Irreversible vs. The Office-spoiler alert

Yeah, I know, these two don’t have anything in common. Yet they both left me feeling the same way when I was done watching them. I saw the Office on DVD so basically got a full season at a time. The second season watched over 2 days (just 1/2 episodes) hits very hard.

Both of these items fall into that really rare “Yes I have to say they were good but no I can’t say I’d recommend them to people,” category. Here’s why:

Irreversible was wrong on many levels, but as nearly as I could tell, after you got past the violence there was the simple realisation that not a single person in that movie got what they deserved (or what was coming to them, if you prefer) in the end. The woman didn’t deserve to be brutally raped and assaulted. The basically good guy that was her wanna-be boyfriend didn’t deserve to become a murderer, especially since he killed the wrong man (the real rapist stood by and watched while the man he had been speaking with was bludgeoned to death). The dead man didn’t deserve to be bludgeoned to death. The woman’s lover, who seemed to be a pretty uniform shit throughout the movie, and who forces the confrontation in the gay bar, skates by at the end, effectively not being involved in all the pain and violence that he has forced to take place through his assinine behavior. A very, very unjust movie, and that led me to believe that while I did find it interesting, it really wasn’t entertaining, and really just left me with a lot of images and notions that I didn’t really much care for.

The Office shows us a nebbish office manager (David) in a British paper company. He’s a basically harmless little man whose primary objectives in life appear to be making people like him and for his desperate need for a sense of self-worth to be recognized. The man lives on what he perceives as a funny and congenial workplace that he’s created, the appreciattion of his boss, and the accolades of the industry. The fact he’s basically clueless and incompetant don’t seem to bother or even be noticed by upper management at all until things start getting tight at the company. Once the bright light gets turned on him David begins a meteoric and catastrophic collapse. In a short time he loses the respect of his peers and managers, loses the accolades and side-job giving seminars that made him feel valuable, and, finally, loses his job after a career-killing hostile encounter with his to immediate supervisors. The series ends with us watching David, all pride gone, begging for his job. Watching him do one incredibly pathetic and/or stupid thing after the other, rapidly deepinging his hole and destroying what tenuous hold he had on things as he goes, is painful. I didn’t laugh at all during the second series. Mostly I just put my head in my hands and shook my head as I watched this poor dolt being completely destroyed. It wasn’t that David was evil or especially manipulative. He was just utterly clueless and so needy for acceptance that he had to make his self-absorption infect everything he did.

If there’s a season 3 of The Office they should destroy the woman who was David’s boss before she was promoted. She’s the one who probably promoted the fool in the first place, the one who was responsible for his development and direction, evaluation and retention and she clearly completely failed in her task. That he was offered a promotion at the end of season one demonstrates that she didn’t know what the hell she was doing. But she remains in her new job, and the sad little man gets crushed. All the unfortunates who suffered under his buffoonery still had to put up with everything that happened. David had it coming-he was clearly not up to the job. But the way it happened, and his complete loss of employment and esteem, could have been avoided. For me, maybe it’s a little too much like that eerie familiarity people get from reading Dilbert at the office. So at the end of The Office I’m left with impression that I’ve watched something basically accurate and hard to look away from in a train-wreck sort of way, but a comedy? This thing was billed as a comedy? There’s funny bits, sure, but the overall themes are all full of despair. It’s a depressing show. Well-done, but I don’t know I’d tell others to watch it.

There will never be a season three of The Office. Everything was wrapped up in two hour-long finale episodes that were shown over Christmas.

I wasn’t sure. The series seemed to leave a few things in the air, David begging for his job, the horrid prospect of Gareth taking over, etc.

Joe, you have obviously stolen my comments on The Office and grafted them onto your own comments about Irreversible. My lawyers will contact you shortly. In the meantime, be sure to persue The Rise and Painful Plummet of David Brent in the TV forum.

Good post, although I think the Irreversible connection is a bit strained. But both are, in a way, exercises in emotionally brutalizing the audience.

I really respected the arc of The Office as a significant part of its brilliance. The cast is excellent and Gervais and Merchant’s writing and direction are stellar. But there’s something really amazing in how the second season was less about being funny and more about being painful. And I don’t think it works very well unless you’ve watched the first season and gotten to know the man who’s being brutally humiliated in the second season.

I don’t know if it’s peculiarly British or something else, but I can’t imagine that in an American production, especially for television.

