Seven years before The Office UK first aired in 2001,a six-episode fictional news show called The Day Today came out. The last episode of the satirical comedy, which parodied current affairs broadcasting, featured a segment with a very similar premise to The Office. The skit, also called "The Office," depicted the employees of a pharmaceutical company undergoing a series of bizarre management strategy experiments led by supposed "expert" Lester Beck. To promote his "disassemblage" management system, Lester compels the group to berate and humiliate their colleagues and themselves and lets a wild pig run loose in the office.
While neither Gervais nor Merchant has addressed deriving inspiration from The Day Today, the similarities between "The Office" skit and The Office sitcom go beyond the shared name. There are undeniable parallels between the premise and the comedic intention. Through a mockumentary format, "The Office" introduces an absurd element to disrupt the order of a mundane workplace setting and the exceptionally ordinary people who work there. The skit is clearly intended to mock then-modern-day office culture and business management strategies, similar to The Office.
Some of the exercises in "The Office" are even reminiscent of the "Diversity Day" episode of The Office US, in which the Dunder Mifflin employees must participate in an inadvertently offensive "sensitivity training" activity.
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Despite their major similarities, there are some key differences between The Day Today's "The Office" skit and The Office UK sitcom. For one, "The Office" was just a two-part skit within an episode of a show rather than a full series in itself. The employees in "The Office" also worked at a pharmaceutical company as opposed to a paper company. Plus, in "The Office," the ridiculous and off-putting David Brent-type character who was there to cause chaos and disorder was an outside expert as opposed to the boss of the company, which made sense for a one-off skit.
"The Office" skit was also a lot more surrealist and intentionally absurd in its tone