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'The Office' breeds with Swedish sitcom in world's first 'spin-make'

'The Office' breeds with Swedish sitcom in world's first 'spin-make'

Published: 07 Feb 2012 16:39 GMT+01:00
Updated: 07 Feb 2012 16:39 GMT+01:00

As Swedes get set to watch the premiere of the Swedish version of the hit TV sitcom “The Office”, The Local's Oliver Gee learns how producers took an innovative approach to ensure the show's humour wasn't lost in translation.

Since it first aired in the UK ten years ago, "The Office" has become a standard bearer of television comedy.

From the minds of Ricky Gervais and Steven Merchant, a franchise was born that has spanned the globe in remakes and tributes. The Office in the US is currently at season 8, in Germany, season 5.

There is even talk of The Office - China.

And on Sunday, Sweden will join the growing list of countries to offer their own version of the ‘mockumentary’ comedy, something that has got Swedes talking quite a bit in their own offices.

Click here for a photo gallery of scenes from 'Kontoret'

Despite Sweden being far from the first country to recreate the popular series, producers at TV4 have nevertheless managed to put an original twist on "Kontoret", the Swedish version of the "The Office".

Instead of introducing viewers to an entirely new set of characters, the Swedish show's creators have decided to base "Kontoret" around a well-known character from the award-winning Swedish sitcom "Solsidan".

Ove Sundberg, played by comedian Henrik Dorsin, was supposed to be a mere supporting character in "Solsidan" when it was first broadcast in 2010.

But Dorsin’s Sundberg had Swedes in stitches with his painfully accurate portrayal of an annoying neighbour whose trademark bald head and over-exuberant smile kept popping up at the most inopportune moments, much to the dismay of the main characters in "Solsidan".

Over the programme's two seasons, Sundberg's antics earned him a cult following, prompting producers at TV4 to think the character would be perfect for the starring role in "Kontoret".

And Duncan Cooper, international executive producer of the program from BBC Worldwide, agrees.

“I couldn’t stop laughing when I watched it – and I can’t even speak Swedish,” he tells The Local.

“The characterization was excellent, it was well shot, Dorsin has given a fantastic interpretation of the David Brent character – I take my hat off to the makers”.

“Kontoret” (Swedish for ‘the office’) also stars Sweden’s 'funniest man' of 2008, Björn Gustafsson as "Viking" from sales, who also happens to be a military expert and survival strategist.

Other stars include Kim Sulocki and Sissela Benns.

A clip from the trailer for 'Kontoret'

The office itself is set in Upplands-Väsby, a nondescript Stockholm suburb known to many commuters as nothing more than a stop on the commuter rail line running north of the Swedish capital.

Dorsin himself is excited about the opportunity.

“It feels good to contribute with something of my own, that is, Ove, when you’re working with a proven show like The Office,” he said in a statement.

“So it won’t just be an imitation. Above all, it’s fun to get to be in Sweden’s, if not the world’s, first combined remake and spin-off series. A spin-make… or a re-off”.

Casting Dorsin in-character as well as award winning actors may seem detrimental to the concept of recreating a typical office (the actors in the original UK version, with the exception of Gervais, were largely unknown) but Cooper believes that changes must be embraced for overseas environments.

“The show must always be adapted, I always encourage the writers to take the essence of the British version and graft it into the current problems or issues in their own countries," he explains.

“This is what made Israel’s version so great – we were able to incorporate certain political undercurrents, things that were really being talked about in office life. And this is what we’ve done with Sweden’s version.”

No matter the cast, the national issues, the script, one thing seems clear – the world loves The Office, and hopes are high that Kontoret will follow the trend.

“The show has been a great international success so far – from Chile to France,” Cooper said.

“This can be put down to the universality of the concept. Everyone can recognize the characters and the situations instantly. And it grafts very easily do different cultures.”

“Kontoret” launches the first of the eight-episode series at 8pm on Sunday on TV4.

Related links:

Oliver Gee (oliver.gee@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

17:43 February 7, 2012 by planethero
could be good :)
17:58 February 7, 2012 by JulieLou40
Yeah wish my Swedish was good enough to be able to watch it :)
20:05 February 7, 2012 by Lukestar1991
@ JulieLou40, well why dont you watch it and learn then??
20:41 February 7, 2012 by eppie
For people that are not able to understand English humor there already is the simpletons version of the office; the American one.

Is it so much to ask to once in a while make an original TV show?
09:27 February 8, 2012 by ardnis
Love this swedish version! The english is the best one, the american not fun at all. Also you need to like the british humor... :-D
11:18 February 8, 2012 by Satch
I've only seen the show Solsidan a few times, but I think it is a super idea to spin off the character for the show. But boy what a commute from Solsidan to Upplands-Väsby LOL.
19:45 February 8, 2012 by mafketis
The peculiar insanities and inanities of office work differ a lot from country to country so remakes make a lot of sense.
11:38 February 9, 2012 by robban70226
lack of creative talent, just another mdiocre Swedish copy cat
18:33 February 9, 2012 by DiegoP
To all the douchebags who think because they like the British office better than the US version they are smarter than the rest of the world; good luck getting extra points from this in your IQ tests.

I am seriously getting annoyed by this.
15:59 February 10, 2012 by Bartorelli
What a load of twaddle....ok ...as "mafketis" says...the peculiar insanities and inanities of office work differ a lot from country to country, but Sweden cannot make comedy remakes of British/American sitcoms.
18:59 February 10, 2012 by james_g
@ Bartorelli - first, assuming you ARE referring to 'The Office', it's a British sitcom, not a British/American one. Second, Americans do seem to have great difficulty in making comedy remakes of British sitcoms - at least remakes that seem funny/amusing to a British audience. Third - "Sweden cannot make comedy remakes of British sitcoms" (yes, edited!) - why not? Fourth (and moving a touch laterally) Sweden makes a much better job of capturing the ambience of 'Antiques Roadshow' than the Americans do!
12:56 February 11, 2012 by JohnnyEnglish
Both the american and the swedish versions are rubbish. I haven't seen any of them but trust me they are rubbish.
14:09 February 11, 2012 by prince T
dorsin is the best man for the job
20:58 February 13, 2012 by Swedish Meatbulls
personally I was a bit disappointed,expected them to do thingsa bit more Swedish Office.

Also to many product placing. to many sponsored by: But best of all the Swedish Union sponsored the program! Talk about having to much money Sure It would be more fun to make a reality program of the Swedish Unions, It would have us all doubled up!

http://www.kollega.se/index.cfm?c=15411
13:05 February 15, 2012 by BritVik
As to Swedes managing a Swedish version of an English sitcom, they seldom can match - or even understand - the humour. One exception however was 'Albert och Herbert' which to a great extent used the original 'Steptoe & Son' scripts, but modified to Gothenburg humour that is fairly similar to ours. I understand, though, that, as a result, a lot of that humour was lost on the east coast for some reason or other of which I shall not attempt to comment. Sten-Åke Cederhök and Thomas von Brömsen made a good Steptoe and son, but their capacity to emulate English humour has not been matched at any time since. Swedish humour is - well - Swedish. Can't remember when I last truly laughed at anything on SVT in Swedish.

As Swedish Meatballs puts it:- a reality programme about Swedish unions would have us doubled up - there is quite a possibility, but perhaps only if it were based on some of the British unions.
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