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Feature: TV Zone's Primetime

Web Exclusive: The Office

The staff/cast of The Office

BBC Television’s award-winning series
The Office comes to BBC America.

This workplace comedy manages the incredible feat of eliciting from its audience both hearty laughter and painful winces of recognition. Brilliantly conceived and underplayed with subtle perfection by its cast, the series is filmed in documentary style, with the characters not only interacting with each other but also speaking directly to the camera.

The show is the brainchild of Ricky Gervais, who portrays David Brent, the manager of a paper supply company in Slough, England, who spends each day blurting out an array of pathetic jokes in an attempt to get closer to his staff and boost morale.

Lucy Davis, who portrays Dawn, the company’s receptionist, is quick to acknowledge that Ricky “is so not David Brent! I think if he was, he couldn’t possibly write the series, or get the irony of it at all, because he’d think he was great. He’s a very generous man, and brilliant to work with.”

And of the series’ naturalistic style, the actress remarks, “Script-wise, it really is scripted, but there’s also quite a lot of improvisation as well. When we start a scene, instead of maybe starting on the first line, we’ll do a minute’s chat and get into it from there, and they will include a lot of it. They’re not precious at all if you’ve got a good idea. They jump on it and include it, which is really freeing to do for an actor. It has spoiled me for anything else!”

The show’s producer, Ash Atalla, acknowledges that casting the series was a difficult process. “It took us a long time to find actors that didn’t look like they are acting. It’s quite a trick for actors to be that naturalistic. And if people forget that it is acted when they’re watching it, then that’s a compliment to us.”

And as to the reason that Atalla fought so hard to get this show on the air, he admits, “There was nobody making a program about shitty offices, and people who are trapped in crappy jobs, earning bad money. This show is for those people, which is sort of all of us.”

by Judy Sloane

Photo © BBC America
Feature © Visual Imagination 2003. Not for reproduction

Taken from
TV Zone #160, see below for ordering options
TV Zone #160
March 2003
ships from Feb 6 2003
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UK £3.50 / US $6.99

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