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.
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.