top of page
  • Dan Guest

"The Office" & "Extras" - Greatest British Sitcoms of All Time

the office and extras logo

Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant’s “The Office” first hit UK TV screens back in 2001, when I was just 11 years old. “Extras” then aired a few years later in 2005. The two shows sort of passed me by at the time of release and it wasn’t until around 2007/2008, when I was starting university to study film & media production, that I really started to appreciate them and how much they revolutionised the mockumentary format. I quickly became a huge fan of the sense of humour, performances, directing, the writing and the overarching narrative of each season of the shows. In this blog, we will delve into these elements and how they make these shows so extraordinary.


Writing

ricky and steve 1

At the heart of both "The Office" and "Extras" lies Gervais and Merchant's unparalleled talent for writing. Their scripts are a masterclass in observational comedy, effortlessly capturing the absurdities of everyday life with a keen eye for detail. "The Office" is a perfect example of this, with its seemingly mundane setting of a paper company in Slough serving as the backdrop for a hilariously awkward exploration of office politics and human relationships.

Similarly, "Extras" takes aim at the entertainment industry, offering a satirical take on the pursuit of fame and the superficiality of celebrity culture. Gervais and Merchant's scripts are filled with clever wordplay, witty banter, and memorable one-liners that resonate long after the credits roll. Whether it's David Brent's cringe-inducing attempts at humour or Andy Millman's existential musings, the dialogue in both shows is consistently sharp and engaging.


Directing

ricky and steve 2

In addition to their writing prowess, Gervais and Merchant also excel behind the camera as directors. "The Office" pioneered the mockumentary style, with handheld cameras and naturalistic lighting creating an immersive, documentary-like feel. This approach not only adds to the authenticity of the show but also allows for moments of genuine emotion to shine through amidst the comedy.

Similarly, "Extras" adopts a similar visual aesthetic, blurring the lines between fiction and reality to great effect. Gervais and Merchant's direction is understated yet effective, allowing the performances and dialogue to take centre stage while still maintaining a distinct visual style. Their use of framing, editing, and cinematography enhances the comedic timing and adds layers of depth to the storytelling, making for a truly immersive viewing experience.


Performances

david brent

Of course, none of this would be possible without the exceptional performances from the cast. In "The Office," Gervais delivers a tour de force performance as the clueless and self-absorbed David Brent, perfectly capturing the character's delusions of grandeur and desperate need for validation. Meanwhile, Martin Freeman shines as the long-suffering everyman Tim Canterbury, providing a relatable anchor amidst the chaos of the office.

andy millman

In "Extras," Gervais once again proves his comedic chops as Andy Millman, a struggling actor who finds himself constantly overshadowed by more successful celebrities. His chemistry with co-star Ashley Jensen, who plays his dim-witted but lovable friend Maggie, is electric, providing many of the show's funniest moments. Additionally, the series features a host of memorable guest stars, including Kate Winslet, Ben Stiller, and Patrick Stewart, all of whom deliver pitch-perfect performances that add to the show's comedic appeal.


Sense of Humour

At its core, the humour of both "The Office" and "Extras" is deeply rooted in the absurdities of everyday life. Gervais and Merchant have a knack for finding humour in the mundane, whether it's the awkward silences of an office meeting or the ridiculous demands of a self-absorbed celebrity. Their comedy is as incisive as it is irreverent, never shying away from poking fun at the absurdities of human behaviour.

david bowie in extras

Moreover, both shows exhibit a sense of empathy and humanity that elevates them above mere parody. Despite their flaws, the characters in "The Office" and "Extras" are portrayed with a sense of warmth and humanity, making them feel relatable and endearing even at their most ridiculous. This balance of humour and heart is what sets Gervais and Merchant's work apart and ensures that their shows remain timeless classics in the annals of comedy.


Influence on My Life and Work

“The Office” was the first of the two shows to hook me, with me and friend being hugely inspired by it in our own creative writing and sense of humour, continuously quoting lines from the show to each other for years to come and continues to this day! The impact the shows have had on my sense of humour and approach to writing comedy cannot be understated. Every script I have ever written carries some of that same sense of humour that has stuck with me over the years.


Should there be an "Office" or "Extras" Comeback?

The question of should there ever be another special of the two shows often comes up amongst fans, but I’m in the camp of that we should leave it be. Despite how much I’d love to see where some of these characters are now 20 years on, I prefer to make up my own mind as the reality is whatever airs on TV is only ever going to disappoint, as not everyone is going to be happy with the outcome.There’s also the issue of would this style of show work now 20 years on in this current climate? We’ve seen a bunch of other TV and film projects in recent times be brought back after many years and the general consensus is that they never truly live up to expectations and consequently fail to impress.


ricky and steve 3

Final Thoughts

"The Office" and "Extras" stand as shining examples of Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant's comedic genius. From their razor-sharp writing and deft direction to the stellar performances and unique sense of humour, these two shows have left an indelible mark on the comedy landscape and continue to entertain audiences around the world. Similarly with my previous blog about my love of Back to the Future, “The Office” and “Extras” are shows I can pop on time and time again and never get bored and still give me laugh-out-loud moments, which is a huge testament to just how well-crafted and timeless these shows are. Whether you're a fan of cringe comedy or biting satire, there's something for everyone to enjoy in these timeless classics.


Dan Guest

Sound Recordist

9 views0 comments

Comments


bottom of page