The Office (ITV, 1996)
Time for another edition of my “were there any decent 90s ITV sitcoms” series. Now this one is rather interesting because it is called The Office, but it has no connection with the much-praised BBC series that launched in 2001. This seems to be an attempt at a “look at how crazy our office is”-style sitcom five years before Ricky Gervais came along, so it was good to finally track it down on YouTube and discover what it was all about.
The Office was written by Steven Moffat who worked on some other comedy shows around this time, before going on to become the executive producer of Doctor Who of course. Robert Lindsay (someone who I have a very vague connection to, as my mum went to school with his ex-wife, I’ve explained more about that story in my review of Lucky Feller) starred as Norman, who worked at a company called Trans Atlas International.
Norman is someone who will go to rather extraordinary lengths to impress his boss Hillary. After getting the wrong idea following one of her comments, he happily decides to take most of his clothes off and lie on her desk hoping for her approval. After he then realises what she actually meant, he can’t get his clothes back and he is left in a rather embarrassing situation (cue laughter).
However, his scatterbrained temporary secretary Pru (played by Rebecca Front of The Day Today fame among other things) is of no help to him. How will he get out of this one? Norman has to make a very important speech, all the top people are going to be there including the CEO and he mustn’t let them down. He can’t exactly do it in the nude can he!
He initially tries to dress as one of the company’s dispatch riders but is caught out by Nigel (played by Stefan Dennis, of Neighbours fame). By this point Hillary has no idea what Norman is up to. As a last resort at trying to get dressed in time he ends up doing his speech whilst wearing women’s clothes, but everyone applauds him anyway for his effort, much to his relief (cue even more laughter).
It seems that The Office was designed to be an intentional one-off, with no plans for a series however well it did, and the episode was played out as something of a farce. It was shown on ITV in July 1996 and unlike its BBC namesake is now rather forgotten and it doesn’t even have a Wikipedia entry. It was also nominated for an award that it didn’t win. I suppose it made the most of its good cast though and played the absurd situation for all the laughs it could get.