Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant's BBC mockumentary series about life as an office worker kicked off its brief two-season, 14-episode run on July 9, 2001. The Office UK was such a success that it spawned the more successful American version that ran from 2005 to 2013 on NBC, plus countless imitators. "Twenty years ago today, the doors of Wernham Hogg paper merchants in Slough opened for the first time," says Tom Nicholson in introducing his oral history. "In the span of five years, Gervais and Stephen Merchant’s creation went from a no-budget student project to the kind of thing nearly all of a randomly selected group of British adults could roar for on a summer’s day. It’s silly to call any piece of art perfect, but I think The Office might actually be perfect. It’s a rare example of the most innovative and experimental version of something also being the most popular. It’s fundamentally changed how groups of friends talk to each other. Despite being intensely 2001 in its preoccupations, inspirations and attitude, it’s timeless."