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TV Review: 'The Office' skewers cubicle culture

Friday, October 10, 2003

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette Tv Editor

Television's most painful comedy returns, just as funny and disquieting as ever. BBC America's "The Office" is hilarious, but it is an acquired taste as it serves up comedy of the uncomfortable. The show gives off a similar vibe to HBO's "Curb Your Enthusiasm": Characters routinely embarrass themselves while behaving badly. For them, appropriate social behavior is a wholly foreign concept.

The second season of "The Office" picks up where the first ended. The two offices of paper supply company Wernham Hogg have been consolidated in Slough outside London.



WHEN: 9 p.m. Sunday on BBC America.


Wince-inducing boss David Brent (Ricky Gervais) doesn't know what to make of his new employees who are more accustomed to hard work than his office full of layabouts who sing songs from "The Muppet Show" and argue whether a "team leader" is superior in office rank to a "senior sales rep."

Written and directed by star Gervais and Stephen Merchant, "The Office" stings with its depiction of office politics and personalities at their most petulant.

In the second episode of the new season, David must evaluate his staff. Receptionist Dawn (Lucy Davis) tells him about her true desire to illustrate children's books.

"Pipe dreams are good," he tells her. "If you keep trying, then when it doesn't happen, you can say, 'I gave it a go.' "

During a fire drill, David and his bug-eyed, idiot lieutenant Gareth (Mackenzie Crook) carry a wheelchair-bound woman down one flight of stairs -- and then leave her on the landing. Later, over a meal, David pulls and pushes the woman away from and back toward the table without any understanding that he's invading her personal space.

Tim (Martin Freeman), the only smart person working in the office, has eyes for a new employee, Rachel (Stacey Roca), which makes the previous object of his affection, the engaged Dawn, jealous.

But it all comes back to incompetent boss David, whose knack for offending others shines through in the season premiere when he repeats an ethnic joke and imitates a seminar leader of whom only one other person in the office has heard.

"The Office" isn't a place anyone in his or her right mind would want to work, but shadowing these characters for a half-hour is entertainment at its most brilliantly nuanced.

Rob Owen can be reached at or 412-263-2582. Post questions or comments to under TV Forum.

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