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

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.

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

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.

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TELEVISION

More than one in three Swedes watched Donald Duck on Christmas Eve

Donald Duck again looks set to be Sweden's biggest television event of the year, with millions of Swedes going quackers for the Christmas tradition.

More than one in three Swedes watched Donald Duck on Christmas Eve
Christmas in Sweden. Photo: Pontus Lundahl/TT

More than one in three of Sweden's population of ten million tuned in to watch the 1950s 'From All of Us to All of You' Disney compilation, referred to in Sweden as ‘Kalle Anka' (Donald Duck) on Christmas Eve.

It was seen by 3,859,000 people when it was broadcast at 3pm, according to MMS which keeps statistics on Swedes' television viewing habits – the second-highest figure for the show in the 21st century.

That means it is on track to be the most-watched television event in Sweden in 2017.

While some way from its record audience of 4.32 million viewers in 1997, it is 125,000 more than last year and the fifth-highest figure for Kalle Anka since 1994, said MMS.

The dubbed cartoon compilation, which also features favourites such as Cinderella, Mickey Mouse and Ferdinand the Bull, has been shown in Sweden every year since 1959.

It is so popular that calls to emergency services fall by around 20 percent, something officials call “the Donald Duck effect”.

According to mobile provider Telenor, data usage on their network dropped by 29 percent during the hour when the Disney cartoon aired last Christmas.