If you can get a hold of the holiday episodes, they’re worth watching for a much different sense of closure. Everyone, including David, is redeemed and sent packing with a happy little bow tied onto his or her package. I don’t really think of it as the official end of The Office so much as an acknowledgement from the creators that, yes, after all, they do love the characters they’ve created and they can’t bear to leave them writhing in purgatory. Wimps.


The only reason I even knew about the office was that you recommended it in the previous thread, Tom. Irreversible I happened upon totally by accident browsing Netflix. I actually rent a lot of stuff based on recommendations I find here. So long as the words “fey” or “French” don’t come too much into it, anyway.

I wasn’t actually trying to compare the two. As I stated in the first sentence I don’t believe Irreversible and The Office have anything in common besides leaving me with a decidedly uncomfortable feeling when I was done watching them. The reasons even varied. Unlike the Irreversible characters, David -did- deserve to lose his job in The Office. But how they did it to him…ouch.

Regarding your comments I didn’t go back to check them before I wrote this. I probably should have. I shall do so now to see if there is cause for your litigious posturing, but expect we’ll find our revelations to be simply statements of the obvious. If not I apologize ifI subconciously stole your insights. :roll:

I didn’t see any reference to the Christmas episodes on the DVDs. Funny they’d leave out the one spot of light amidst all the darkness that was The Office.

Last, I agree that you won’t see anything like this on US TV. Our television is always open-ended, to provide the opportunity to stretch shows for another sponsor-milking season if the opportunity presents. The only time there are planned ends seems to be when a show has already been successful and is now nearing the “natural” end of its run. Then they can plan the finale around multiple episodes, or even a season. even there, though, the hope of a spinoff or movie deal usually makes sure the ending isn’t too afwully tragic.

Given the success of the DVDs so far, they no doubt think it’d be much more lucrative to release the two final specials as a separate disc.

Last, I agree that you won’t see anything like this on US TV.

Gervais has reportedly seen the US pilot episode and said that it’s very faithful, that they basically used the original UK script word-for-word, just with the inevitable UK-US cultural references changed.

Of course, we all know how well this worked for COUPLING…

The Christmas specials aren’t really canon. If I’m not mistaken, they were shot over a year after the series had been closed down. You can see, for instance, that Tim has gained a bit of weight. They don’t really know what to do with David Brent. Bringing Dawn back is a really silly deus ex machina, of sorts. There’s a different vibe, more far-flung and contrived. It’s more like a reunion special.

Well, c’mon, what else is he gonna say? Regardless, so much of what makes The Office tick is Gervais’ performance. I’d be curious to see an American remake, but it’s going to have to catch its own lightning in a bottle.


The Christmas specials aren’t really canon.[/quote]
I don’t understand what this assumption is based on. They’re not exactly fan-fiction. They’re as legitimate a part of The Office as any “normal” episode.

I think the two specials were made because Gervais and Merchant were under tremendous pressure to make a third series, but they just didn’t want to push their luck. The two finale specials were their way of a compromise, and I’m glad they made them because I thought the way in which the characters were sent off was appropriate and touching.

I don’t agree that the upbeat nature of the conclusion was any kind of wimp-out. This wasn’t a Hollywood ending. It was as real as any of the cringe-worthy moments from the previous two seasons, and it showed, without being cloying or eye-rolling, that no matter how far one sinks, there’s a little glimmer of redemption in all of us.

There’s nothing Deus Ex Machina about the return of Dawn. That moment had been building for two seasons. Cynics may argue that it would have been better to let her ride off into the sunset, unhappy. But the majority of the show’s audience had been willing that moment to happen for a long time, and I think Gervais and Merchant have earned enough bones through the previous two seasons to warrant one blatantly crowd-pleasing moment right at the end.

BTW, if you enjoyed The Office I’d recommend you also check out I’m Alan Partridge, also from the BBC. It follows the exploits of a former TV talk show host (played by Steve Coogan) who now lives out a desperate, lonely, and bitter existence as the host of a graveyard-shift regional radio show.

It’s a lot more cartoonish and brutal than The Office – unlike Brent, Partridge is not merely deluded and talentless, but also irredeemably selfish, cheap, humorless, clinically depressed, sexist, rude, inept, spineless, a liar and a bully.

Only those with multi-region DVD players need apply, unfortunately.

Gary, you reinforced my ‘not really canon’ comment with this:

I’m not trying to bash the Christmas specials, because I enjoyed them tremendously. But it’s interesting to note that the series was over. It was done. It had been completed. Finito. That’s all she wrote. The end.

