The Office: A decade around the world

By Michael Osborn
Entertainment reporter, BBC News

  • Published
The Office (UK)
Image caption,
The original UK Office has been sold to 170 territories globally

It is 10 years since The Office made its debut on UK television screens.

Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant's fictional creation centred on the lives of workers of a humdrum suburban company in Slough.

Filmed in the style of a fly-on-the-wall documentary, the programme was unnervingly realistic and could be difficult to watch.

But its raw comedy value - led by Gervais as hapless central character David Brent - helped the show to a clutch of Bafta awards and a Golden Globe in the US.

The formula has been successfully exported around the globe, with many countries giving it their own local flavour. Here is a look at some of them.


German series Stromberg, inspired by the original Office and first screened in 2004, takes place in an insurance company that could be located anywhere in the country.

Image caption,
Stromberg is played by Christoph Maria Herbst

The importance of central character Bernd Stromberg is emphasised by placing his name in the show's title.

A number of familiar themes have cropped up during the show's run, including love between co-workers, with even Stromberg winning the attentions of single mother Jennifer.

The fifth series, currently in production, could see its anti-hero have to deal with the prospect of fatherhood.

Other characters in the show include a sexually promiscuous woman, while the works canteen also features in this version - and Stromberg consistently complains about the quality of the food.

While Ricky Gervais's turn as David Brent proved a Stateside hit, the US pressed ahead with their own version on the show, which began in 2005.

Image caption,
Christmas party "fun" hits the American Office

Like the original, the offices of a paper company were used, with Scranton, Pennsylvania, instead of Slough, while the characters bore a strong resemblance to their British forebears.

Actor Steve Carrell took centre stage as Michael Scott, and the programme collected numerous awards along the way.

Unlike the original, which stretched to only two series and Christmas one-offs, the US Office is set to enter its eighth season, despite the departure of main man Carrell. It was recently announced Boston Legal star James Spader would be joining the series as new boss Robert California.

Ha Misrad was first screened in Israel in 2010.

Image caption,
David Brent becomes Avi Meshulam (centre) in Israel

It is set in the office for a stationery supplies company just outside the city of Tel Aviv.

While the main players from the UK original have been reincarnated with Hebrew names, the supporting cast reflects the complexities of Israeli society.

Abed is an Arab man described as having a "gentle soul", while one of the office accountants is of Ethiopian origin. Romanian and Russian incomers also crop up in the programme.

Leah, another character, pictured above, is a deeply religious Jew who is very concerned about food being kosher and expresses objections to compulsory army service.

One of the episodes opens with the characters sitting around a TV set watching an insurgency in Gaza unfold - and adding their own irreverent commentary.

A Latin American take on office life sees the action remain at a paper merchant near to the capital, Santiago.

Image caption,
Manuel takes centre stage in Chile's The Office

La Ofis, which was screened in 2008, retains the hallmarks of everyday life in a humdrum workplace setting with the same basic characters as its UK template.

But some local touches have been added, with Army obsessive Gareth turning into a volunteer firefighter called Cristian.

While David Brent made boorish references to black people, his Chilean counterpart Manuel is clumsily insulting to well-educated Peruvian colleague Jesus.

And there is a hypochondriac worker who reflects the Chilean national obsession with health.

Le Bureau became the first foreign-language version of The Office to hit the airwaves in 2006, but only ran for a single series.

David Brent's French reincarnation was Gilles Triquet, and the daily grind took place in a rundown suburb of Paris.

Image caption,
Francois Berleand takes the lead role in Le Bureau

In an effort to appear "down with the kids", the middle-aged boss uses youth slang or verlan, and throws English terms into his everyday language.

Much like Brent, he is a beauf - the French term for an average man saturated with a deluded sense of self-belief.

The practical jokes pivoted on jelly that were in the UK Office - including embedding a stapler in it - are replaced by cheese in the French version.

The most recent country to take on The Office is Sweden, which also has parallels to the original from 2001. It seems no matter where you find a workplace in the world, it can be eerily similar.

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