Thursday, November 17, 2011

This holiday season celebrate with The Office Collection Special Edition available on November 22.  Written and created by Golden Globe winners Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, the DVD Special Edition features the complete, original UK series plus all new bonus features.

BBC AMERICA first introduced U.S. audiences to the comedy genius of Ricky and Stephen when it premiered the show in 2003.  At its launch The New York Times called it “pretty much the funniest show ever” while Newsweek declared it the “best comedy on television.”  It went on to win two Golden Globes, inspire the U.S. version on NBC and continues to influence the tone and look of everything from television comedy and movies to commercials and pop culture at large. 

The Special Edition DVD has all 12 episodes and the 2-part Holiday Special with bonus features including:

·         The original pilot

·         Six specially recorded introductions of every episode  from Season 1 by Ricky and Stephen

·         An exclusive documentary  Comedy Connections: The Office which traces the history of the show

·         Interviews with the original cast including Ricky, Stephen, Lucy Davies, Mackenzie Crook, Martin Freeman and Ewen Macintosh as well as celebrity fans Ben Stiller, Christopher Guest, Matthew Perry, Richard Curtis and David Baddiel.

Check out the official site.

Here is a clip of Ricky Gervais, as David Brent, "cheering up" an employee on his 30th birthday:

Ricky Gervais shines as slimy, clueless boss David Brent in the "docusoap" series The Office. The premise of the show is that a documentary film crew is recording the daily goings-on of the paper company Wernham Hogg in lovely industrial Slough.  The title credits show a gray, boring, office in the middle of a gray, boring town.  David Brent is the Managing Director of the company, but he never seems to do much work beyond annoying employees and making them feel uncomfortable.  He is never shy about addressing the viewer directly and imparting his vast wisdom on how to motivate employees to get the best out of them, while at the same time lightening the mood all round by being an "entertainer."  The David Brent character does become a more sympathetic character as the series evolves and his odd behavior catches up to him.

This Special Edition collection of the program consists of 4 disks which include both seasons of the series, as well as the series finale, a 2-part Christmas episode shown in 2003. One disk contains the original pilot episode, with actors who didn't continue on to the main series.  It is interesting to see David Brent in all his original glory, when the principle actors had no idea that this project would evolve into a series!  This disk also includes an interesting documentary with an interview with creators Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant discussing how the program came to be, and how unenthused the-powers-that-be at the BBC were at the beginning.

The first season's episodes are all introduced by Stephen Merchant and Ricky Gervais discussing various aspects of the show, illustrated by clips from the series.   The very first episode also features short clips of various well-known actors, including Ben Stiller, Christopher Guest and Matthew Perry discussing their admiration for the innovative and influential show.  It was a little difficult for me at times to figure out when the reminiscences had ended and the actual episode began, though!

Some of the other actors who appear in the series have also become famous since the airing of the show.  Martin Freeman (Dr. Watson and soon to be Bilbo Baggins) plays Tim, who seems to be the only person interested in doing any actual work at Wernham Hogg.  He is constantly thwarted in his efforts to concentrate by his annoying cubicle-mate (although they are unfortunately missing the walls which might have made the situation bearable) Gareth, played by Mackenzie Crook, best know for his role as a somewhat ramshackle pirate in the Pirates of the Caribbean films.  The other main character is the receptionist Dawn, who is part of a love-triangle between the mild-mannered Tim and her tough boyfriend Lee.  Lucy Davis (known for coaching her fellow survivors on how to play zombie in Shaun of the Dead) plays the conflicted Dawn.

The disk containing the final episodes of the series also contains the documentary Closed for Business, where Gervais and Merchant and the various actors discuss why they decided to end the show at that point.  The Christmas episodes were intended to be the series finale, so there are no cliffhangers that never get resolved or other annoying plot holes.

New and old fans will enjoy this full series of the iconic British series.  Fans of the American version of The Office will enjoy seeing where it all began! 

On a side note, I was very pleased to note the Eastenders reference in the first episode (Rickaaay!). Just one iconic show paying tribute to another!

Disclaimer:  I was provided a review copy of The Office Collection Special Edition by BBC.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

I'm a huge fan of Ruth Rendell, so I was thrilled to find her latest novel, Tigerlily's Orchids, at my local library.  Although she has stopped writing about Inspector Wexford, her "one off" novels have always also been quite enjoyable.

The latest novel takes place in a block of flats in London.  The gorgeous and spoiled Stuart Font has used an inheritance from an aunt to purchase a flat and also to avoid getting a job.  He decides to throw himself a housewarming party and invite the other residents of the building.  Stuart is having an affair with a married woman, Claudia, who has a violently unstable husband.  The other residents of the building all have their own problems and secrets. Olwen, an older lady who just wants to be left in peace so that she can drink herself to death, naturally attends the party for the free alcohol on offer.  Rose and Marius are two aging "hippies" who once had a one-night stand, but are now just neighbors.  Michael Constantine, a doctor who is in trouble for writing facually incorrect medical articles, attends with his wife Katie.  The three single girls sharing a flat also wouldn't miss a party, and the cleaning lady Richenda and her caretaker husband Wally also show up (although they weren't exactly invited).  Not long after the party starts, Claudia's jealous husband Freddy shows up, and the party breaks up when Freddy attacks Stuart.  Stuart ends up with a broken arm.

Adding to this cast of characters is Duncan, a retired mechanic who lives across the street.  Duncan observes the comings and goings of the residents of Stuart's building, as well as the odd events in the house next door.  It is occupied by what appears to be a family of Chinese immigrants.  Duncan doesn't have any contact with them.  Oddly, his house is always sweltering, even on the warmest days.

One day, Stuart is in a shop when he spots the most beautiful girl he's ever seen.  He doesn't speak to her, but continues to watch for her.  Not suprisingly, at this point his relationship with Claudia begins to fizzle out (although Claudia isn't too happy about this).  Eventually, he learns that the beautiful girl is part of the "family" that live across the street, next to Duncan. He is able to speak with the girl (whom he calls "Tigerlily") and asks her to meet him.  She doesn't speak much English, but agrees to meet him.  On their "date," she asks Stuart to help her get a passport.  Her "family" is very strict, and she must hide her meetings with Stuart from them.

In the meantime, one of the party girls, Molly, has fallen madly in love with Stuart and decided that she will take on the job of cleaning his flat for him since he is injured.  Stuart barely acknowledges her existence.

Stuart has arranged another meeting with Tigerlily in a park.  The next day, he is found murdered in the park, and there's no shortage of possible suspects.  The first to come to mind is the enraged Freddy, but there's also Tigerlily's "dad," who doesn't like her talking to strange men.  Or could there be someone else with a grudge against Stuart??

In amongst all this activity are woven different social issues:  illegal immigration, drug trafficking, modern day slavery, substance abuse, even pedophilia!  I do love Ruth Rendell, but this book might have benefitted from about half the number of characters and issues that were included!

Final verdict for Tigerlily's Orchids Three gherkins, for a page-turning but ultimately too busy story

Monday, November 7, 2011

Thanks to everyone who entered my contest to win a copy of "The Rise and Fall of Margaret Thatcher."

The lucky winner is:


Congratulations and happy watching!  Watch this space for future giveaways!


About Me

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I'm a librarian who is interested in all things British. I try to visit London as often as possible, and am always planning my next trip. I lived in Sweden for a few years with my Swedish husband, so the occasional Swedish reference may occur . . .

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