The Office (UK): Season 1 (2001)

SEASON:

Season 1
The Office (UK)

Critics Consensus

With a first season that altered the TV comedy landscape, the original British version of The Office proves the most mundane parts of daily life can be as hilarious as they are cringeworthy.

96%

TOMATOMETER

Critic Ratings: 23

87%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 86

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Episodes

Air date: Jul 9, 2001

David Brent (Ricky Gervais) introduces the documentary crew to the office receptionist, Dawn (Lucy Davis), snidely joking, "Every bloke in the office has woken up at the crack of Dawn." Tim (Martin Freeman) starts to describe his job as a sales rep, before trailing off. "I'm boring myself, talking about it." David jokingly fires Gareth (Mackenzie Crook), the sales "team leader" who went out drinking with him the night before. Jennifer Taylor Clark (Stirling Gallacher) shows up from the head office and warns David that the company is merging his branch with another, and there will be redundancies. David chooses not to worry his underlings with this information. Ricky (Oliver Chris) shows up from the temp agency, and David shows him around. Gareth complains to David that Tim has submerged his stapler in jelly again. Gareth is very anal about his office supplies, and has made the mistake of telling Tim that he doesn't like jelly. "I don't trust the way it moves," he says. Gareth explains to the crew that he's from the Regimental Army. "You can't muck about there," he says. "It's one of the rules." Ricky breaks David up by suggesting that Tim be put in "custard-y." Later, when Tim puts up a pile of boxes to separate his desk from Gareth's, Gareth complains that it's "misuse of company files." With rumors of redundancies flying, David calls a staff meeting to set the record straight. Gareth insists that, because he's team leader, David should whisper the news to him first. Tim asks Dawn out for a drink, but is spurned when her fiancé, Lee (Joel Beckett), shows up. David tells the film crew he's "a friend first and a boss second...probably an entertainer third," before pretending to fire a distraught Dawn for stealing Post-it notes.

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Air date: Jul 16, 2001

Pretty Donna (Sally Bretton) arrives in the office. David (Ricky Gervais) explains to everyone that she's the daughter of good friends of his, and staying at his flat, so "hands off." Gareth (Mackenzie Crook) offers to show her the ropes, and orders Tim (Martin Freeman) to move so she can use his desk. Tim does not recognize Gareth's authority. Noticing that Gareth is carrying his mobile in a shoulder holster, Tim spends the day calling Gareth repeatedly with a one-word obscene message. While showing Donna the office e-mail system, David opens up a doctored photo. It's his head on the body of a nude woman who is "servicing" two men. "I'm angry, not because I'm in it," explains David, "but because it degrades women...which I hate." He argues with Gareth about who hates sexism more. David assigns Gareth to discreetly investigate and find out who's responsible for the photo. Gareth uses the conference room as his office, and the interrogations begin. Jennifer Taylor Clark (Stirling Gallacher) shows up to find out that, to keep up morale, David has told his people there would be no redundancies. "Surely it's going to be worse for morale in the long run when there are redundancies and you've told people that there won't be," she explains. "They won't remember," he replies weakly. David eventually feels compelled to tell Jennifer that he's fired "Julie Anderton," who worked in the warehouse. A visit to the warehouse finds no record of such a person, but Jennifer does happen upon a group of workers watching a tape of two dogs rutting. Gareth's investigation inevitably leads to Tim, but it turns out that someone closer to David is to blame for the photo.

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Air date: Jul 23, 2001

It's Tim's (Martin Freeman) 30th birthday, so he shows up to work early, in the goofy radio hat his mother bought for him. David (Ricky Gervais) is excited because the quiz is tonight, and he and his pal Chris Finch (Ralph Ineson), sales rep extraordinaire, intend to dominate, as they have in years past. But David fears a threat when he learns that Ricky (Oliver Chris) was once a contestant on "Blockbusters," a television quiz show. Lee (Joel Beckett) and Dawn (Lucy Davis) present Tim with a giant inflatable penis. Lee talks about his plans for the future with Dawn. He figures they'll move in with his mum, and after having a few kids, Dawn might get a part-time cleaning job. "Got to dream a dream," sighs Dawn, and when Tim chuckles at this, Lee takes offense. David explains to the film crew, "There are things I would never laugh at. The handicapped," he elaborates. "Because there's nothing funny about them. Or any deformity." Dawn tries to organize drinks for Tim's birthday, but David is worried that it will interfere with the quiz. Gareth (Mackenzie Crook) is the quizmaster, which guarantees no shortage of questions about warfare. When Ricky and Tim team up to beat David and Finch, it leads to drunken recriminations, another challenge, and one employee's humiliation.

