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Christmas TV Special – The Office: Christmas Special

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They’re funny things time zones. I often have to stop chatting with the American branch of the RunPee branch of the family because it is past my bedtime despite it only being around noon with them. Maybe that is why the UK version of The Office came in at a total running time of seven and a half hours while the US version weighs in at a shade over three days! I’ve seen both the original UK version and the American remake several times and I love them both; they have their differences and they have their similarities. Both feature an office and the people reluctantly working in it. Both offices are located in less than salubrious settings: Scranton, Pennsylvania for the USA, Slough, Berkshire for the UK. Wernham Hogg is in Slough, Dunder Mifflin in Scranton.

I know Slough. Not just from the Betjeman poem…Come friendly bombs and fall on Slough!  But from personal experience. Way back in the mists of time, 1976 actually, I did my first ever teaching practice in Westgate Secondary School…in Slough. Back then I was young, keen, and full of vim and vigour. I didn’t really think much of Slough either way. Back then I was still getting used to living away from home so anywhere that wasn’t Merseyside was strange and exotic. My main abiding memory of Slough, though, is the smell. It wasn’t a bad smell. Some might argue just the opposite. Less than a mile away from the school was the Mars factory…the one making Mars Bars and the permanent smell was chocolate.

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Careful, She’s Got A Fiancé

I suppose the easiest way to make sense of the setup in the UK original series is to say who is who with reference to the US remake. The boss is David Brent (Ricky Gervais) who is the model for Michael Scott (Steve Carrell). The assistant to the manager is Gareth Keenan (Mackenzie Crook) or Dwight Schrute (Rainn Wilson) in the US. His nemesis is Tim Canterbury (Martin Freeman)/Jim Halpert (John Krasinski) and Tim is smitten by Dawn Tinsley (Lucy Davis)/Pam Beesly (Jenna Fischer). There are other characters with some similarities but they aren’t as clearly drawn in the UK version. There is no direct version of the Dundee Mifflin finance department, Creed, Phyllis, Meredith, or Stanley. Doubtless this is due to the American need to fill three days worth of material!

At the end of the second series of The Office, David Brent has been fired, Gareth has taken his place, Dawn has moved to Florida with her fiancé, and Tim is still, pretty much, in the same situation that he has been all along. He did make a bit of a fool of himself by breaking up with his girlfriend and professing his true feelings to Dawn; she turned him down. All in all, it was a pretty bleak ending. David begging, in tears, not to be let go. Tim walking out of the conference room, turning his microphone back on, smiling ruefully and saying, simply, “She said no by the way”. These are not the usual ways to wrap up a series. Merchant and Gervais had said that there would be no more series of The Office being made. However, they did come up with a two part Christmas special, essentially a feature length finale. 

I Haven’t…Not Anymore

To keep in with the mockumentary format, the premise is that the BBC were making a follow up programme to see what became of the people made famous by the series. We find David is working as a travelling salesman; living between his car and motel rooms. He did manage to get a big payout for unfair dismissal but blew it all trying to make it as a pop star and is chasing fame by doing “celebrity” appearances alongside former Big Brother contestants and people who had appeared in adverts. Gareth is now ensconced in David’s old office but is still as officious and awkward as ever. Tim is still trying to prank Gareth but, without Dawn as his right hand, things keep falling flat.

And of course there is Dawn. She is working illegally in the USA with Lee (Joel Beckett), her version of Roy (David Denman). I say working with but it is clear that Dawn is doing all the work as a live in nanny while Lee is just tanning by the pool. The unseen commentator mentions an all expenses paid trip back for the Wernham Hogg Christmas party. And it is during the Christmas party that we get the heartwarming finishes that we were expecting at the end of series two. Tim and Dawn finally hook up. David meets a very rare woman; one who is attractive and likes him. I’ve watched the finale many, many times and still get a lump in my throat!

Grade: A+

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