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Another day at Le Bureau

Posted by Asmaa / February 21, 2006

theoffice copy.jpg They've just wrapped up shooting a French version of Ricky Gervais' The Office. Set in a business park north of Paris and featuring a 50-something boss described as "very, very stupid but never nasty," Le Bureau has been adapted from the original scripts by Gervais and his writing partner Stephen Merchant.

In the NBC incarnation of the show, which has just been signed on for its third season, the writers have veered from the source material, making Steve Carell's Michael Scott a uniquely American cheeseball. Instead of going to the pub, Chili's is his hangout of choice. So much of life in Scranton is like life anywhere in the U.S., that the show's British origins seem to have vanished in translation. Which, considering the awkward word-for-word ripoff of the original pilot, isn't necessarily a bad thing. In Le Bureau, Villepinte, a grotty town near de Gaulle airport, will stand in for Slough and instead of Wernham Hogg, the mother corp will be called Cogirep.

So, with all of the substitutions and cultural shifts that accompany each change of scenery, the question becomes: When does the idea for the show cease to belong to Ricky Gervais?

I mean, yes, Gervais came up with the idea of setting the show in a drab, humdrum office in a depressed town. But hasn't that already been the stuff of sitcoms and movies? Don't get me wrong, I love Gervais, I think he's hilarious. But it does feel like there is something very insidious about the idea of the sitcom franchise.

When David Brent becomes Gilles Triquet and Gareth becomes Dwight, haven't the characters changed enough? I mean there's always the archetypical dweeb in a sitcom, isn't there? Or does Urkel own the intellectual rights to that concept? Or maybe it's the "nerrrd" guy from MTV and American Splendor?

I'm tempted to make a food analogy right here. (Somebody, please stop me. Please?) The last time I visited Pakistan, we decided to check out a Pizza Hut in Lahore. They had the same pebbly red glasses, the same grimy parmesan shakers and even the same dirty cork trivets. But, you could get a tandoori chicken pizza. Even though it tasted pretty good, in a city where there were countless roadside places to get way better authentic food, was this really progress? (I told you to stop me.)

As for Gervais, he says he never imagined The Office taking off in another language, let alone another country. But, he says, now "I won't be happy till I see an Inuit doing the dance."

Discussion

4 Comments

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