Le Bureau, France's answer to The Office, loses something in translation
Friday 26 May 2006
French television viewers have discovered life in Slough-sur-Seine - the first episode of a French remake of the triumphant BBC sit-com The Office was broadcast last night.
The drab, overlit offices of Wernham Hogg just off a roundabout in Slough became the not-quite-so-drab, overlit offices of Cogirep, in Villepinte, near Charles de Gaulle airport, north of Paris.
David Brent, the compelling monster of sweaty, hypocritical, jokey, British middle management became Gilles Triquet, a sweaty, hypocritical monster of jokey, French middle management. Brent's irritating beard became a tiny, Gallic strip of unshaved hair on M. Triquet's chin.
The characters in Le Bureau, on the Canal Plus cable and satellite channel, were the same. The plot was the same. The spoof documentary style was the same.
And yet, somehow, the first episode flopped miserably. The translation of suburban, white-collar Britain to suburban, white-collar France was too literal. The characters and situations were too British. Cogirep, "the third largest paper distribution company in France", did not feel like France at all. It felt like a British suburban office, played by French actors. What Le Bureau missed most of all was the presiding genius of Ricky Gervais, the creator and central character of The Office. Without him, despite valiant efforts by his French alter-ego, François Berléand, the whole thing slipped back into being just another sit-com.
Gervais WAS David Brent; Berléand was much too actorly as Gilles Triquet. Brent's sly glances at the documentary "camera" become lingering, self-justifying appeals by Berléand, who is older than Brent and not so bizarrely likeable.
He captures the annoying, French middle-management tic of breaking self-consciously into English: "Il y a no problem." All the same, he ends up being neither French nor English but stranded somewhere in mid-Channel.
The one triumph of the night was the performance of Benoit Carré as Joel Liotard, the equivalent of the overgrown boy-scout Gareth in The Office. Although dressed better than Gareth (suits slightly too large, not three sizes too large) Carré captured the same empty-headed, military- obsessed, vacuous, incompetent ambition. Those qualities, at least, seem to cross the Channel with no trouble.
To be fair, having seen some of the later episodes of Le Bureau, in an initial series of six, they are much better than the first.
The food poverty scandal that shames Britain: Nearly 1m people rely on handouts to eat – and benefit reforms may be to blame
US Navy christens huge $3 billion destroyer ship USS Zumwalt that appears as a fishing boat on enemy radar
Nigel Farage fatigue? Half of voters ‘immune’ to Ukip’s appeal
Scottish independence: It is the English who should be on their knees, begging the Scots to vote ‘No’
Nigel Farage on Have I Got News For You: Ukip leader ridiculed over expenses and party 'fruitcakes'
Nigel Farage: I’m taking on the status quo, and the Establishment’s fighting back
- 1 Poveglia: 'World's most haunted island' up for auction...is anyone brave enough to buy it?
- 2 Refugee facing deportation from Sweden saved by fellow passengers refusing to let plane leave
- 3 Naked yoga: the bare truth - it's already big in the US, and has now landed here
- 4 24 people applied for the 'world's toughest job', here are their interviews
- 5 Scientists warn we've hit 'peak beard': The more people grow facial hair, the less attractive it is
£26K-30k + Bonus, Private Medical Insurance, Company Pension: Charter Selectio...
£25K-28k + Bonus, Private Medical Insurance, Company Pension: Charter Selectio...
£50000 - £65000 Per Annum potentially flexible for the right candidate: Clearw...
£38000 per annum + Benefits: Pro-Recruitment Group: Do you have experience of ...