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FRANCES TRAYNOR: A LEAVING DO TO REMEMBER; Gervais kills off The Office and leaves us a comedy classic The Office BBC1, Boxing Day, Saturday.

Byline: FRANCES TRAYNOR

THE season of goodwill to all men? What? Even David Brent? Well, yes actually.

Unbelievably, there was a happy ending for the monstrous Brent in The Office.

Not only that, there was the most warm-heartedand romantic of happy endings for Tim and Dawn.

I watched the final few minutes of the second Christmas special of The Office through a haze of tears and for once they weren't ones of hysterical laughter.

How could it come to this? How could Ricky Gervais have managed to turn the crassly insensitive bore that is David Brent into someone we no longer pitied but actually quite liked?

Amazingly, he and co-writer Stephen Merchant did just that with easily the best two shows on the box thisfestive season. Hell, they could repeat The Office until kingdom comes and it would still outshine any of the competition.

Like all fans of the spoof fly-on-the-wall comedy, I was almost dreading thesefinal episodes. What if they weren't funny? What if Gervais had made the same mistake as Jennifer Saunders did with Ab Fab and flogged a dead comic horse?

Oh ye and me of little faith. This was the stuff of comic genius, to be mentioned in the same breath as Fawlty Towers and Blackadder.

Friday's first episode was merely very funny, Saturday's was frankly hilarious.

We caught up with travelling salesman Brent, reduced to doing excruciating PAs in naff clubs, dressed as Austin Powers.

He had blown his redundancy on making his own single, released on Juxtaposition Records, a cringeworthy cover of If You Don't Know Me Now. In the tortuous video, Brent wore white linen.

At Wernham Hogg, Gareth was now office manager, ruling his staff with discipline and helping daily visitor Brent sift through potential girlfriends from a dating agency.

Naturally, Brent's blind dateswere one disaster after another with him plumbing new depths in embarrassment to ruin them.

His crassness towards women was summed up when he told an overweight woman: ``Phew, I was expecting a blind date and I was worried you were it.''

But it seems there is truth in the saying that there is someone for everyone. His date for the Christmas party was intelligent (not as clever as him, of course), attractive and amazingly keen to see him again.

Meanwhile, Tim was quietly pining away for Dawn.

The highlight of the first two series was the understated and unresolved romantic tension between them, which ended with her rejecting him for a second time and moving to Florida with moronic fiancA Lee.

The scene where she returned to the party clutching Tim's secret Santa gift was one of those moments whereyoushock yourself byshouting ``yes!'' at the telly. Well, I did anyway.

Simply wonderful.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jan 1, 2004
Words:454
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