting submitting himself to being subordinate to Gareth. Many of the same old faces are still there, in fact most of them, though Dawn (Lucy Davis) is still on a rather extended holiday with her fiancé Lee in Florida – her dreams of illustration have fallen by the wayside, largely because it’s difficult to find work when you don’t actually have a work permit.
It’s very much business as usual in the office, not least because David can’t seem to say goodbye to the place, despite no longer being employed there he seems to be spending a lot of time at Wernam Hogg. He seems to think it’s good for morale, because all his old colleagues love to see him come in and cheer them up with fantastic tales from the road and his amazing wit. Mostly of course they just try to ignore him, but Neil – the regional manager – isn’t too happy with his omnipresence, things might be getting a little heated at Wernam Hogg, and all in the build up to the office Christmas party too.
Although the entire nation was crying out for a third series, it seems Ricky Gervais was rather worried about outstaying his welcome, but after leaving the second series on a cliff hanger he couldn’t walk away entirely, and so he wrote these two special episodes which were broadcast just before Christmas in 2003. Whilst these two episodes prove Gervais hadn’t run out of quality material – which leaves you wishing that this had been a series after all – it’s clear that ending the series with these specials has allowed the show to go out with dignity, even if dignity is something that’s sorely lacking for the subjects.
Brent is at an all time low, at least when he was at Wernam Hogg he had a position of power and in his mind, at least, that came along with the respect of his fellow employees, though he would have been quicker to label them friends, the chilled out entertainer/boss that he was. Now, travelling the motorways of England selling dusters and window cleaner to corporations he isn’t getting quite that level of respect. Not to mention the fact that he’s been rather deluding himself about the levels of fame the documentary has brought him. The only people that recognise him think he’s awful, but still he insists on travelling to cheap nightclub after cheap nightclub where he’s billed below Big Brother losers and Fame Academy rejects. Not to mention the fact he’s still single, and with some encouragement from Gareth has taken to online dating agencies in his desperation to find a date for the Christmas party. Brent used to be cringeworthy, but now he’s downright pathetic, and even he’s starting to realise it. It must have been a blow to his ego when his self-produced single – a cover version of If You Don’t Know Me By Now – couldn’t crack the top 100.
If you thought the program was uncomfortable to watch before, just wait until you see David humiliated after a ‘celebrity’ dating game goes rather awry. Not to mention the horror that comes from listening to the worrying woman that has taken Gareth’s chair in the office, at least Tim had the occasional reprieve of winding Gareth up, but what do you say to a pregnant accountant that insists on telling you – complete with mime – what position she was in when she conceived? Tim’s face is more often one of sheer defeat, rather than the face of astonishment in the stupidity of his fellow employees, without Dawn he’s lost, but the news that she’ll be making an appearance at the party only confuses him further. Could he be about to make a fool of himself for a third time?
The Office Christmas Specials carry just as much of the magic that the series did, and bring the story to a proper conclusion this time – in a genuinely nail biting ending. We may have all wanted more, and it was a brave move by Gervais to end The Office’s run considering the huge success it was, but these episodes are a fantastic way to say goodbye to Wernam Hogg and a great final note to remember the series on.
The specials are presented here in anamorphic widescreen, in their original ratio as broadcast by the BBC. As with all of The Office’s DVDs the picture isn’t outstanding – I still think they looked better on TV – but they’re not bad either. They could be sharper, with edges sometimes looking a little fuzzy and colours ever so slightly muddy, but for some reason the BBC have often had trouble with their transfers – the awful Blackadder transfers spring to mind – so things could have been a lot worse.
The faux documentary format isn’t one that sets the stage for a dynamic sound mix, all you can expect is dialogue and atmospheric effects, and that’s exactly what you get. Nothing to excite your sound set up, but still a fine reproduction of the original mix.
Commentary from Director Stephen Merchant and Ricky Gervais
Contrary to the packaging claims Stephen Merchant isn’t alone on this track, with Ricky Gervais there from the outset, although the commentary itself is only on the second of the two episodes. That isn’t really a loss though because neither of them seem to know why they’re there in the first place. They have little to talk about other than Ricky’s incredibly irritating day-to-day antics
The Office: Closed For Business
This collection of interviews and behind the scenes footage gives the cast a chance to say goodbye to The Office and reminisce nicely. Most entertaining are the snippets with Steve Merchant and Ricky Gervais, they can’t seem to help clowning around, and you may be shocked to learn how Ricky got those Golden Globes back through customs.
Golden Globe Featurette
The Office managed to pick up a pair of Golden Globes at the beginning of the year, most of the team went along for the ceremony, but none of them seemed to think they had a hope in hell of going home with anything. This short featurette shows them getting ready, pre party meetings and practicing their faces for when they don’t win. They weren’t the only ones that didn’t think they had a chance, when they won their first award, hilariously, there wasn’t even a camera pointing at their table, seems the Golden Globes producers were a little surprised as well.
“If You Don’t Know Me By Now” Music Video
Seen in part during the specials, here you can enjoy – if that’s the right word – Brent’s unique rendition in all its glory.
Full Band version of “Freelove Freeway”
Radio One have recently started playing this track, and as I write this they’re claiming it isn’t going to be released, which is rather odd considering the effort that has gone into the production. The now legendary track Freelove Freeway, as heard acoustically in the first series of the show, has been properly recorded, and this is the music video – which consists entirely of behind the scenes footage. It’s strange to see David Brent strumming away with Noel Gallagher on backing vocals, though I’m sure if they do release the track it’ll have a proper video, one that explains that the lonely traveller isn’t disappointed that he’d had 1000 women, and none of the were David.
Anyone who already owns the series will have to pick this up, Gervais was determined to end the series on a high, rather than waiting until they were flogging a dead horse to draw things to a close, and he’s succeeded. The extras are mostly frivolous but still enjoyable, you’ll only watch them once but then that can be said for most extra features, though if you haven’t already bought The Office discs separately you can save a few pounds buying the complete box set, which bundles together all the existing releases.
You can read Matt Day's exclusive interview with Ricky Gervais here