Celebrating ten years since the Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant comedy The Office first aired in the UK, the BBC has made all the episodes, including the popular Christmas specials, available on iTunes for the first time.
Back in 2001, The Office didn’t so much as burst onto British TV screens, as quietly shuffle in. It was a slow burner. The BBC gave it hardly any publicity and broadcast it on its less-watched BBC 2 channel. Then, over the following couple of weeks, word got out. There was this new comedy. Set in an office. The main character, some guy called Brent, is funny. He’s excruciating in the way he tries to ingratiate himself with his staff. But it works.
Midway through the first series, it seemed as if the whole of the UK had caught on and was tuning in to see this quirky David Brent character, played by Gervais (equivalent to Steve Carrell’s Michael Scott character in the later US version of the show), in the new mockumentary show.
Only 14 episodes were written and recorded by Gervais and Merchant, though in that short time it managed to pick up a slew of awards, including two prestigious Golden Globes in 2004. Since then, the BBC has sold the British version to 88 countries, while eight countries, including the US, have made their own version of the show.
Up to now, the UK version of The Office has only been available on DVD, of which nearly four millions copies have been sold. iTunes’ now has each episode priced at $1.99 (£1.89). They’re available in the UK, the US, Canada, Australia, France and Germany.
Speaking to the BBC about the ten year anniversary, Gervais said: “It’s been the most amazing 10 years of my life. Who’d have thought mucking around at work and watching docusoaps through the 90s would be so lucrative?”