BBC's 'The Office' Set For Russian Makeover

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Slimy boss David Brent and his beleaguered staff are set to move to Russia after Channel One signed a deal with BBC Worldwide to make a local version of hit comedy-drama "The Office."

BBC Worldwide announced Thursday that Channel One would produce 24 episodes of the show with its affiliated production company Krasny Kvadrat, or Red Square. The original show was only 12 episodes long, plus two Christmas specials, so Channel One has the right to develop new story lines.

The statement did not say how much the deal was worth, and a Channel One spokeswoman said no one was available to comment Friday. The channel is currently airing the U.S. version of "The Office" in a late-night slot.

BBC Worldwide spokeswoman Cristina Dunn said in e-mailed comments that it was "far too early to talk about the production itself."

The BBC has previously sold entertainment show formats to Russian television channels, including "Strictly Come Dancing" and "Great Britons," which has been adapted by Rossia television as "Name of Russia."

The Office, whose first series aired in Britain in 2001, has already been remade in the United States, France and Canada. A Chilean version is due to air next month. The original show has been sold to more than 70 countries but has never been broadcast in Russia.

Nevertheless, the show already has a following among Russians. Afisha magazine listed it in its "top 50 series of all time" in May, and Vash Dosug magazine included it in a list of "Shows that Shook the World" last year.

The Russian producers will have to adjust certain episodes. The famous scene where Gareth finds his stapler encased in Jell-O may have to be adjusted, since the gelatin treat is not a popular dessert in Russia. But office culture has already been the subject of popular sitcoms, including a Russian version of the U.S. show "Ugly Betty."

The original series' co-writer and star, Ricky Gervais, called the Russian deal "very exciting and very flattering" in his blog. "With a 150 million population, I'm looking forward to some good ratings," Gervais wrote, adding that he may visit Russia in December for the premiere of his new film, "Ghost Town."

Television critic Irina Petrovskaya said she had never watched "The Office," but she called the deal a sign that Channel One was looking "to attract a young audience."