Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The Smoking Room
The Smoking Room is a British television sitcom, written by Brian Dooley. The first series, consisting of eight episodes, was originally transmitted on BBC Three between 29 June and 17 August 2004. The Christmas Special was first transmitted on the same channel on 20 December 2004. A second series is due to air in 2005.
Situation and Analysis
Smoking is prohibited in the offices of most British companies, but there is often a room somewhere in the building that smokers can use during work hours. The series takes situation comedy to its extreme, since it is entirely set in the smoking room (Room B209). The room is in the basement of the offices of a fictitious company that employs all of the main characters and nearly all of the others.
Room B209 is an unusual L-shape and contains office-style tables and chairs. It also has a large hot drinks machine, which constantly outwits the characters when attempting to use it and Clint when attempting to fix it. The room is drably decorated and suffers from a vaguely yellow discolouration undoubtedly caused by the thousands of cigarettes that have been smoked there over time. Various company-related notices (e.g. fire procedures) are placed on the notice board and throughout the room. The room also appears to be used as a storeroom, since miscellaneous objects occupy small labelled cubbyholes affixed to the walls.
Occasional glimpses of the outside world's activities are seen through the room's misted glass, but there are very few extras and they can be viewed almost as moving props, simply adding context.
An unusual feature of Room B209 is that there are two doors that both appear to lead to the same corridor outside. Both doors are used in the series, with characters rushing in and out at various points. This feature (deliberately or otherwise) is reminiscent of 'Stage Left' and 'Stage Right' of a typical theatrical stage. It helps to give the series a stage-like feel, where the characters appear, give their performance, and disappear. Since the series is entirely set in one room, the feature is probably also used as a substitute for the cuts that would otherwise occur between scenes, but providing a more continuous feel.
Although each episode contains some sort of storyline, the series is fundamentally character- and dialogue-driven. In this respect, it is similar in nature to Seinfeld, the archaetypal 'Show about nothing'. Since it is set in an office environment, there are passing resemblances to The Office in terms of situation and set, although the two series are very different otherwise; for example, The Smoking Room has no out-and-out central character.
Like most sitcoms, the episodes are generally self-contained in terms of storyline, the main exception being the gradual revelation of Robin's sexuality to the other characters and his relationship (or lack of) with Ben.
The series contains ten main characters; however, not all are seen in each episode. Although there are significant exceptions, most of the characters are somewhat disaffected with their lives and/or jobs and see the smoking room as an oasis where they can relax, indulge and shut out the rest of the world. Due to a rule invented by Clint, 'shop talk' (discussing work-related matters) is forbidden in the smoking room, in the same way that smoking is forbidden in the rest of the building. (This sometimes leads to discussions about whether a particular topic of conversation is 'shop talk' or not.) The characters tend to take liberties with the length of time that they spend in the smoking room with some being present for most or all of a thirty-minute episide. However, not all characters are actually smokers and these tend to spend less time in the room.
There is a general comeraderie between the main characters (especially the smokers), and other characters are sometimes treated with suspicion, disdain, or outright hostility.
Annie (Debbie Chazen )
Annie is 29 and works in the graphics department. She considers herself rather 'New Age' and sometimes talks about past-life experiences. She can be very over-emotional and attention-seeking. She is constantly looking for a boyfriend and is prepared to go to extreme lengths to retain one (including dressing as the male police officer who directed the Fred West case).
Annie is always sponging cigarettes, change for the drinks machine and food from the other characters, occasionally using emotional blackmail to increase her chances of success. She is prepared to eat almost anything, including a half-eaten salad dusted with cigarette ash and a manky, unwrapped Toffo .
Barry (Jeremy Swift )
Barry is divorced and approaching 40. He is neurotic and obsessive (to the point of hoarding used matches), suffering from many phobias and prepared to assume the worst-case scenario in many situations.
Although he blames circumstance and others for his lack of career progression, in reality there is much evidence to suggest that he is not very attentive to his job. He has a dislike for children and family life in general and makes little attempt to hide this.
Barry is usually seen attempting to solve the day's crossword, and although he considers himself something of a crossword impressario, in reality Robin solves most of the (sometimes very easy) clues for him.
Clint (Fraser Ayres )
Clint is the clown of the series. He is 23 and the maintenance man, which means he is regarded by some of the characters as furthest down the pecking order.
