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<p>Office, The: The Complete Second Series (DVD)</p><p>Welcome to Wernham Hogg, the paper company a world away from London, where life is stationery. Critics and fans alike have lauded this hilarious, biting look at the everyday hell of office life as a cult comedy classic in the vein of This Is Spinal Tap and The Larry Sanders Show. Series two marks the final full season of the life in the office.</p>
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The second series of the award-winning BBC mockudrama The Office exceeded even the sky-high standards of the first. Indeed, it ventured beyond caricature and satire, touching on the very edge of darkness. Ricky Gervais was once again excruciatingly superb as David Brent, a subtly shaded modern English comic grotesque in the desperate and self-deluding tradition of Alan Partridge and Basil Fawlty. In this series, however, Brent's to-the-camera assertions concerning his management qualities and executive capabilities are seriously challenged when the Slough and Swindon branches are merged and his former Swindon equivalent Neil takes over as area manager. To compensate, Brent cultivates his pathologically mistaken image of himself as an entertainer-motivator-comedian whose stage happens to be the workplace.
Meanwhile, Tim Canterbury (Martin Freeman), who can only maintain his sanity by teasing the priggish Gareth Keenan (Mackenzie Crook), continues to wrestle with his yearning for receptionist Dawn Tinsley (Lucy Davis), a sympathetic character persisting in a relationship with a man about whom she still maintains unspoken reservations. As ever, it's the awkward, reality TV-style pauses and silences, the furtive, meaningful and unmet glances across the emotional gulf of the open-plan office, that say it all here. As for Brent, his own breakdown is prefaced by a moment of hideous hilarity--an impromptu office dance, a mixture of "Flashdance and MC Hammer" as Brent describes it, but in reality bad beyond description. Then, when his fate is sealed, he at last reveals himself in a memorable finale to perhaps the greatest British sitcom, besides Fawlty Towers, ever made. All this and Keith too. --David Stubbs
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