Ricky Gervais is a man who knows where his brilliance lies. The problem is, that brilliance is about a seven-hour flight away from his Manhattan apartment, holing up under a desk in a Slough trading estate and trying to forget that The Invention of Lying ever made it to the screen.Which might explain why, on Tuesday, Gervais took to Twitter not to belittle Christians or fill his followers’ feeds with Derek promo, but to announce the resurrection of his greatest creation: David Brent, the character most of us last saw dying in front of an audience of millions on the Live 8 stage.
In a tweet that he’s since deleted, Gervais asked his 5.7 million followers which aspects of Brent’s life they would like to see explored if a new “documentary” was made that caught up with the Wernham Hogg manager a decade after the cameras stopped rolling. Understandably, this got a lot of people pretty fired up, and the Tweet was inundated with replies – suggestions of depressing scenarios we'd like to see Brent squirm his way around. But there was only one answer anyone should have given: Nothing.Because I’m a human being with working eyes and ears, I love The Office. In fact, after seeing Ricky’s tweet – and dealing with the initial excitement and subsequent dread – I realised that I love it so much that I never want to see it again.The Office is a masterpiece. It is Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant’s brush with genius, which will one day hang next to The Fighting Temeraire in the pantheon of British artistic achievement. What Gervais sadly seems to miss, however, is that adding extra strokes to Turner’s classic couldn’t possibly improve it. Even if what he ends up doing with Brent does actually turn out to be any good, it’s unlikely to be as brilliant as The Office – and it certainly won’t be as good as how we remember it.It’s now been over ten years since Dawn kissed Tim at the end of the final episode, since Brent told Finchy to fuck-off and finally made his old colleagues laugh. It was brilliant then, and remembering it now it seems almost perfect. It can’t have been, because art can never really be perfect – but it feels like it was. And while bringing back Brent wouldn’t necessarily ruin that completely, it might very well smudge the memory.
There would be an uncomfortable incongruity about seeing his baggy suit parachuted into 2014. Brent is such a defining figure of the 2000s, perfectly symbolising the ennui of comfortable white collar nothingness, that his reappearance in a time of unemployment and deficits just wouldn’t seem right. Brent was a child of easy credit and bland politics; the only opinion he had was everyone else’s. He simply couldn’t be the same person, meaning he couldn’t really be David Brent.The dedicated will know that Brent has actually already been seen again in recent music videos, guitar tutorials and now a UK tour, all of which have been pretty well received. But these appearances are self-contained curiosities standing apart from the original series. They are David Brent in name but not in reality.The problem here comes when Brent re-emerges into the real world and his story starts to progress – and that’s because his story can’t progress because it’s already complete. In that final episode, he – at last – became self-aware enough to charm a girl and stand up to his bully. The moment he did that he stopped being David Brent. Because he stopped desperately trying to impress everyone the schadenfreude was lost, and he could never be quite as funny again.It was – and is – the perfect place to leave him: finally at ease with himself.There's nothing I'd like more than to watch a new episode of The Office, but nothing – including this new documentary – can ever be that. Too much has changed, including Brent himself. The Office is like a treasured old relic: beautiful to look at but not something you should ever touch, just in case you end up accidentally snapping something off and altering it forever.
So please, Ricky and Steve, don’t bring Brent back. Let him remain the man "who put a smile on the face of all who he met", not a man whose memory was tarnished by a resurrection that he never should have had.@edwardtewEnjoy reading about TV? Here are some more stories you might like:How to Make British TV Less Awful in 2014Why Does TV Always Get Prudes to Present Shows About Porn?The Time I Was an Extra in a TV Advert… On Acid!