Traditionally, England's entertainment exports to America have been music-related. The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Clapton, Osborne...and well, everyone involved in the British Invasion. They even throw us a film every now and again. But rarely do the trades blow a British TV show west across the Atlantic. But just under a year ago, a rare gem washed up on U.S. shores, and has since developed a devoted, if not enormous, following.

The Office is a mockumentary in the tradition of Christopher Guest, saturated with subtle, dry, British humor. The show documents the daily goings-on at the offices of Wernham-Hogg, a paper merchants located in dismal Slough, England. The main character of the series is the branch's incorrigible and irritating overseer, David Brent, who is played ingeniously by one of the show's co-creators, Ricky Gervais. There's Gareth, the weasel-looking, ex-territorial army lieutenant whose unsuccessful attempts to make himself seem superior to his colleagues are dwarfed only by his follies in pursuing office romances. And then there's Tim, the show's true protagonist, who resists the mindless boredom of selling paper by either playing practical jokes on Gareth or by flirting with Dawn, the engaged but privately unhappy receptionist. Other office eccentrics include dead-panning Keith, whose enormous size is proportional to his enormous lack of tact, and the ribald Chris Finch, Brent's drinking buddy.

Brent is possibly the most obnoxious boss in the history of television. He is arrogant, self-obsessed, pompous, and completely void of humility. Yet the fact that he desires so badly to be something that he very obviously isn't makes him sympathetic, despite his tendency to attribute his failures to everyone around him. Brent often endeavors to explain his bizarre and frequently inappropriate behavior with management-speak. Though what he says and does can be maddening, you know deep down that he means well, and that his social conduct is born from underlying insecurities. By the end of the second season, you will be rooting for him with more sincerity than you ever could have imagined.

The love story in this series (because every show's gotta have one, regardless of genre) is between Tim and Dawn, both of whom aspire to dreams beyond the fluorescent blandness of Wernham-Hogg. The two unite in small revolts against the torpor of their environment, usually at Gareth's expense.

Though Dawn is engaged, her fiancée, who visits often, is a boor who has little or no respect for her aspirations. Tim still lives with his parents, and hasn't got any real friends outside of Dawn. In fact, the only times at which they seem happy is when they are together.

The first season of The Office begins with the revelation that upper management will be downsizing either one of Wernham-Hogg's branches or the other, and that the folks at Slough are in danger of losing their jobs. Brent comes off as somewhat over-the-top, but his colleagues don't appear to genuinely dislike him. Tim and Dawn's mutual attraction goes largely unacknowledged until near the season's end, and the tension remains through season two.

In that second season, some new workers arrive in Slough and struggle to adjust to their new boss' modus operandi. This, in turn, leads to Brent's behavior becoming even more outrageous. The season finale takes a turn for the serious when David's job security is compromised, and Tim faces the reality of never seeing Dawn again.

The unresolved conclusion of season two leads into The Office Special, a 90-minute follow-up to the series which takes place three years later. Brent has taken to the road, supplementing his work as a traveling salesman by making appearances in crappy clubs, using his newfound quasi-celebrity to his advantage. Though he doesn't admit it, Brent misses his former job terribly, and he stops by Wernham-Hogg often. In an attempt to convince his former colleagues that he's better off without them, Brent subscribes to a singles service with the hope of showing up at the annual Christmas reunion with a stunner on his arm. His subsequent blind dates are predictably disasterous. The Special also sees an emotionally charged and surprisingly moving continuation of the Tim-Dawn saga.

The Office is rich with quotable moments and memorable images, such as Brent attempting to show up a colleague by performing an impromptu dance routine which he describes as "Flashdance fused with some M.C. Hammer (expletive)." You'll realize that most things sound funnier through a British accent, and will begin incorporating little British colloquialisms into your repertoire (such as "innit" and "cheers"). The two seasons of The Office, as well as The Office Special, are available at Bart and Greg's DVD Explosion in the Tontine Mall in Brunswick center.