When it comes to discussions of the greatest TV shows of the 21st Century, The Office will feature pretty high up on anyone’s list.
It was the first ever British comedy to win a Golden Globe, and racked up countless other awards over the course of its short-but-sweet time on our screens.
It’s easy to forget, then, that not everyone was instantly won over by Ricky Gervais and Steven Merchant’s creation.
Gervais has been marking the 16th anniversary of the first episode by sharing some insights on the origin stories of David Brent and other major characters, but he also took the opportunity to revisit one of the first reviews given to the show.
And, while many viewers were fans within minutes of the programme first airing, the Evening Standard’s Victor Lewis-Smith was not among them.
“[The Office] aims to capture the tedium and monotony of a nine-to-five existence, and to lampoon the pompous imbecility of the office wag, but fails miserably because parodies of dullness only succeed when they’re shorter and more exaggerated than their original models,” Lewis-Smith wrote in an article first published 16 years ago today, and since reposted on Gervais’ Tumblr.
“Gervais may be a patchily amusing stand-up comic, but he’s clearly neither an actor (frequently garbling his lines, and barely modulating his performance) nor a dramatic writer (cramming too many words into the characters’ mouths, and leaving little breathing space),” the reviewer added.
Looking further down the review, it’s clear to see what the problem is.
“As for schoolboy pranks like putting a stapler inside a jelly and remarking ‘it’s a trifling matter’, what can one say?” asks Lewis-Smith.
Well, it’s clearly hilarious, Victor.
He continues: “Turning now to the structure, the intercutting of fly-on-the-wall sequences with monologue confessionals could not disguise the vacuity of both the dialogue and what passed for a plot. The threat of imminent redundancy hung heavy over the entire Slough office (as indeed it should over the actors), while inside, David Brent (Gervais) spent his time trying to prise weakly suggestive one-liners into his every mumbled speech.”
And only gets more and more harsh (therefore being made to look more and more stupid) as the review comes to a close. Check out this final paragraph:
“How this dross ever got beyond the pilot stage is a mystery, while over on C4 they’re showing five-year-old repeats of Brass Eye, starring a 40-year-old enfant terrible who’s still playing his schoolboy pranks in hopes of riling the ITC (and even more embarrassingly, he’s planning to do more). Strangely, last night’s programme didn’t pick up on the aspect of office work which I hated most during my two-year stint, namely the sheer horror of trying to think of something new to say to people who I’d pass in the corridor several times each day (the morning I found myself saying “we can’t go on meeting like this,” I knew it was time to quit). Looking back on that bleak period, the only real pleasure I had came from putting a dehumidifier and a humidifier on opposite sides of my desk, then sitting back and watching them fight it out to the death.”
This explains everything – if you prefer watching a humidifier fight a dehumidifier to one of the best comedies in British TV history, then we’ll probably look elsewhere for our reviews in future.
(Feature image: BBC)