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Air date: Jul 30, 2001

Lee (Joel Beckett) and Dawn (Lucy Davis) have an argument, and Dawn is considering calling off their engagement. Tim (Martin Freeman) tries to reassure her that things will work out, while Gareth (Mackenzie Crook) helpfully tells Dawn that she has another potential suitor in a warehouse worker he refers to as "Monkey Alan." "He fancies you," Gareth tells her, "even if no one else does." Rowan (Vincent Franklyn), a facilitator, comes in to assist with some company training exercises, but his efforts are thwarted by David's (Ricky Gervais) meddling. First the team watches a video on customer service called "Who Cares, Wins," hosted by Peter Purves. Then David mucks up a role-playing exercise. Rowan asks them each to share their "ultimate fantasy," starting things off by mentioning that he'd like to have his own island. David's ultimate fantasy is "to live forever," and Gareth, arriving late and perhaps misunderstanding the exercise, answers, "Two lesbians, probably. Sisters. I'm just watching." When Tim is asked for his input, he replies, "I never thought I'd say this, but could I hear more from Gareth, please." When Keith (Ewan Macintosh) mentions that his real interest is music, it prompts David to pull out his old guitar, and most of the rest of the day is spent listening to him play his unique music, including a number about "free love on the Free Love Freeway." Eventually, Tim reaches the breaking point, decides to quit, and makes a decision involving his friendship with Dawn that will come back to haunt him.

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Air date: Aug 13, 2001

Tim (Martin Freeman) tells Gareth (Mackenzie Crook) that he's leaving the firm to go back to school and study psychology. Gareth tests Tim's skill by asking him, "What am I thinking right now?" Tim makes a couple of good guesses, but it turns out to be, "Will there ever be a boy born who can swim faster than a shark?" David (Ricky Gervais) is upset with Donna (Sally Bretton) when she shows up late for work, especially as she never came home the night before. His consternation grows when Donna makes it clear that she spent the night with a man. David interviews candidates for a new position as his assistant, despite the fact that he's been told to cut staff. David defends this action, saying, "Who's to say that hiring staff won't save us money in the long run?" and complains that "I'm doing my own stapling." He quickly decides to hire Karen (Nicola Cotter), a pretty blond, and asks her where she'll be going to celebrate, because he may turn up there with his friends. Gareth gives Donna a private seminar on "Hidden Dangers in the Workplace." Tim, having spent the day trying to convince people that he was only asking Dawn (Lucy Davis) out as a friend, decides to spend the evening out carousing with David, Gareth, and Chris Finch (Ralph Ineson). They go to a sleazy nightclub called Chasers, which Gareth says is "a fun place, but it's full of loose women." At the club, they run into Karen, who spurns David's feeble advances, and Donna, who publicly displays her newfound affection for Ricky (Oliver Chris), much to David's chagrin.

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Air date: Aug 20, 2001

David (Ricky Gervais) fires the same forklift operator (Neil Fitzmaurice) he hired at the beginning of the first episode, which somehow leads to a discussion of the difference between midgets and dwarves. Malcolm (Robin Hooper) wonders why David has hired an assistant, Karen (Nicola Cotter), when the company is laying people off. David decides to try to make Tim (Martin Freeman) "feel good about himself," so he'll stay on, but Tim's reasoning ends up making Karen question her decision to join the company. Tim and Dawn (Lucy Davis) are still painfully awkward around each other. Dawn tells the documentary crew she secretly hopes she'll get laid off because she feels like she's "treading water." Jennifer (Stirling Gallacher) comes down from the head office with some surprising news for David. She's being promoted to partner, and the board of directors wants David to replace her. If he decides to take the job, his branch will be downsized. After their meeting, the staff, fearful of losing their jobs, demands to know what's going on. David decides to tell them that there's bad news, and good news. After telling them that their office is being downsized, and that those who aren't sacked will be transferred to another branch, he's surprised to find that they aren't especially happy about his promotion. Malcolm has to point out that instead of bad news and good news, he really gave them "bad news and irrelevant news." But at a glum office party that night, David tells them all something that will alter everyone's future plans.

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The Office (UK): Season 1 Photos

Tv Season Info

Wickedly funny mockumentary tracking the monotonous doings at a paper-product firm in the dreary London suburb of Slough.

Critic Reviews for The Office (UK) Season 1

All Critics (23) | Top Critics (14)

Gervais is also goofily spot-on in what he doesn't say; the show, shot in documentary style, has him continually directing self-consciously insecure sideways glances at the camera, always to amusing effect.

Jun 28, 2018 | Full Review…
Top Critic

A half-hour of the first season still works like an anti-emetic after the all-you-can-eat binge-fest of the recent sweeps week. After the full 40 minutes, I'm as good as new.

Jan 30, 2018 | Full Review…

But the British office was mean where the American office is nice. And that's better.

Nov 8, 2017 | Full Review…

The Office is a very funny spoof documentary series, though more "Ouch!" than "Ha, ha!"

Feb 25, 2020 | Full Review…

It's a wonderful, subversive concept, and by failing to romanticize the players, Office remains true to its ghastly, funny self.

Feb 4, 2019 | Full Review…

The first time you watch the show, you really don't believe what you're seeing.

