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The Office - Christmas specials (15)



Review: Jack Foley

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: 'The Office: Closed For Business' documentary. Golden Globe featurette. 'If You Don't Know Me By Now' full song and video. Full band version of 'Free Love Freeway'. Director's commentary on episode 2. Regions 2/4.

FROM its early origins tucked away on BBC2 on Monday nights, Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant's classic comedy series, The Office, rose to become one of the most popular programmes on the BBC schedule over recent years, culminating in a two-part special in Christmas 2003.

The Xmas specials, now available on DVD, picked up things a year after Gervais' David Brent had been replaced, for a sort of follow-up, one-off documentary aimed at finding out what had become of the people in the programme.

Brent was now a travelling salesman who couldn't resist popping back to the office at every opportunity, while his former colleagues were preparing for the annual Christmas party.

Gareth (Mackenzie Crook) was now in charge, while Tim (Martin Freeman) appeared to be nearing the point of despair, having ruined any chance of a relationship with former secretary, Dawn (Lucy Davis), after asking her out for the second time, and turning down promotion opportunities.

The party, however, offers one last opportunity for everyone to get their lives back on track, especially since Dawn has agreed to come back and see her old colleagues.

David Brent, meanwhile, is trying desperately to find a love of his own, inbetween painful stand-up slots at tacky celebrity nights, and a number of blind dates, which mostly end in the most embarrassing fashion.

It is a tribute to Gervais and Merchant's writing skills, however, that the two-parter maintained the high standards set by both series, and concluded The Office on a genuinely upbeat, feel-good note.

Part one, while slow, neatly laid the groundwork for the crowd-pleasing second half, in which Brent finally finds a woman worthy of his celebrity and the love between Dawn and Tim is finally requited.

It was designed to put a smile on your face, and it went down a treat - along with the mince pies and mulled wine!

Classic comedy moments abounded, too, with Brent's look of exasperation and 'for fuck's sake' commentary seldom failing to have viewers splitting their sides as each blind date turned up; and Tim's regular pep talks from other office colleagues tapping into that same excruciating 'oh my God'-reaction as the previous series.

What's more, the two-part Xmas special gave the BBC that rare treat - a seasonal crowd-puller that rivalled Only Fools and Horses in terms of out-and-out laughter and feel-good endings.

It looks certain to go down as classic TV of the highest order - and one which, wisely, knew when to call it a day.

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