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‘The Office’ takes career turn to DVD

The first two seasons of "The Office" are now on DVD.
/ Source: Reuters

Imagine actor Clint Eastwood snarling, “go ahead, make my day,” but then putting a surprised look on his face and adding, “Who the (expletive) are they?”

That, said British comedian Ricky Gervais, the creator and star of hit BBC television comedy “The Office,” is a favorite story told to him after he and the show won two Golden Globe awards in January in a surprise victory beating the likes of ”Sex and the City.”

Tuesday, the first two seasons of the mock documentary program about the everyday office lives of ordinary British workers will be released on DVD. If, like Eastwood, U.S. audiences didn’t know who Gervais and his show were before, it may be their last chance to learn -- and laugh.

There will be no third season of “The Office.” Gervais, who won his third straight British TV award this past weekend, is moving on. Except for encore performances of its two seasons currently on BBC America, “The Office” has closed.

In the United States, “The Office,” in which Gervais portrays manager David Brent (a.k.a. Brentmeister General), began appearing weekly last January in around 38 million cable and satellite TV homes reached by BBC affiliate, BBC America.

By the end of its run, U.S. viewership reached some 2 million people a week, which is a hit for cable TV. It earned Golden Globe awards for Gervais as best comic actor and for the show as best TV comedy, marking the first time a foreign-made program had ever won that award.

“I remember thinking, this is the biggest thing that has ever happened to me and probably ever will,” Gervais said, in a moment of reflection rarely heard from the Brentmeister.

Ribald bossDavid Brent manages the Slough branch office of the Wernham-Hogg paper company. He thinks he does a capable job, running a small group of sales, administrative and warehouse workers, but secretly they loathe him.

Key to the group are receptionist, Dawn, who is bored in her dead-end job, and rival sales clerks Tim and Gareth.

The show looks like a documentary with a camera roaming around the office, capturing conversations and actions. The main characters often give personal interviews which contradict what happened on camera or offer insight into the day.

The first season deals with a planned closure of either the Slough branch or a rival branch in Swindon. The Brentmeister has to “downsize,” and he does his best to keep up morale with jokes that are sexist and politically incorrect.

In the second season, Swindon has merged with Slough and the Brentmeister has to deal with an influx of new workers who don’t quite understand his ribald management style.

“The Office” became a hit, Gervais said in a telephone interview, because audiences could see themselves in the characters and because the show focuses on the relationships among the ordinary co-workers.

“It is about everyone’s life, whatever you do ... you worry about having a bigger chair than the next person, how long you’ve been there, what’s the point, what you’re going to leave behind, do you fancy that woman over there,” Gervais said.

The idea for “The Office” came from his days as a mid-level manager in a typical office. He quit that job to join a radio station, then broke into TV.

U.S. television network NBC has bought the rights to make an America version and is developing a show. Gervais has said an early, test pilot showed only “subtle” differences to his and said NBC had been “faithful” to the original.

“I have to trust they’ve got it right. it made me laugh,” he said. And if it doesn’t for audiences, there’s always the DVD.