20 Surprising Facts About The Office

YouTube
YouTube

If your only experience with The Office is via NBC’s long-running American adaptation of the BBC series, you’re missing out. While the original series, which was created by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, falls firmly into the “comedy” genre, it’s that very specific—and unnerving—brand of cringe comedy that separates the series from its straight-up comedy competitors (think: The Larry Sanders Show, Curb Your Enthusiasm, or The Comeback).

More than 15 years after the Golden Globe-winning series made its debut, fans still can’t get enough of David Brent (Gervais) and his team of office drones at Wernham Hogg. (Netflix even recently dropped David Brent: Life on the Road, a feature-length spinoff of the original series.) Here are 20 things you might not have known about The Office.

1. A SHORT VIDEO HELPED SELL THE SHOW TO THE BBC.

Because The Office’s co-creators, Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, had never written or directed anything before, they decided to both show and tell what they could do by making “a short video showing off David Brent, so the BBC got an idea of what to expect,” the collaborators told the BBC. “If we'd had only a script to show people, it may never have happened.”

2. SOME OF THE STORYLINES CAME FROM RICKY GERVAIS’S PAST LIFE IN MIDDLE MANAGEMENT.

In an interview with NPR, Gervais explained that the environment at Wernham Hogg was one that was very familiar to him. “I worked in an office for eight years,” Gervais said. “That's where I got it all from. I was a middle manager. I went to management training seminars where the speakers talked rubbish for two days … Episode four in series one, where we had the guy come in to train people, I remember the first training session I went to, and I remember they did role-playing. And I remember at the time thinking, 'This is ridiculous.'”

3. STEPHEN MERCHANT’S DAD PLAYED A KEY ROLE.

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One of The Office’s most unique characters is Gordon, the janitor who pops up in a few episodes and silently stares into the camera for an uncomfortable amount of time. In real life, Gordon is Ron Merchant—Stephen’s dad. “Yes, he is my dad and we put him in because we thought he had a funny face,” Merchant explained.

4. IT DIDN’T FARE WELL WITH FOCUS GROUPS.

According to Gervais, when the series was first shown to focus groups, it didn’t play so well. In fact, he says it scored one of the lowest scores in BBC’s history. “It was the joint lowest, [tied] with women's bowls,” Gervais told the Chicago Tribune. “And that's not [American] bowling; bowling is exciting compared with women's bowls. This is women rolling a little white ball at a big black ball, somewhere in the north of England.”

Though the series became a massive hit around the world, the early reviews were not great. Over the years, Gervais has regularly reminded people that one critic even called it “a summer stinker.” The ratings were so poor that The Office was nearly cancelled in its first season. (Eventually, that wrong righted itself.)

5. BBC LEFT GERVAIS AND MERCHANT TO THEIR OWN DEVICES.

Despite the poor audience reaction, the BBC trusted Gervais and Merchant enough to allow them to proceed with the show as is. “We didn’t change a thing,” Gervais told the Sun. “We knew how good it was, but that doesn’t guarantee success. For us ‘success’ just meant getting our own way and having it turn out exactly as we wanted. It may still be unheard of in British TV to get left alone like we were as first-time directors. But we didn’t just pitch a script, we made a pilot. I mean—how do you describe David Brent in writing? ‘A man does a bad joke, touches his tie, and looks at the camera?’ Brilliant!”

6. DAVID BRENT IS THE MOST FUN CHARACTER GERVAIS HAS EVER PLAYED.

BBC

When asked about the experience of playing David Brent, Gervais admitted to the Sun that, “None of my characters have been as much fun to play as David Brent. People say he was … the ‘boss from hell,’ but he wasn’t. He was just a twit. He was a man whose biggest mistake was confusing popularity with respect.”

7. IT WAS ONE OF LUCY DAVIS’S FAVORITE JOBS, TOO.

“I don’t think it could ever be possible to enjoy a job more than The Office,” Lucy Davis, who played Dawn Tinsley—Werham Hogg’s receptionist (and the object of Tim’s affection)—told the Express. In fact, Davis said that not working with Freeman was one of the toughest parts of her post-Office life. “When The Office finished I was sad to think I’d never work with Martin again because they’d never cast us together—to the public we’d always be Tim and Dawn.”

