The Office hit me hard, much to the dismay of my coworkers who had to listen to my analysis of the series ad nauseum. Lots of people have reviewed this series, and I don't think another summary is necessary. But I wanted to offer a slightly different take on why this thing "got in amongst me" as much as it did.
For starters, I never thought of this series as a comedy. Yes, it has some very funny moments. (OK, it has some hilarious moments.) But they're not what define this series.
At its core, I think it's about David Brent and Tim Canterbury, two people who are really two sides of a single coin. Superficially, they couldn't be more different. One demands attention, the other shuns it. One is a juvenile and utterly self-deluded egomaniac, while the other is principled and sensitive. But both are finding it impossible to get what they want out of life. They're insecure and frightened, and they wear their dysfunctional personalities like suits of armor. Unfortunately, this comes at a high price. They are being dishonest with themselves and with the other people in their lives. In retaliation, life periodically dishes out humiliation, sort of like the shock the rat gets when he takes the wrong turn in the maze. We're on the wrong path, and Zap, we're not going to be allowed to get away with it.
The other (wonderful) characters in the series exist mainly to put David and Tim in situations that reveal who they are. We find out that neither Tim nor David seem to respect themselves. Tim sells out his dream to return to college by staying on the job for a paltry promotion. He eventually refuses a high position, allowing his bizarre desk mate Garreth to get the job instead. David is consumed by jealousy as he sees others (especially his new boss, Neal) getting the respect and success that elude him. But he prances sycophantically around the abusive and hateful Finch, whom he considers a friend.
In each episode David and Tim have failures and crises that seem to happen in parallel. As David embarrasses himself with his guitar during the staff training day, Tim acts out and ultimately humiliates himself by asking Dawn out at the wrong time. In the incredible episode in which David gives his horrifically embarrassing comedy welcome to the "Swindon lot," Tim is literally stuck against the wall by Dawn's jealous boyfriend.
Tim wants a relationship, and David wants ego-gratification, and by the final episode Tim has a (great) girlfriend in Rachel, and David has a gig as a motivational speaker. Both manage to bring these potential successes crashing down.
In this final episode Tim and David each have their one honest moment, but it's too little, too late. Tim, defined by his fear of taking chances, takes the ultimate chance with Dawn. Although the sound is off, we suspect he says those Three Little Words. David, having been scathingly sarcastic and insubordinate to Neal, must beg the man for his job. Sad ironies abound. There are no happy endings.
Now it's Christmas, three years later. Dawn is living in the States with her odious, soul-crushing fiancé Lee, who is content to sponge off of his sister and her husband. Tim, having refused David's job, is under the boot of Garreth, and has an even more foul desk mate (Anne) than Garreth was. David sells cleaning supplies, and supplements his income with "celebrity" appearances so humiliating that even he can sense it.
Situations develop that threaten to propel David and Tim even deeper into irredeemable despair. David must find a date to bring to the Christmas party, challenged to do so by the recently engaged Neal. Dawn visits the Office for Christmas. Tim must not only face her, but must watch as the last vestiges of her hope for a future in Illustrating are destroyed by Lee.
But it's Christmas, dammit, a time for giving and receiving gifts. David receives a gift from a woman that he has clearly never gotten in his life. Finch notices the change immediately. Tim gives a gift to Dawn in the form of Three Other Little Words. They mean so much to her that they instantly change her life, and, presumably, his.
In these twelve half-hours, Gervais and Merchant demonstrate the consequences of failing to be honest with ourselves. The Christmas special brings it around full circle, and we are shown the path to redemption.
Watch this wonderful series. You could learn something important.