There’s no denying it: reboots are very hard to get right – and even harder when the IP is so beloved. Therefore, the news that The Office is getting a new do-over (yes, again), could fairly be met with a reasonable amount of skepticism, especially given its two versions to date are both often hailed as among the best sitcoms of the past few decades.
However, I’m here to advise you against anything other than cautious optimism at this point for the Australian revamp. The Office, after all, has some serious tenure in spawning great reboots.
Indeed, when the news first came back in 2004 that the British version was getting a US makeover, it was met with a lot of backlash. This only deepened when a first season aired that was essentially a shot-for-shot remake with American accents.
Yet, over the course of its next nine seasons, The US Office became one of the best sitcoms ever made. Developing its unique characters and broadening their stories, while still keeping the cringe-worthy heart of Ricky Gervais’ original, it became – in my opinion – better than the original. Who’s to say that lightning won’t strike twice?
Admittedly, there are some big lessons to learn and Amazon Studios would do well to heed them. Steering away from the mimicry of what’s come before is a big one, as well as realizing that what was funny 20 years ago is not necessarily going to hit the same beats now.
All signs so far are looking good though as this reboot plans a new female-led story to offer a fresh take on well-trodden ground. Inspired by Gervais’ cringe-inducing David Brent in the original and Steve Carrell’s misguided Michael Scott in the US version, the new manager is Hannah Howard. Not only does this offer a fresh perspective, but she'll also be played by the hilarious Felicity Ward (just watch some clips from Thank God You’re Here to see what I mean about her comedy timing).
Hannah heads up a regional branch of a packaging company called Flinley Craddick. When she learns that Head Office is planning to shut their branch down and make everyone work from home, she goes into survival mode. Not only is this a particularly 2023 scenario, especially in a post-pandemic world, but it should be fruitful fodder for laughs too as they take on her outlandish plots to save their workplace.
It’s not just Ward who’s been announced either but plenty more comedy talent, following the crucial mantra of creating stars rather than casting household names. The supporting cast includes Edith Poor, Steen Raskopoulos, Shari Sebbens, and Josh Thomson, who’ve all cut their teeth on other sitcoms.
Finally, the remake has got Gervais' seal of approval. "I’m very excited about Australia remaking my little show from the turn of the century," he said in a statement. "Office politics have changed a bit in 20 years, so can’t wait to see how they navigate a modern-day David Brent." And look, I get that this is another paycheck for him, but if the creator of the original is intrigued about the premise, then you should be too.
So while right now, it’s hard to imagine that The Office could inspire a third hit, there’s clearly something about this story, and these characters, that appeals to audiences of any age. I’m excited to see them give it a go, and who knows, maybe we’ll have another all-timer on our hands.