He has a very relaxed approached to life, even to the point of suspending his attempt to repair a lift full of people in order to smoke a roll-up. He often uses street slang and does an Ali G-style 'snap' when something amuses or impresses him. He is a fan of conspiracy theories.
He is generally concerned for the other characters' well-being, often telling them to 'chill' or hugging them when something bad happens.
He is constantly thwarted in his attempts to fix the drinks machine and has consequently developed an emotional attitude towards it. (On one occasion it is fixed easily by Monique by removing a squashed cup from the mechanism.)
Heidi (Emma Kennedy )
Although a main character, Heidi does not actually appear until Episide Five, when she returns from maternity leave. She is 35, married to Keith (previously married and somewhat older at 58; she virtually worships him) and mother to baby Dane (about whom she obsesses).
Heidi is very 'mumsy' and constantly refers to her seemily idyllic domestic situation, to the near-universal annoyance of the other characters. Heidi is a non-smoker and her visits to the smoking room are motivated by her desire to tell everyone about the latest developments in her life, yet she takes very little interest in anyone else's.
Janet (Selina Griffiths )
Janet is 34 and the PA (personal assistant) to Sharon. She is very prudish, dresses old for her age, never swears and does not smoke. (In Episide Four, she takes a drag of Robin's cigarette, only to immediately extinguish it in a cup of coffee, thereby depriving Robin and Clint of their only means of ignition.) She is constantly put-on by Janet and is terrified of her (although she occasionally tries to stand up for herself). She normally enters the smoking room on company-related matters such as to inform the occupants of Janet's latest diktat.
She takes a very dim view of some of the other characters' slacking, herself being very diligent and obedient. However, she is not really interested in climbing the career ladder, her stated goal being, '...to find a nice man, and settle down.'
Little is mentioned of her love life; in Episode Six, she says that she has a date and is reluctant to go out into the driving rain and fetch Sharon's lunch in case it messes up her new hairdo.
Len (Leslie Schofield )
Len is a security guard, is 59 and is widowed. He is quite lazy and indifferent to his duties. He swears constantly and has a cantankerous personality (although he is quite affectionate towards Lilian). He is soft beneath the gruff exterior. He has a strange love for the works of Walt Disney and raised his two sons when his beloved wife, Diana, died tragically young.
Len's character is something of a contradiction. He can be extremely gullible; for example, he fails to realise that his superior Ranjit is stealing from him and is happy to accept Ranjit's outrageous explanations of how his property keeps disappearing. On the other hand, he can be very incisive and worldy-wise, such as in Episode Two when he muses about the brevity of life.
Lilian (Paula Wilcox )
Lilian is 53 and divorced. In some respects, she is the opposite of Janet: she dresses young and revealing and is quite unreserved, fun-loving and outspoken. However, both share a desire to find a man. Lilian is becoming a little desperate in this respect and will seize on virtually any suitable target.
She is a confirmed smoker, which is illustrated by her attempt to obtain an un-stubbed-out cigarette from the street outside and her near-revulsion when she thinks that Barry is giving up.
Robin (Robert Webb)
Robin is in his early thirties and is the closest to being the series' central character. He is present in the smoking room for almost the entirety of all eight episodes, making him (by this method of reckoning) the laziest character. However, he likes to give the impression to Sharon that he is hard-working, invariably stubbing out his cigarette and making for the door whenever she enters. He is obviously intelligent although not particularly ambitious. He is generally cynical and a little melancholy.
His sexuality and attitude towards Ben is the subject of much innuendo in the series. There is a lot of evidence (although no outright admission on his part) to suggest that Robin is gay or bisexual. Most of the characters are seemingly unaware of this but it is gradually revealed to them as the series progresses.
Sally (Nadine Marshall )
Sally is 27 and works in the graphics department with Annie. She claims to be Annie's best friend, although this statement may have been motivated by Annie having just won two tickets to 'DanceFest 2000'. Normally, her relationship with Annie is bitchy and competitive. She often gossips about Annie behind her back, but she will always reluctantly provide a shoulder for Annie to cry on.
Sally tends to speak her mind and isn't afraid of risking upsetting people, but she isn't without her soft side. She goes to the pub with Janet in Episode Eight, even though they have nothing in common, rather than disappoint her. Little is said about her romantic or domestic situation, although she may live with her mother, since in Epside Four she hangs up on her and then says that she will '...pay for that later.'
