The Brentmeister needs no introduction. Ricky Gervais’ infamous office manager single-handedly reinvented comedy in the noughties, bowing out after a laudably restrained two series (give or take the odd Xmas special), then travelling Stateside to launch the career of Steve Carell. Now, 15 years after he first hit our screens, Brent is back. Is it a welcome return?
This is not The Office as you knew it. Yes, Brent is still in an office, but not Wernham Hogg. Rather, he is a rep for a cleaning products company selling items including ladies’ sanitary goods (The Sloth will leave his sales pitch to your fertile imagination) by day, whilst heading up band Foregone Conclusion by night. Bravely, or foolishly, Brent has decided to pursue his wannabe-rock-star dreams, booking a chunk of annual leave plus assorted 3-star hotel rooms, to take Foregone Conclusion on tour in the Slough and Greater West London area.
Let’s cut to the chase. Yes, this leaves a gaping Tim / Dawn / Gareth shaped hole and yes, they are missed. To get over this, we have a new set of peripherals including Brent’s token black friend, rapper Dom (Ben Bailey Smith), regularly wheeled onstage to lend ‘credibility’ and stage manager Dan (Tom Basden) who frets about the damage Brent-association is doing to his career. In a stroke of genius, Razorlight’s Andy Burrows has also been recruited, partly to play Foregone Conclusion’s drummer and partly to co-write the songs, including excruciating delights ‘Please Don’t Make Fun Of The Disabled’ and ‘Lady Gypsy’.
Perhaps the years had dulled The Sloth’s memory of how painful Brent can be, but we came out of our screening with knuckles gnawed raw and bum cheeks throbbing from 90 minutes of squirming. Yes, it is frequently very funny, yes our attention never waned and yes, the songs are surprisingly tuneful in a cheesy, MOR way (we defy you not to secretly love title track On The Road’s “foot to the floor, 70 miles an hour, but no more”, chorus). But what really got us cringing was the creeping feeling Brent and Gervais are actually becoming one and the same – see ‘On The Road’ soundtrack CD currently available for purchase at a music retailer near you. Superlative method acting or worrying egomaniac tendencies? We’ll leave that for you to decide.