122 Helen Fielding, India Knight


124 American Splendor


124 Rod Stewart, David Bowie

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Games Video/DVD

THE OFFICE 8801, Boxing Day, 10.15pm; Sat 27 Dec, 9.50pm

By the time you read this, the cat may be out of the bag. Damn that beautician from Essex and her financial imperative. To think that the plot of the most heavily awaited show of the year could be blown by someone from Saffron Walden is almost too much of an ‘Office’ moment. So much so that you could even stop to consider that it’s a PR ruse, a promotional stunt to replace the lack of recent interviews given by Ricky Gervais (unless your name happens to be Jonathan Ross and you have a kitten to give away).

But this minimum effort/maximum publicity tactic is merely further evidence of just how far The Office has come. Arriving on the back end of docu-coms such as The Royle Family and People Like Us, the Slough-based six-parter could simply have been lost. Indeed, the weird ways of David Brent only really began to spin the

127 Prince of Persia, Commandos 3

127 Directors Label, Dragonflies


129 Louis Theroux, Wilde Stories

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O Poor


131 Cheese

Rear View

144 Bjorn Again

nation‘s cringe-ometer when the first series was repeated in late 2001. By the time the sequel came along the following year with the racist


jokes, the crazed vogueing, the half-man half-emu antics and the begging not to be sacked horror, the country was reeling from a torrent of

press wailing. Most of these were split between the ones

which worried that we may have seen enough of the paper merchant of menace and those which insisted that the decision to bow out after a

mere 12 episodes would be a suitable and identical end to the finest, most brutal British comedy series since Fawlty Towers.

Many people drew several more comparisons with Brent and Basil; there was the repressed Englishness, the frigid inability to cope with strong women and the uncanny capacity for saying the wrong thing at the worst possible moment. The comparisons shouldn’t have halted there. Big Keith is little Manuel, unable to communicate in anything other than the most stilted of English; the ex-military background shared by the drowsy Major and deranged Gareth; and the largely unspoken love between Polly/Dawn and the only genuinely likeable


character in both shows (Terry the blokeish chef and Tim the sensitive prankster).

But thankfully, Gervais and co-writer Stephen Merchant buckled under the public’s rampant desire for agony. What atrocities will Brent come up with now that the story has moved on three years since we bore witness to his world crumbling before him. Where would he be without a job and a crowd to please? Would he ever again have the opportunity to quote Dolly Parton lyrics as though they were as profound and life affirming as, say, the wisdom of

Socrates, Wilde or Sessions?

Until a tabloid takes the bait and makes an offer Joanne Hiley won’t be able to refuse, we can only speculate upon the twists of the final shows. Will Gareth attract anything other than contempt from anyone other than his mentor, Brent? Can Dawn finally get it together with Tim? Should Jennifer finally cave in to her obvious lust for David? One thing is more or less certain: when Brent’s final humiliation is laid appallingly before us, The Office will be closed for business. Fact. (Brian Donaldson)

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