The Office: Remembering first scathing review that deemed show ‘dross’ and ‘a bore’

Twenty years have passed since The Office began airing in the UK.

White it’s now regarded as one of the most successful British sitcoms of all time, an early review predicted a less-than-stellar future for the show.

Ricky Gervais, who co-created the programme with Stephen Merchant, shared the review in full on his own Tumblr in 2011, a decade after the sitcom’s debut.

Written by Victor Lewis-Smith in the London Evening Standard, the scathing review was headlined: “A summer stinker; ‘A bore in homeopathic doses can be hilarious, but a bore in real time remains simply a bore.’”

It condemned the show for “[aiming] to capture the tedium and monotony of a nine-to-five existence, and to lampoon the pompous imbecility of the office wag, but [failing] miserably because parodies of dullness only succeed when they’re shorter and more exaggerated than their original models”.

“A bore in homeopathic doses can be hilarious ... but a bore in real time remains simply a bore,” the review stated.

The review also deemed Gervais “a patchily amusing stand-up comic” but “clearly neither an actor”, “nor a dramatic writer”.

“With the exception of Martin Freeman, the rest of the cast were equally underwhelming, and conveyed the impression not simply of playing the roles of dull office workers, but of being actors who were bored with their characters,” it added.

The review concluded: “How this dross ever got beyond the pilot stage is a mystery ... Strangely, last night’s programme didn’t pick up on the aspect of office work which I hated most during my two-year stint, namely the sheer horror of trying to think of something new to say to people who I’d pass in the corridor several times each day (the morning I found myself saying “we can’t go on meeting like this,” I knew it was time to quit).”

The Office UK aired for two series between 2001 and 2003. Its US version, starring Steve Carell as Michael Scott (a counterpart to Gervais’s David Brent), aired for nine seasons from 2005 and 2013 and earned nine Golden Globes nominations.

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