Stephen Merchant admits “danger” of ‘The Office’ spin-off

Since the news of a spin-off of the American version of The Office broke earlier this month, fans of the beloved sitcom have been speculating on what it might look like. Now, Stephen Merchant, who co-created the UK original with Ricky Gervais, has weighed in on the announcement.

It was reported last week that streaming service Peacock had officially picked up an untitled series set in the same universe as The Office US. It will follow a new group of characters in a new environment and is due to begin production in the summer. 

The original series of The Office was first broadcast on BBC Two in 2001. It became one of the most influential British comedies of all time, starring Gervais as the inept David Brent, manager of the Wernham Hogg paper company’s Slough branch. Capturing the essence of the turn of the millennium, it ushered in a new era of television comedy.

Then, in 2005, Greg Daniels developed The Office for American audiences, with Wernham Hogg replaced by Dunder Mifflin. It starred Steve Carell as Michael Scott, the transatlantic answer to Brent, with the supporting cast featuring John Krasinski, Jenna Fischer, B. J. Novak, and Rainn Wilson. It ran for nine seasons, ending in 2013, and is also one of the most lauded sitcoms in TV history.

The spin-off will star Domhnall Gleeson and The White Lotus season two star, Sabrina Impacciatore. Presently untitled, the mockumentary will be set in the same universe as the original US version and will follow a failing daily newspaper. 

A summary of the new series via Variety outlines: “The documentary crew that immortalized Dunder Mifflin’s Scranton branch is in search of a new subject when they discover a dying historic Midwestern newspaper and the publisher trying to revive it with volunteer reporters.”

Reacting to the news, in an interview with Deadline on the Bafta TV red carpet, Merchant said he liked the idea that the new series is in the same universe but not the same office. He commented: “I like the idea that it’s within the universe of The Office, but not necessarily in the same office. I just hope that they represent what office life must be like now. I guess the whole show will just be on Zoom and people only come in, like, twice a week.”

Touching on whether a similar format could be used regarding the UK series, he did express the potential issue involved in revisiting something so treasured: “Maybe, I’m interested to see how this one works. I just think there’s always a danger isn’t there, when you revisit things? Can you capture the magic you had the first time? It’s a tough one to do.”

He added: “I think it’s probably wise doing it in another office with different characters, that seems a kind of smart way. So we’ll see how they get on. I wish them well, obviously.”

Merchant’s next appearance on television will be in the third season of The Outlaws, which airs at the end of this month, with returning cast members Rhianne Barreto, Gamba Cole, Darren Boyd, and Baby Reindeer star Jessica Gunning.

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