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During its 13-episode run, the BBC’s The Office – which predated the nine-season American version – gave us some of the most memorable characters in the history of British television. The series ended in 2003 on a ratings high, with two of the best loved characters giving us the satisfyingly feel-good finale we all craved. But have we been reading the supposed hero of Wernham Hogg all wrong?
With David Brent: Life On The Road almost upon us, we’ve been taking a closer look back at The Office and its varied cast of characters to get in the mood for more of Reading’s finest. In fact, only Ricky Gervais’ titular former paper merchant manager will return for the new film. Many fans are already lamenting the lack of nice guy Tim Canterbury, who is presumably enjoying a happy-ever-after with Dawn Tinsley following the unforgettable Christmas specials.
At the time, Martin Freeman’s world-weary everyman with bad hair was the hero of the series: a “genuine” nice guy who eventually got the girl he long pined for and sauntered off into the sunset somewhere in Slough.
His journey was the one that rooted the show. Tim was the lovelorn likeable chap who had to put up with the likes of the insufferable Brent, the petty annoyance Gareth Keenan and the truly vulgar Chris ‘Finchy’ Finch. Other supposed villains of the piece were Dawn’s partner Lee — whose worst crime seems to have been taking umbrage with someone making a move on his fiancée — and the suave new regional manager Neil Godwin.
All of these men possessed traits that made them easy to dislike, but on reflection were any of them as truly evil as Tim?
The young sales rep’s cheeky demeanour was wholly deceptive. Still living at home with his parents, Tim often sucked up to higher ups to get promotions, and he had a habit of worming his way into receptionist Dawn’s affections when she was at her most vulnerable. He also mercilessly tormented a hard-working colleague, who was only trying to do the best for the company and was generally a lazy slacker meandering through life.
Nice Guy Tim from The Office? You’re having a laugh! He was the worst of the lot, and here are 10 reasons why.
We might have giggled at the time, but wasn’t Tim’s constant attacks on Gareth tantamount to serious workplace bullying?
In the second series, following an undeserved promotion, Tim begins to stamp his authority on Dawn. He’s unnecessarily harsh with her, and his idea of making amends for putting everyone in an awkward situation is to continue his campaign against Gareth.
From the casual theft of private property and nuisance phone calls to the destruction of company staplers, Tim was an unstoppable menace.
When asked by Neil to show the “Swindon lot” round the warehouse, Tim also decides to show his new colleagues just how pretentious he really is. Without any cause or provocation, he begins the tour by warning the newcomers that “some of the people in there will be working-class. Find a partner and hold hands, but don’t talk to anyone.” This all went hand-in-hand with his general attitude of turning up his nose at anyone he didn’t deem to be on his level.
And all because he had a university education he was happy to waste.
If there was someone who could be relied on to come up with a nasty comment, then it was Tim.
He would egg on Brent, just so that he could have an easy ride at work. Think back to the scene when members of the staff are practicing the Moonwalk and robotic dance moves. Tim is the first in line to mock Brent. He does this sort of thing all the time, and thankfully gets slapped down on one occasion by the I.T. guy who points out that Tim has ‘moved on’ from Dawn and started showing off in front of Rachel.
And don’t forget, he even found time to mock his own parents and their beautifully thoughtful gift of Hat FM.
David Brent is a musician whose band were once supported by Texas. No matter how you look at it, that’s pretty cool. Who wouldn’t want to hear him perform on acoustic guitar some of the songs he played with his band the Foregone Conclusion?
When Brent starts strumming his guitar to cheer up a dreary day in the office, Tim turns to the camera and disses him. ‘He went home to get it,’ Tim marvels, referring to the instrument. Of course, he kept his jibes out of David’s earshot. Tim is a man who is only capable of mocking his superiors behind their backs.
It was the big payoff to the series: Tim finally wins over Dawn after years of incessant trying.
He first asked her out when she was in tears after a minor argument with her fiancé. He then tried again just before she was scheduled to fly off to start a new life in America. Both times she gave him the brush-off. Tim finally won over Dawn by deliberately giving her an over-the-top present as part of his Secret Santa effort.