This wasn’t a Hollywood ending.

We’re going to have to disagree, because I don’t know how it could have possibly been more Hollywood. Everyone is happy, redeemed, smiling, appreciative of their love for each other, hugging, blah blah blah. This is a complete 180 from the way the series originally ended.

I’m Alan Patridge sounds great! I loved Steve Coogan from 24 Hour Party People. Unfortunately, I only have a plain American DVD player…


It is great. I’ve got a screencap:

You’ll also want to see ‘Knowing Me, Knowing You, With Alan Partridge’ and ‘The Day Today’ - preferably before ‘I’m Alan Partridge’ so you can follow the evolution of the character.

Yeah, I didn’t mention that stuff because if you really want to follow the entire career of the character there’s a LOT to digest, dating back to Alan’s early radio appearances as a sportscaster for On The Hour.

You could jump right into I’m Alan Partridge, but you should definitely check out Knowing Me, Knowing You. has tapes and CDs of the original radio show, and the TV version is notable for the episode which destroyed Alan’s career, in which he kills a guest live on stage.


Tom, I think the point is that they didn’t want to push their luck with a whole new series, but by doing a couple of “specials”, they would be able to tie things up and not leave audiences hanging.

Anyway, yeah, we’ll have to disagree on that one. Aside from Tim and Dawn, I didn’t see anything too saccharine in the show’s resolution. The key, obviously, is Brent, and the ending doesn’t redeem him, it just hints that some kind of redemption is possible.

Besides, if it wasn’t for the specials, we’d never have Brent’s version of “If You Don’t Know Me By Now”.

I just dug my Alan Partridge DVD off the shelf, and am having a blast.

ALAN: Listen, Jill, I really like you, but I’d like to clear something up. You know when you make those sort of risque comments – are you just flirting in that sort of crude way that middle-aged divorcees do, or do you genuinely like me, sex-wise?

JILL: Well, you know. You’re a man, I’m a woman.

ALAN: That’s a relief. The mind plays tricks.

Plus, it actually fits in with the actual premise of the show, which is done in a mock “documentary” style.

Look at the number of “reality shows” that do a “where are they now” episode. It’s not unreasonable that the crew behind the documentary would come back some time later to see where everyone is at, and the filmmakers havind decided to add some drama by paying for Dawn to come back is even mentioned on the write-up given for those episodes on the official site.

And you’d be wrong, you non-TV watcher you.

Gervais admits that Curb Your Enthusiasm was a big influence, and it pre-dated The Office by a couple of years. (Edit: No he doesn’t. I’m an idiot.)

But that’s HBO. So how about Seinfeld, also from Larry David? How about The Larry Sanders Show? (More HBO.)

If you’re looking for movies, how about Meet the Parents, which sorta creeped me out in that it was all about humiliating Ben Stiller? Gervais also mentions This is Spinal Tap, and really all of those mockumentary movies are slightly more kind-hearted versions of what The Office is doing.

Ummm. From that interview:

Curb Your Enthusiasm is my new favorite show. Not an influence, because I saw it afterwards

But Gervais does say that other American comedies were a big influence on him.

Exactly my point. You consider it ‘[leaving] audiences hanging’, but wasn’t that how it was supposed to end? Unless I’m mistaken, they didn’t have any intention of continuing the series after season two, did they? I thought the Christmas specials were something they put together after the fact, in response to the show’s popularity.

Again, I don’t dislike the Christmas specials. I just think that without them, The Office is uniquely excruciating. And I mean that as a compliment. The Christmas specials soften the blow and make for a much more conventional structure.

I’m not sure what you’re responding to, but what I meant in my post was that I can’t imagine an American TV show ending on such a downbeat note, much less the downward spiral of humiliation that makes up the second season of The Office.

Okay, now it’s time for the quotes.

“I can honestly say I’ve never come over a little queer.”


“This is the accounts department, the number bods. Do not be fooled by their job descriptions, they are absolutely mad, all of 'em. Especially that one, he’s mental. Not literally of course, that wouldn’t work.”

“There are limits to my comedy. There are things that I’ll never laugh at. The handicapped. Because there’s nothing funny about them. Or any deformity. It’s like when you see someone look at a little handicapped and go ‘ooh, look at him, he’s not able-bodied. I am, I’m prejudiced.’ Yeah, well, at least the little handicapped fella is able-minded. Unless he’s not. It’s difficult to tell with the wheelchair ones.”