David Brent's quiet battle against oblivion, against anonymity, against death, is fought camera gaze by camera gaze: "did you see what I just did?" He's reaching out for someone to acknowledge his very existence. It's because of this every mistimed zoom in THE OFFICE sets heaven and hell in motion, why it's unbearable to watch, why it hasn't aged and why it's a work of deep humanism.
I can only watch one episode at a time, it's marvelous but agonizing. Cringe comedy has blossomed since with 'Curb Your Enthusiasm', 'Arrested Development', 'The Inbetweeners', 'Peep Show', 'Louie', even 'Girls'. Gervais and Merchant should be lauded for the seismic effect of the original concept and delivery of this show which emphasises the banal nature of reality and the awkwardness of human interaction.