What's always amazed me about the British mockumentary series ''The Office'' is not the way the comedy is outrageously absurd while at the same time so frighteningly realistic. It isn't that a show about a dreary paper-supply company can end up being so depressingly vibrant. No, what's amazed me is that the actors involved could actually keep a straight face throughout a single scene. Any scene.
Well, it turns out they couldn't. The bloopers section of the The Office: Complete Second Series DVD shows cocreator Ricky Gervais (who stars as painful wannabe hipster boss David Brent) and Martin Freeman (as lovelorn misfit Tim) struggling to get through a simple one-on-one shot. A look -- and one seriously goofy hand gesture -- was all it took, and the actors lost it. Over and over again...and then some more after that. In fact, it was 74 takes of said scene before the two could conquer their chronic case of the giggles.
We don't blame them. Like the faux documentaries of Christopher Guest, ''The Office'' -- and season 2 in particular -- is an experience that succeeds on many different levels, be they subtle (Brent sucking up to a black employee by informing him that his favorite actor is Sidney Poitier) or over-the-top (a certain unfortunate dance sequence comes to mind). But just when we're expecting the big yuks, the import pulls a fast one, surprising us with an ending more heart-wrenching than humorous. It might be the first time while watching this bunch that you find yourself crying from something other than laughter.