Apart from clearly breaking one of the fundamental rules of the long-cherished Christmas tradition (er, do we need to explain what ‘secret’ means?), Tim’s overly personalised gift is another slap in the face for the long-suffering Lee. Sure, the shop floor worker might have been a little rough around the edges, but remember how he laughed off Tim’s pursuit of Dawn when lesser men would have resorted to violence.
Some viewers might have felt Lee was within his rights to get physical and scare off sneaky Tim once and for all.
Tim apparently makes a rare selfless gesture when he proposes that Gareth take temporary charge of the office after Brent is forced to take redundancy. Tim says that his colleague would be better suited than he himself, and he’s clearly right given how much time Tim wastes messing about.
Yet Wernham Hogg is in trouble and needs someone popular to steady the ship. Tim knows he has managed to convince those around him that he is a nice guy. He should be the one to step forward and prove he isn’t the complete joke we think he is.
That wouldn’t be very Tim-like, though, would it? Instead he once again shirks responsibility.
When it suited him, Tim was all about pranks. Not a day would go by without some form of tomfoolery.
But when he was in a mood, usually of his own making, Tim was a complete downer. Whenever the rest of the team bonded by doing group exercises, he would be dismissive. Even worse, on nights out to the local hotspots of Slough, Tim would keep his raincoat on and refuse to join in and have a dance.
We all know someone like that at work. It’s all smiles one day, then ‘woe is me’ the next.
All of the characters in the show were guilty of pushing the envelope when it came to their comedy stylings, but only Tim was able to get away with being offensive.
When Brent made distasteful comments, he was often slapped down. Tim would keep a low profile by sniping away under the radar. He makes homophobic jokes at the expense of Gareth and even calls him a ‘special needs child’ in another failed attempt to impress Dawn.
He should have tried to be more of a chilled-out entertainer like his boss.
“I’m not thinking of leaving…I am leaving,” Tim firmly tells Brent. He claims there are a number of reasons he wants out, and none of them relate to him asking out Dawn as a “friend” resulting in utter humiliation.
He doesn’t enjoy the work, he feels he is wasting his time, and he wants some stories to tell when he eventually retires. All very principled. His plan is to return to university to study to become a psychologist. We also learn that Tim has been feeding Dawn similar lines. According to her, his advice is that “it’s better to be at the bottom of a ladder you want to climb, than half way up one you don’t”.
Brent makes a point of highlighting how much time he has invested in Tim’s career. Does anyone actually believe that at any point previously Tim would have mentioned how dissatisfied he was with his job… or isn’t it far more likely that he just trundled along collecting his wages for his half-hearted efforts?
Well, none of this matters. For £500 extra a year and the potential of taking David’s job in three years, Tim gives it all up and stays exactly where he is. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, Tim also wants to stifle Dawn’s prospects by suggesting she should go for his old job.
Poor, innocent Rachel. If there was a genuine victim that deserved sympathy on the show, it was the curly-haired newcomer from Swindon.
Rachel is unlucky enough to fall for Tim, who seemingly wants to move on from Dawn having seen his advances rebuffed. It’s all part of the act. Not only is Tim desperate to flaunt his new relationship in front of Dawn in an attempt to make her jealous, he also rubs poor Gareth’s nose in it by going after a girl that they both like.
Tim doesn’t even have the guts to let Rachel down gently. Instead, he savagely rejects her plans to have some quality time away from it all and dumps her soon after.
There are other examples of Tim’s awful behaviour peppered throughout the show. How about when Gareth is diligently shredding sensitive company information, just as he is supposed to. Tim, as usual, finds cause to object and tries to get him to stop. The monster!
The White Knight gallantry (‘You OK, hon?’) that Tim offers Dawn — especially after she has an argument with Lee — permits him to wait no more than a few minutes before asking her out after getting wind of her potential break-up.
Men can’t trust him. He’s broken almost every ‘bro code’ imaginable. Women wouldn’t really want to be around someone who so readily acts like a loser.
Tim, mate, with your cartoon face and Fisher Price hair, you are the absolute worst.