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The Office Christmas Specials

The Office Christmas Specials

By Jack Murphy • December 8th, 2012
Static Mass Rating: 5/5

Original airdate: December 26th and 27th, 2003
Running time: 96 minutes

Writers and director: Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant

Cast: Ricky Gervais, Martin Freeman, Mackenzie Crook, Lucy Davis

The Office

The Office has a special place in my heart; born and raised in Slough, the trading estate was where I spent most of my days. It’s also the bane of my life. Every time I’ve introduced myself and said where I live, it’s always ‘oh isn’t that where the Office is set?’. As a consequence, the nicknames David Brent, Ricky Gervais and The Office have been thrown around over the years.

But that’s my personal feelings out of the way.

The Office Christmas Specials follow on from the TV series about a standard office based in Slough that’s run by the enigmatic (or completely foolish) David Brent (Gervais). The programme covered all means of office politics, from the overly friendly boss to office romances; it gave a real glimpse into the working world.
Split into two parts, the first sets the scene of what life is like for everyone three years later: Brent’s become a travelling salesman but still spends most of his time in the old office, Gareth’s taken on Brent’s former role, and Dawn’s living abroad with her fiancé, whilst Tim’s still brooding over it.

The second part of the special is focused very much on Christmas. On one of Brent’s many excursions back to the office the subject of the Christmas party gets brought up, and the challenge is put forward of Brent bringing a date. He then explores online dating to try to prove that he is as successful and charming as he claims to be.

Running alongside this main plotline are a series of micro interviews with members of staff, giving their insights into their life, love and work. The mockumentary style of the series and the Christmas special is a brilliant platform to gain a deeper glimpse into individual characters outside of their day to day interactions. For some characters it just embellishes their strange personalities, like with Gareth and his military outlook on life, whereas for other characters it makes them more believable and sympathetic, like Tim.

The Office

For Brent, the interviews give a reason behind all of his actions. To nearly everyone watching The Office the reasons for his actions are ridiculous and unjustifiable. But the point is he knows exactly what he’s doing, even when he’s playing up, he knows and that adds so much more to the comedy and the drama of the programme. The artistry of The Office is that it’s so hard to know whether Brent really believes his own rubbish, or if he feels like he has to live up to some kind of persona. He has a look in his eyes that says he really doesn’t believe a word he says, but his repeated attempts to become famous speak otherwise.

Where this Christmas special excels is that we can really get involved with whether he’s as bad as he seems, or if he feels trapped in a semi-celebrity world that he’s struggling to make sense of. Feeling as though he’s been ‘stitched up’ by the editing in the programme, it’s easy for us to start questioning the integrity of the documentary genre; as a style of television it’s susceptible to clever editing to manipulate our perception of the people being filmed. David feels like they’ve taken advantage of a few mistakes he made throughout the series, and we can easily be persuaded by this. As soon as we start to think like him, we can start feeling his pain and sympathise with how his life’s been disrupted by the original series.

That’s until he continues to act like a fool in every other situation he’s in. On the road, in the pub, in the office, he still acts like a prat which does undermine his claims that he was ‘stitched up’. But that’s where the comedy comes from. Another character that really came into his own in this special was Tim, played by Martin Freeman. Already The Officefantastic in the series, the Christmas special shows him to be the most likeable character in the programme. His distressing split with Dawn, coupled with a very irritating new colleague, fuels the dissatisfaction he feels for his life.

Tim raises the whole question of closure during his interviews, a subject which is of importance with the Christmas special being the last episode of The Office. He very poignantly says towards the end of the programme that ‘life isn’t about endings, it’s a series of moments’. Once the cameras are shut off, they continue to live their lives, and there isn’t a finite ‘happily ever after’ moment that you live in forever, but instead there are defining moments that need to be lived and enjoyed.

Tim is a person that really put himself out there and lived in the moment when he asked Dawn out, and upon being rejected he demonstrates what it is to have tried and failed. No ‘happily ever after’, but, instead, he has to live with the cruel reality of not The Officegetting what he wanted. It’s in this Christmas episode that we see how someone lives with the consequence of trying. Until we come to the end.

The ending, without ruining the surprise, is nothing short of a pure triumph. If you’re of the opinion that Brent is a bad person then you can get suitably outraged, but if you have a bit of a soft spot for him then no doubt you’ll be punching the air. For Tim, there could not be a better conclusion; it’s the ending (or moment) that everyone had been waiting for throughout two seasons and the whole Christmas special. The timing of it stayed true to The Office, by withholding up until we’ve completely lost hope.

The Office Christmas Specials were a great way to bring The Office to a close; the specials bring definite closure or answers, but instead they open up even more avenues. Many characters have a chance to shine even more than they’d already done in the series, and the documentary style is continued from the series with great success. Although Christmas is only a minor part of the special, it’s still up there with the best of them.

P.S. The bus station as shown in the opening sequence has actually been knocked down and remade, the roundabout has been turned into a junction, but the office building is still very much there.

Jack Murphy

Jack Murphy

Jack is an English Literature student in his early Twenties (The Golden Age!) at the University of Leeds. He insists on saying that he’s originally from Slough, Berkshire which is the setting of Ricky Gervais’ comedy series The Office – and not a day goes by that he’s not reminded of that fact… Irrespective of being mocked for it, Jack still is, and will most likely remain, a big Gervais fan.

And he sure knows how to spend his time. Having subscribed to a well known DVD delivery service for the past three years, Jack spends half of his days watching DVDs – and the other half on catch-up websites watching TV programmes.

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