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Neil Godwin

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Title: Neil Godwin  
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Neil Godwin

Neil Godwin is a fictional character in the BBC sitcom, The Office, played by Patrick Baladi. Neil first appeared in the first episode of the second series of the show as the UK Manager of Wernham Hogg, newly promoted from manager of the Swindon branch, thus making him David Brent's new boss. He was mentioned by name in some episodes of the first series but he did not make an appearance.

At the start of the second series it is established that Neil has been promoted to the position of UK General Manager to replace Jennifer Taylor-Clarke, the job that Brent was initially offered but did not get due to failing a medical test. Neil’s Swindon staff are transferred to Brent’s Slough branch, and Neil comes with them. It immediately becomes apparent that Neil is all the things that Brent imagines he is himself – intelligent, charming, humorous and popular. His introductory speech in the first episode of the second series makes everyone laugh. The former Swindon employees respect him for making them work hard. He personally makes lemon drizzle cakes for his employees' birthdays. Chris Finch, Brent’s hero, looks up to him and "borrows" his best jokes. The motivational speakers who recruit Brent are immediately interested in recruiting Neil too. He is a great dancer, as he demonstrates with a Saturday Night Fever routine in the fifth episode of the second series. Brent is naturally jealous and resentful, and tries to upstage him at every opportunity. Inevitably Brent just ends up making himself look ridiculous, most notably when he does a dance of his own after Neil’s. For the most part Neil responds to Brent’s antics with apparent indifference or bemusement, although he is brusque and assertive after Brent calls him pathetic for socializing with the staff – which Brent has been failing miserably to do himself. Professional relations deteriorate rapidly between them as well. Neil reprimands Brent for failing to ensure the former Swindon employees are paid on time and for paying more attention to his motivational speaking "gigs" than staff performance and profits, which Brent seems indifferent to. Finally Brent virtually defies Neil to fire him, which he does.

In the Christmas Special, Neil is clearly annoyed that Brent is continuing to hang around the Slough office. He bars further visits, and a less than pleasant side to his character emerges when he says he is looking forward to meeting Brent’s blind date at the Christmas party, guessing almost correctly that Brent will in fact turn up by himself. He is, in other words, setting up Brent for more humiliation and seems somewhat disappointed when Carol, Brent’s date, turns out to be attractive, friendly and witty. Arguably, Neil sets up Chris Finch’s "dog" comment about Carol by asking David about the Labrador he brought in earlier, and he immediately laughs at Chris's joke after he makes it. A furtive, embarrassed glance in the direction of the camera tells us he knows it has backfired on him when Brent finally tells Finch to "fuck off". Brent might have made himself look stupid, but after managing to come across as a down-to-earth, nice man for most of the series, Neil has made himself look deliberately malicious.

In an interview with The Onion A.V. Club in January 2007, Ricky Gervais (who created the show and played Brent) said he found Neil to be an unsympathetic figure.

There's only two people you shouldn't like, and that's Neil and Chris Finch. Finch is a bully, he's one of those people who comes into a room and takes the piss out of someone else, and you laugh, but really you know it's your turn next. And Neil you shouldn't like, because he doesn't care. He was better than David Brent at his job, but it meant less to him than it did to David Brent.[1]

References

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