Sharon (Siobhan Redmond )
Sharon is the head of the branch. Her age, marital status and domestic arrangements are not mentioned in the series, but she is probably in her late thirties or early forties and lives alone. Sharon is a cold, condescending, ladder-climbing career woman. She rates herself very highly and virtually everyone else as slacking, inadequate minions. Although a smoker, she spends much less time in the smoking room due to her attitude to work; the other characters feel nervous and intimidated whenever she enters. She constantly bullies Janet and relies on her for almost everything.
Sharon has probably achieved her position more from her tenaciousness, forceful personality and compatibility with management culture than her actual intelligence. For example, In Episode Two, she makes some shocking assumptions about the poorly-written words in Martin's letter thanking the company for his retirement party, insisting the word 'party' is 'pasty'.
Sharon's cold exterior melts only once, when she is passionately kissed by a kissogram who is taking a break in the smoking room after visiting the woman he is actually there to see. She disappears 'Stage Left' after him, with Janet remarking, 'That's not love - that's pure naked lust!'
Ben is a handsome young man who works in the post room and is the object of Robin's affections. Robin believes that Ben is gay and is either in self-denial or hiding the fact from his colleagues. When he becomes engaged, Robin is so annoyed that he describes the situation as, '...his cover story'. Ben finally appears, although largely unseen, at the end of Episode Eight when he arrives to talk to Robin who has been attempting to bump into him. In the Christmas Special, Ben is taking part in the concert the staff are staging, as a 'Snowman In Space'. Although we still don't see what he looks like, because he's dressed from head to toe as a snowman, there seems to be some real affection between Ben and Robin.
Lois (Tilly Vosburgh )
Lois is seen in Episide Eight, along with Yvonne arranging birthday drinks for Lilian. She is a small woman with a very big temper.
Malcolm is an unseen character. Often referred to as 'Alky Malky', he is Barry's rival for promotion in Episode One.
Since Barry believes that he is his only rival, the promotion is '...in the bag.' However, Barry soon discovers that an external candidate, Monique, is also being considered.
In practical terms, Martin is an unseen character because only a photo of him is ever shown. He retires at some point before Episode One and dies in the freezer aisle of Asda between Episodes One and Two. Len is very upset at the short length of Martin's retired life (perhaps because he afraid that the same thing will happen to him), so much so that he calls God a 'bastard' several times. Martin's retirement leaves a vacancy for which Barry, Malcolm and Monique are considered.
Miranda (Joanna Bobin )
Miranda appears in Episode Seven. She is Robin's ex-girlfriend, although it seems their relationship was brief and entirely chaste, and is mentioned when she comes to work as a temp and breaks the photocopier by photocopying herself. Both Barry and Clint find her attractive. Sally and Annie take an instant dislike to her.
Monique (Sunetra Sarker )
Monique appears in Episode One for a post-interview cigarette and is one of the only characters who does not work for the company (at least at the point of entry into the series). She is being considered (along with Barry and Malcolm) for a vacancy that was created by the recent retirement of Martin. She is similar in many respects to Sharon and is obviously considered by both Sharon and Janet as the best candidate. In her brief time in the smoking room, she manages to annoy most of the other characters in various ways. She returns in Episode Eight by which time she has settled in to her new role as Barry's immediate boss, making his life a misery as she patronises him all the time.
Gordon (Mike Walling )
Gordon first appears in Episode Six when he disturbs the smokers by sheltering from the rain in their haven. He is annoyingly cheerful and forces them to play games but his competitive nature hints at a dark side. He turns up again in Episode Eight, attending the wrong birthday party. He has taken up smoking once more because his marriage is falling apart. He falls off the wagon, gets very drunk and makes a pass at Lilian.
Ranjit is an unseen character and is Len's manager. He is mentioned when Lilian explains that he is behind the mysterious disappearances of Len's property. Soon after, Len is seen leaving the smoking room intent on exacting revenge.
Yvonne (Geraldine McNulty )
Lilian often moans about Yvonne. She first mentions her in Episode Four when she is worried that Yvonne might upset some important Japanese clients. In Episode Five divorcee Lilian is upset that the happily married Yvonne is gloating about her Valentine gifts. In Episode Six we learn that Yvonne has accused Lilian of stealing from the office. Yvonne finally appears in Episode Eight to arrange birthday drinks for Lilian. She is a bossy, ambitious woman who seems to dislike Lilian as much as Lilian dislikes her.
Please refer to .
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