8. GERVAIS DESCRIBED THE ENSEMBLE CAST AS “A ROOM FULL OF LAURELS AND ONE HARDY.”

When talking about the ensemble nature of the show, Gervais said that, “The Office is basically a room full of Laurels and one Hardy, which is Tim. Tim’s character is pretty common in comedy—that person who thinks they’re better than everyone else, but it doesn’t seem to get them anywhere … Lisa Simpson, Woody Allen, Bob Hope—they’re all Tims.”

9. DAVID BRENT SHOT SOME TRAINING VIDEOS FOR MICROSOFT.

In 2004, Microsoft UK convinced Gervais and Merchant to shoot a couple of training videos for the company, with Gervais in character as Brent. (A guitar was involved.) It didn’t take long for the clips to be leaked online, which irked the tech giant, who said that they "were never intended to be viewed by the public.”

10. MARTIN FREEMAN ORIGINALLY AUDITIONED FOR THE ROLE OF GARETH.

Though it’s hard to imagine The Office’s resident romantic being the butt of everyone’s jokes, Martin Freeman—who played Tim—originally auditioned for the role of Gareth. “I was a well-respected actor before The Office and there's lots of other work I've been proud of that is less well known,” Freeman told Beyond the Joke. “I consider myself primarily a stage actor and if people were only giving me work now because of Tim I'd feel a bit of a fraud. It's funny because until I became the nicest man in Britain I tended to be cast as villains, drug dealers, rent boys, and bare-knuckle fighters." When he auditioned for The Office, “I originally read for the part of Gareth [that went to Mackenzie Crook]. It was only as I was leaving that Ricky asked me to read for Tim.”

11. GARETH IS BASED ON A REAL PERSON.

When asked whether any of the show’s characters were based on real people, Gervais told the Sun that, “Gareth—played by Mackenzie Crook—is based on a bloke I went to school with. He once said, ‘If you get captured by cannibals, they show you pornographic pictures so you get an erection and there’s more meat’. I used his gems for Gareth.”

12. THE ACTOR WHO PLAYED FINCHY WOULD PROBABLY PUNCH FINCHY.

BBC

Ralph Ineson, who played Finchy, Brent’s piggish BFF, is very much aware that his character was obnoxious. "Finchy is foul," Ineson told the Mirror. "And there is no way I would be mates with him. I think he could offend me to the point of violence."

The character was so unlikable that Ineson actually worried about whether or not he’d be able to escape out from under him. "Finchy is so over the top, I really did think it would ruin my career,” Ineson admitted. "After filming it I kept saying 'Why did I do it?' I was worried how people would react to his ways and I thought I had done a bad job. But that's not to say I didn't enjoy being in the show. On the contrary, it was fantastic and there was a real buzz about it.”

13. THERE WASN’T A LOT OF IMPROVISATION.

Though the show has a very naturalistic style, similar to Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm (which is mostly improvised), Gervais and Merchant said The Office “was 95 percent scripted, with some improvisation here and there.”

14. MERCHANT DOESN’T THINK THE SHOW COULD’VE BEEN MADE TODAY.

In a 2015 interview, Merchant admitted that he doesn’t know that the series would have been made had they pitched it today. “I feel like we’re living in an age now where everyone is constantly apologizing for everything they say,” Merchant told The Telegraph. “This idea that we have to police ourselves, that we might say the wrong thing and upset someone or something. It’s not fun. It’s just not fun. I don’t think The Office would have got off the ground if we’d made it now. I think it would have been shut down. I think the BBC would have been too jumpy.”

15. BRENT’S NOW-INFAMOUS DANCE WAS NOT REHEARSED.

In a series full of uncomfortable moments, one of the most cringe-worthy might very well be when Brent shows off his dance moves. If you think that routine was choreographed, think again. “It wasn't rehearsed,” Gervais said. “I just went berserk for 30 seconds, then had to have a sit down for 30 minutes.”

16. THE SCRIPTS FOR THE CHRISTMAS EPISODES WERE LEAKED.

An unfortunate accident led to the scripts for the Christmas specials being sold to the Mail on Sunday, which shared them with readers. “Someone at the BBC accidentally sent a script or a schedule or something to the wrong address,” Gervais and Merchant explained of the mix-up. “The woman who mistakenly received it did what any thoughtful, law-abiding citizen would do and sold it to the Mail On Sunday.”

