David Brent, the insufferable, self-deluded middle management drone from the original UK version of "The Office," never met a spotlight he didn’t try to clumsily grab. So it shouldn't come as a surprise that Ricky Gervais’ most enduring wince-inducing creation is creeping back just as the American edition of the show wraps the final episode of its storied nine-season stint on NBC.
Gervais stars as Brent in a pair of videos made for Britain's annual Comic Relief charity fundraiser, offering a hilarious reminder of how "The Office" started as the longest-running version gets ready to close for business. The clips also underscore the differences in branches of a classic comedy franchise that gave us two forever linked, but annoying-in-his-own-way characters in David Brent and Michael Scott.
Gervais' Brent is a wannabe comedian who proved grating, manipulative, clueless and pathetic, though in the end it was near impossible to hate him. Steve Carell's Scott is a wannabe comedian who proved grating, manipulative, clueless and pathetic, though in the end it was near impossible not to like him.
That's a result not just of distinctive comedy styles, but of the differing demands in producing one show that yielded the equivalent of 14 episodes and another that will end in May with its 200th installment. Far more so than Michael Scott, David Brent was both hard to watch – and not to watch – as he verbally dug himself into pits of cringe.
We can say the same for the new videos in which Brent, still clad in a cheap polyester suit, fashions himself as a music promoter whose office is a pub where, unlike "Cheers," nobody knows his name – or will admit to it. He's putting together a video for a young hip hop artist named Dom Johnson, but winds up bulling his way into the production with his own reggae number, a characteristically misguided plea for racial harmony called, "Equality Street." The song and accompanying video are equal-opportunity offenders (as Brent puts it: "It's mega racial but anti-racist").
Brent seems thrilled to be followed around again by the unseen documentary crew, nearly a decade after his last day at “The Office” and two years after Gervais’ cameos as Brent in Carell's final season. We're thrilled, too: Even if “The Office” is soon leaving TV for good, it’s oddly comforting to know David Brent can still make us squirm as we laugh. Check out the videos below:
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