Sep 7, 2018 | Full Review…

"The Office" isn't a place anyone in his or her right mind would want to work, but shadowing these characters for a half-hour is entertainment at its most brilliantly nuanced.

May 3, 2019 | Full Review…

The brilliance of the series lies in this juxtaposition of the seemingly boring with the outrageous.

Sep 7, 2018 | Rating: 9/10 | Full Review…

Even though some thought it wasn't funny at all, due to its cringe-worthy humour and awkward characters, it's certainly an achievement to take all of these terribly unlikeable people and make us fall in love with them.

Aug 14, 2018 | Full Review…

There is no laugh track, no frenetic action, no too-clever sex jokes, no cute daydreams, no outsize office kooks... The Office is perfect as it is, a sharp, ill-tempered slice of life.

Jul 2, 2018 | Full Review…

[Ricky] Gervais is brilliant as the clueless office manager.

Nov 8, 2017 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

The Office changed comedy when it hit the airwaves.

Nov 8, 2017 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Office (UK): Season 1

  • Dec 17, 2018
    So, sooooo damn brilliant, on so many levels. Original levals, at that as well. S2 has a senselessly overarching depressive theme, but even so, it is MILES better than Steve Carrell & the US version.
  • Nov 23, 2018
    Absolutely legend. A giant's head s & shoulders better than the US version. SO damn genius.
  • Sep 04, 2018
    (all seasons) The mockumentary style and everyone's acting convey an authenticity that's very rare, and that's the case with the array of awkward moments taking up most of the show's time to the extent where it can be hard to watch due to the high levels of pure cringe. That's how well-made this is. Gervais tackles Brent in an excellent way and Freeman absolutely shines in one of the most likable roles. Brent is a one-of-a-kind creation but it's the subtle characterization of the others that makes this fly.
  • Jan 18, 2018
    The office (U.K) follows the lives of several middle-class people employed in Wernham Hogg, a paper company in Slough, a dull town that breeds high amounts of both disgust, and boredom. In order to maintain sanity, the workers resort to a never-ending series of pranks, usually at the expense of the dreary Gareth, a frightening looking young man who never tires of reminding viewers of his service in the Army. The most relentless prankster is Tim, a 33-year-old loser who still lives at home with his parents, and is one of the few who knows that he’s throwing his life away. And then we have Dawn, the receptionist who flirts with Tim, but maintains her engagement with the incredibly dull Lee, who works in the warehouse in the lower quartile of the office building. Other memorable characters include Chris Finch (a typically dickish sales rep), Keith (an overweight middle-aged man who does little but stare at his computer), and Jennifer, the manager of the company who sees through every member of staff and their immature ways. Memorable TV characters come and go, but none as simultaneously loveable and loathsome as David Brent, played by the brilliant Ricky Gervais. Gervais inhabits this character so fully and with such complexity it’s truly magnificent— he’s incredibly offensive, endearing, cheeky, hilarious, and absolutely clueless, often all in the same scene. During my first watch, I was truly perplexed at his talent. Although never personally working in an office environment he’s entirely believable; creating the sort of boss that exists throughout the world as an example of how even the smallest amount of authority will turn any man into a bit of an arrogant asshole. He’s demeaning and patronising towards his employees, almost always asinine, and easily the laziest man ever to rise through the ranks of a major corporation, but that’s what makes him so entertaining to watch. What makes these characters so memorable is that they are in a sense so much themselves. For example, I love Gervais’ character because, despite his obvious insecurities, he believes the crap he peddles, and would be genuinely shocked to know how much his fellow employees hate him. Or perhaps hate is too strong a word, although they certainly find him a source of unintentional amusement. The show also manages to rise above the clutter of Television stereotypes completely rejecting the idea that plots must move in a linear, predictable way with clear starts and finishes. With the Office, each episode just sort of begins, and as the show is shot as a ‘documentary’, we are enabled to watch a level of self-awareness on the part of the characters that would be doomed to failure in a thousand other programs. When David utters a remark that shocks the office with its insensitivity and explicit nature, Tim will sort of glance at the camera in disbelief and for some reason, it seems the most natural response. He seems to be saying, “Did you catch that? Am I crazy, or did he really just say that?” The stories are also occasionally interrupted by character ‘interviews,’ where we learn more information about each person, or hear ‘confidential’ commentary that might not be acceptable to the rest of the staff. And then there’s the background action, one of the funniest examples of this is when Tim is explaining the professionalism of the office, the camera pans quickly to a hyena-like David as he stands over a man who is having his pants pulled off by a cheering crowd. The struggling man is stripped clean, right down to his genitals. Because the scene develops out of literally nowhere, you can’t help, but laugh at its absurdity, but we never question it. Yes, this could very well happen at a place like Wernham Hogg… it’s just that random. As for critical success, This gut-busting comedy won a Golden Globe award for best comedy series and was written and directed by Ricky Gervais and Steve Merchant, it’s honestly one of, if not the most hysterical sit-coms I can ever recall watching and would be hard to top.

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