The ego has landed: David Brent to star in US version of The Office
Ricky Gervais to appear opposite Steve Carell as Slough's finest comes face-to-face with his American alter ego
One is an over-confident white-collar manager in Slough blissfully unaware of his unpopularity in the office; another is an equally cringe-worthy white-collar boss in a city in Pennsylvania, with a similarly inflated ego and long-suffering employees.
Now it appears that David Brent, the central character from the BBC cult comedy series The Office hopes to come face to face with his American counterpart, Michael Scott, who stars in the stateside adaptation.
Ricky Gervais, who created the comedy and has since found increasing fame in Hollywood, is considering making an appearance in the NBC version starring Steve Carell as the cringe-worthy boss.
Yesterday, Gervais's British publicist said that while nothing had yet been confirmed, he had not "ruled out the opportunity". His guest appearance is rumoured to be in this season's series of the show. The American version has proved to be an immense success, in spite of initial speculation that its particularly British brand of humour would not translate well for American audiences.
Carell plays the hopelessly inefficient office manager at the fictional Dunder Mifflin paper factory in Scranton. It borrows directly from Gervais's original show in its "mockumentary" filming style, with its single camera set-up, without a studio audience or a laugh-track. The presence of the camera is often explicitly acknowledged by the characters, to give it an authentic "documentary" feel.
Fans and purists were already discussing the pros and cons of seeing the show's creator turn up in the American spin-off; comments on the Web ranged from expressions of doubt ("I'm not sure how I feel about this. Gervais rocks and the episode would be awesome but will it detract from the perfection of the British original?") to national rivalries ("Ricky Gervais will run circles around Steve Carell. All it'll be is a reminder of how the US version isn't as good") to pure delight ("That would be amazing! I really miss the UK Office. Bring over Tim and Gareth, too!").
The American version was adapted by Greg Daniels, the veteran Saturday Night Live writer, who has also written for the award winning cartoon comedy The Simpsons. Guest appearances that have been confirmed this season by Paul Lieberstein, its executive producer, include Idris Elba, a British actor who plays a lead part in the Baltimore-based TV series The Wire.
There is also a French-Canadian version, La Job, which features a boss at the Montreal Papiers Jennings factory named David Gervais, in homage to the creator.
The original BBC programme won two Golden Globes, after which NBC commissioned its own version. Gervais vowed not to continue the writing the show after its second and last series (as well as a Christmas special) in 2003, in spite of its popular acclaim, saying he wanted to leave the show on a high. It has also been remade for audiences in Germany and France.
Gervais, who will host Sunday night's Golden Globe Awards in America, reportedly claimed that money "ruined" the show. On the American TV show 60 Minutes, he said: "When I did The Office, I was so proud. The cheque ruined it a bit; I didn't want people to think that was mixed in with my pride."
Gervais has forged a successful career in Americas, although this year he is set to perform at Wembley stadium in April. His film, Cemetery Junction, which he co-wrote with long-time collaborator, Stephen Merchant, is set in 1970s England, and revolves around issues of social class and romance.
The comedian yesterday told Twitter fans he was departing from the site less than a month after first tweeting. He branded it a "pointless" and "undignified" exercise, and complained that celebrities used the site for "showing off" and that he did not need to make "new virtual friends".
He started tweeting on 14 December after Golden Globe bosses reportedly urged him to promote the awards ceremony. But after only six tweets he announced he was stopping.
On his blog, Gervais wrote: "As you may know I've stopped with Twitter. I just don't get it I'm afraid. I'm sure it's fun as a networking device for teenagers but there's something a bit undignified about adults using it. Particularly celebrities who seem to be showing off by talking to each other in public. If I want to tell a friend, famous or otherwise what I had to eat this morning, I'll text them. And since I don't need to make new virtual friends, it seemed a bit pointless to be honest."
In the short time that he did use the microblogging site, Gervais amassed more than 13,000 followers.
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