The breakup of Coupling has done nothing to bolster optimism for The Office, the latest U.K. comedy hit to get Americanized by NBC. Slated to debut next fall, the U.S. branch is being headed by King of the Hill exec Greg Daniels. And although the show's original creator and star, Ricky Gervais (a.k.a. bossman David Brent), has agreed to play an "advisory and support" role, skeptics predict something's bound to get lost in the translation.
TV Guide Online: The idea of an American Office scares us.
Ricky Gervais: Yes, because you've seen the English version. And hopefully, there are 249 million Americans that haven't.
TVGO: So, it's inevitable that Office fans will hate the U.S. version?
Gervais: You're bound to be disappointed if you keep comparing it. I don't think they should be the same. And for as many nightmare stories of remakes, you have one that [worked]. I'm sure Americans didn't know that All in the Family [was based on the British comedy] 'Til Death Do Us Part. People say, "The Office is so English, it would never transfer to America," "Oh, the Americans will ruin it," "The Americans don't understand irony." All of those things are fundamentally misguided. Americans do irony as well if not better than us. You've got Curb Your Enthusiasm, Larry Sanders, The Simpsons, Spinal Tap...
TVGO: What do you want to see from the remake?
Gervais: I want Americans to watch it and say, "I know David Brent. That's like my office." And it must not be filmed in front of a live studio audience with a laugh track. Those are my only two huge wishes.
TVGO: So, will there be a laugh track?
Gervais: No, I don't think so.
TVGO: What would change that?
Gervais: Panic, I think.
TVGO: Got an actor in mind to play David?
Gervais: Jason Alexander would make the best Brent ever, but you'd be going, "Oh, he's the fella from Seinfeld." So he's out. You want someone who brings their own shtick to the table. Bruno Kirby would be great, but he hasn't walked through the door yet.
TVGO: The final season of the U.K. Office is airing on BBC America now. Why quit after just two seasons?
Gervais: Because it was never meant to be a rambling series that went on forever. There was never gonna be 10 seasons where I get replaced by my younger brother when I die. Also, I've been let down before. Some of my favorite comedies have become my least favorite comedies on season three or four.
TVGO: Care to name names?
Gervais: I'm not going to say, because some of these shows are still very much loved, but I think people are being fooled. I think the writing got lazy and the actors got lazy. I intend to get lazy, but hopefully not on screen.