17. IT’S THE FIRST BRITISH SITCOM TO WIN A GOLDEN GLOBE.

In 2004, The Office became the first British sitcom in more than 25 years to be nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Television Series - Comedy or Musical. When it won the award, it became the first British series to ever do so. (Ricky Gervais also took home a statue for Best Actor.)

18. SHOOTING TIM’S APPRAISAL REQUIRED 74 TAKES.

When asked about any memorably difficult scenes to shoot, Gervais and Merchant told the BBC that it was the scene in which Brent gives Tim an appraisal—which required 74 takes. “We kept laughing and couldn't get through the dialogue,” Gervais said.

19. THE AMERICAN VERSION OF THE OFFICE ISN’T THE ONLY ADAPTATION.

In addition to the UK and America, The Office has made its way onto television screens around the world. More than 80 countries have broadcast the original series, from Canada to Hong Kong.

The series has also been adapted for audiences around the world. Among the international updates are versions in France (Le Bureau), Germany (Stromberg), Canada (La Job), Chile (La Ofis), Israel (HaMisrad), and Sweden (Kontoret).

20. MERCHANT AND GERVAIS SHARE A FAVORITE MOMENT FROM THE SERIES.

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When asked about their favorite scene from the series, both Gervais and Merchant’s answer is the same. “We both like the bit where Tim takes his microphone off at the end of series two,” they told the BBC. Merchant referenced this scene again when he was asked the same question during a Reddit AMA, saying that his favorite thing was, “Shooting the moment when Tim unhooks his mic and tells Dawn how he feels and we never hear what is said. I thought it was a perfect way of using the fake documentary style and telling our story.”

Amazon's Under-the-Radar Coupon Page Features Deals on Home Goods, Electronics, and Groceries

Stock Catalog, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Stock Catalog, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Now that Prime Day is over, and with Black Friday and Cyber Monday still a few weeks away, online deals may seem harder to come by. And while it can be a hassle to scour the internet for promo codes, buy-one-get-one deals, and flash sales, Amazon actually has an extensive coupon page you might not know about that features deals to look through every day.

As pointed out by People, the coupon page breaks deals down by categories, like electronics, home & kitchen, and groceries (the coupons even work with SNAP benefits). Since most of the deals revolve around the essentials, it's easy to stock up on items like Cottonelle toilet paper, Tide Pods, Cascade dishwasher detergent, and a 50 pack of surgical masks whenever you're running low.

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To discover all the deals you have been missing out on, head over to the Amazon Coupons page.

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10 Operatic Facts About "Bohemian Rhapsody"

Queen Official via YouTube
Queen Official via YouTube

"Bohemiam Rhapsody," Queen’s classic "mock opera," was released on October 31, 1975. Though the song was met with skepticism when played for preview audiences, it ended up spending nine weeks at number 1 on the UK charts in 1976. It currently ranks as the third best-selling UK single of all time (behind Elton John’s Princess Diana tribute “Candle in the Wind” and Band Aid’s holiday-made “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”) and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2004. Here are some facts about the iconic song to consider the next time you’re hitting those “Galileo” high notes along with your car radio.

1. Freddie Mercury started writing "Bohemian Rhapsody" in 1968.

The story of “Bohemian Rhapsody”—or “Bo Rhap,” as it is known by Queen fans—began in 1968, when Freddie Mercury was a student at London’s Ealing Art College. He had come up with an opening line—“Mama, just killed a man”—but no melody. Because of the Old West feel (in his mind) to the lyric, he referred to his work in progress as “The Cowboy Song.”

2. Queen's producer was skeptical of "Bohemian Rhapsody"'s opera-like composition.

Roy Thomas Baker, who produced the band’s A Night at the Opera album, first heard the framework for "Bohemian Rhapsody" when he picked Freddie up at his Holland Road flat in London one evening before going out to dinner. Freddie led him to the piano to play the song he’d been working on. As Baker recalled of the scene, Freddie played the opening ballad section of the tune then stopped and exclaimed, “And this is where the opera section comes in!” Baker laughed at the time, but when Freddie came to the studio days later armed with various pieces of paper with notes and doodles outlining his composition, the producer determined to use all his talent and equipment to capture Mercury’s vision on tape.

