Deborah Ross

Business as usual | 18 August 2016

There are a few decent jokes and some of the bad songs are really good bad songs but there's no ensemble effort and the redemption is cynically achieved

I should probably nail my colours to the mast and state that The Office is possibly my favourite TV sitcom of all time (bar My Family, which surely goes without saying), but some comedies that have ended should simply stay ended, as no one has ever said, but should have. (Or maybe John Cleese has said it?) There are a few decent jokes here. Some of the bad songs are really good bad songs. But it’s a repetitive rehash rather than a worthwhile continuation of the character, and the comedy and pathos is in exactly the same place as it always was. That is, in the gap between the winner David Brent (Ricky Gervais) thinks he is, and the loser we know him to be. Fifteen years ago, that was revolutionary, and genius, and funny, and affecting, but now? Not so much. Quite tiresome, in fact.

This is written and directed by Gervais, with no input from his Office co-writer, Stephen Merchant. (I’ve read they fell out. May be true, may not be true. Haven’t the faintest. No one tells me anything.) The TV series, you may remember, left Brent on a high — he told Finchy to eff off, he charmed a lady and, most importantly, he exited with dignity — but the intervening years have not been kind to him. He is now a lowly sales rep with a company that sells cleaning and feminine hygiene products. You wouldn’t think Tampax would need much selling, but here he is: ‘One size fits all… no, it doesn’t actually.’

It’s business as usual, mockumentary-wise, as Brent shoots furtive little looks at the camera, and the camera often painfully lingers for just a beat too long. And it’s business as usual narratively, as he tours the office and makes excruciatingly inappropriate jokes while introducing us to the various characters, including a woman who appears to be smitten with him, for reasons that are unfathomable, but you just have to buy.

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