You can take David Brent out of The Office, but you can’t take the office out of David Brent. 14 years after the last episode of the two-part series-ending Christmas episode — and four years after a short, made-for-charity Office sequel — Ricky Gervais has revived his signature creation for a feature-length follow-up: David Brent: Life on the Road. And the big revelation of the film, which premiered in the U.K. last year and arrives Feb. 10 on Netflix, is that the former Slough-based paper company regional manager is back in the world of cubicle farms, holding down a timeclock-punching gig as a salesman for a company that peddles cleaning products. Basically, he’s become his old employee Tim (Martin Freeman, who, sadly, doesn’t make a cameo) — a man who steadily ceded his big ambitions for the security of a nine-to-five routine.
David’s still clinging to his dreams of musical stardom, though. So he makes a last-ditch effort to literally get the band back together, bringing his defunct musical group, Foregone Conclusion, out of mothballs and recruiting new members including rapper pal Dom Johnson (Ben Bailey Smith). Cashing in on his pension and vacation days, Brent organizes a month-long tour that spans the entire length… of Greater London’s M25 motorway. As with all things David touches, this plan to rock out quickly hits the rocks due to bad luck, bad planning, bad choices, and bad behavior on his own part.
That behavior will be familiar to anyone who remembers The Office, which is the audience Life on the Road will primarily appeal to. But if this is your first exposure to David Brent — or you’re simply in need of a refresher on his Wernham Hogg days — here are five classic Office episodes to stream on Netflix that will tell you everything you need to know about the world’s best worst boss. Better hurry up and binge: The Office is leaving Netflix on Mar. 1.
“Downsize” (Season 1, Episode 1)
It’s not an exaggeration to say that The Office’s series premiere changed television, at least in regards to comedy. Borrowing the mockumentary approach pioneered by the likes of Christopher Guest and Albert Brooks on the big screen, Gervais established an environment that was recognizably ordinary and filled it with personalities who were anything but. Almost every single camera sitcom made since — from the U.S. Office and Parks and Recreation to Modern Family and the upcoming Trial & Error — owe a small debt of gratitude to David Brent. Not that the guy does a lot to earn our affection in the first episode, keeping the threat of redundancy a secret from his employees, and then pretending to fire perky secretary Dawn (Lucy Davis) over an invented Post-It infraction until her tears curb his enthusiasm and make him own up to his poor excuse for a joke. That’s the same David we meet in Life on the Road; he likes to have a laugh, but feels regret when his humor visibly harms another person.
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“Training” (Season 1, Episode 4)
David’s musical background comes to the fore during a staff training day, as he treats (or, if you prefer, subjects) his officemates to performances of such self-penned classics as “Freelove Freeway” and “Goodnight My Sweet Princess.” It’s here that we learn about Foregone Conclusion for the first time, with Brent boasting that his ex-group was once supported by a real-life band: “A little-known Scottish outfit called Texas.” There’s no reprise of imagined hits like “Spaceman” and “The Serpent Who Guards the Gates of Hell” in Life on the Road, but Brent does gift us with a number of original (and equally offensive) tunes including “Native American” and “Lady Gypsy.”
“Merger” (Season 2, Episode 1)
In a classic win/lose scenario, the second season of The Office opens with David still in control of the Slough branch — now home to the members of the shuttered Swindon division — but under the authority of a newer, funnier boss, Neil. Trying to re-establish his authority by turning a staff meeting into a stand-up comedy routine, Brent resorts to goose-stepping gags and one very poorly advised racial joke. He misreads the room early on in Life on the Road as well, busting out an impression of an Asian man that would make Short Round and Long Duk Dong instantly think, “That’s racist.”
“Charity” (Season 2, Episode 5)
Humiliation is a matter of course for David Brent, but even by his standards his exit from Wernham-Hogg — getting fired while dressed up in an ostrich outfit for Red Nose Day — must have been deeply wounding. On the other hand, being forced out of the paper company once and for all puts him on the path to the place we find him in Life on the Road… working in another office. Sometimes you’ve got to move forwards to go backwards, right?
David’s transition from hawking paper to cleaning products originates in the series-ending Christmas specials, as does his misbegotten attempts to further his musical career. Here, those dreams take the form of self-funded singles through his record label, Juxtaposition Records, and gauzy music videos in which he covers ‘80s pop chestnuts like “If You Don’t Need Me by Now.” Brent also gets his first taste of success in these specials, though, finding a woman who isn’t repulsed by him and managing to coax genuine laughter out of his ex-employees. Both of those small moments of triumph, by the way, are repeated after a fashion in Life on the Road after a seemingly endless string of defeats.
David Brent: Life on the Road premieres Feb. 10 on Netflix; both seasons of The Office are currently streaming on Netflix.
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