3. Freddie Mercury was always adding another "Galileo."

In 1975, “state-of-the-art” recording meant 24-track analog tape. The harmonies on the opera section (all sung by Mercury, drummer Roger Taylor, and guitarist Brian May) required 180 separate overdubs, and eventually the tape had been run over the recording heads so many times that it became almost transparent. In the end it took three weeks (Mercury was always adding “another ‘Galileo,'” Baker explained) and five different studios to complete the track.

4. Elton John thought "Bohemian Rhapsody" was too "weird" for the radio.

Prior to its release, Queen’s manager played a rough mix of the song to one of his other high-profile clients, Elton John, to get his opinion. “Are you f*cking mad?” was the singer’s reaction after listening to the nearly six-minute song. His verdict: it was too long and too “weird” for radio.

5. The huge success of "Bohemian Rhapsody" is due in part to one DJ.

“Bohemian Rhapsody” owes part of its success to British DJ Kenny Everett, who had a popular morning radio show on Capital Radio. In early October 1975, EMI was still pressuring Queen to release “You’re My Best Friend” as the first single from A Night at the Opera. Everett got his hands on an early pressing of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” with strict instructions not to broadcast it (wink, wink). Somehow, strictly by accident (his finger must have slipped), he played the song 14 times over the course of two days. Callers flooded the radio station and local record stores with requests for the song, so the suits at EMI relented and released the magnum opus as a single.

6. Promoting "Bohemian Rhapsody" proved problematic.

After it was decided to release “Bohemian Rhapsody” as a single, the band was faced with a bit of a dilemma: At the time in England, it was traditional for bands to appear on shows like Top of the Pops to promote their latest hits. But Queen was scheduled to begin a tour soon, plus (as Brian May admitted) they’d feel self-conscious miming to the operatic section. They solved the problem by filming a promotional film, or “pop promo” as it was called in the industry lingo of the time, that could be shown not only on UK music shows, but also around the world in other markets, such as American Bandstand.

7. It took just under four hours to film the video for "Bohemian Rhapsody."

The band arrived at Elstree Studios (using the same stage they were using to rehearse for their upcoming tour) at 7:30 in the morning, and were finished and relaxing at the local pub by 11:30 a.m. The total cost of the video was £4500, or about $2025. This was the first music video directed by Bruce Gowers, and the success of that clip eventually prompted him to move to Hollywood, where he went on to direct such TV programs as the MTV Movie Awards, the Primetime Emmy Awards, the People's Choice Awards and the first 10 seasons of American Idol.

8. The "Bohemian Rhapsody" scene in Wayne's World took 10 hours to film.

The classic scene in the 1992 film Wayne’s World, on the other hand, took 10 hours to film. Dana Carvey didn’t learn the lyrics ahead of time, and if you watch closely you can see that he’s often just randomly moving his mouth while “singing” along. (And all the actors complained of neck pain after headbanging through so many takes.)

9. A symphonic gong was added to Roger Taylor's drum kit for "Bohemian Rhapsody."

When the band launched their tour to support A Night at the Opera, Roger Taylor’s drum kit was outfitted with a 60-inch symphonic gong (which had to be cleaned, packed, and set up on each date) just so he could strike that final note in “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

10. A blue vinyl pressing of "Bohemian Rhapsody" is worth more than $5000.

The Holy Grail in terms of Queen collectibles is a 7-inch limited edition of “Bohemian Rhapsody” that was pressed in blue vinyl. In the summer of 1978, EMI Records won the Queen’s Award To Industry For Export Achievement (that’s “Queen” as in Her Majesty Elizabeth II). The label’s primary reason for sales in far-reaching territories that lacked manufacturing facilities was Queen, as in the band. To celebrate their prestigious award, EMI pressed 200 copies of “Bohemian Rhapsody” in blue vinyl, each of which was hand-numbered. Numbers one through four went to the band members, of course, while other low-numbered copies were given to friends and family members. Bona fide copies from this original pressing currently sell for upwards of $5000.

Additional sources: Queen: As It Began, by Jacky Smith and Jim Jenkins Is This the Real Life? The Untold Story of Queen, by Mark Blake Queen: The Story of Bohemian Rhapsody
The Making of Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’”

This story has been updated for 2020.