You have to marvel at those people willing to double down on a good idea. More often than not, the sequel does not live up to the hype and you’re left with a stale rehashing of a tired old story (looking at you Fast X). However, as Ricky Gervais found when he launched the US iteration of his beloved sitcom The Office in 2005, lightning really can strike twice.
Nine seasons and 201 episodes later, the series has become one of the most lauded comedies in modern history, sparking endless debates among fans over which nation’s The Office is truly the best. While we may never get to the bottom of that argument, there is one thing we can all be certain of, it probably won’t be the Australian iteration.
In a move that has shocked and stunned this newsroom, Prime Video has officially announced The Office Australia, a Down Under take on the classic comedy franchise. This time around, David Brent and Michael Scott have been replaced by the new ‘No.1 Boss’ Hannah Howard, played by Aussie comedian Felicity Ward. The Inbetweeners 2 star is renowned for her off-brand of awkward humour, most recently nabbing a Best Show nomination at the Edinburgh Comedy Awards. With a background in improv and stand-up, Ward does make for an ideal Michael Scott-like character and she’s got Ricky Gervais’ tick of approval.
“I’m very excited about Australia remaking my little show from the turn of the century,” co-creator, co-writer, and star of The Office, Gervais said. “Office politics have changed a bit in 20 years, so can’t wait to see how they navigate a modern-day David Brent.”
According to the official synopsis, The Office Australia will follow Ward’s hapless Hannah Howard, the managing director of packaging company Flinley Craddick. When she gets word from head office that they’ll be shutting down the branch and making everyone work from home, she goes into meltdown.
Making a string of promises she can’t keep in order to keep her “work family” together, Hannah is forced to motivate her team to hit the outlandish and impossible targets that have been set for them. Sound familiar?
The plot of the new Australian version of The Office does bear a lot of similarities to the early UK and US episodes, albeit with a slightly more modern twist. One possible reason could be the integration of BBC Studios, which is helping steer the series alongside Bunya Entertainment and Amazon Studios.
“The Office has connected with audiences around the world because everyone recognises their own David Brent, and now it’s Australia’s turn,” Kylie Washington, general manager and creative director, production, BBC Studios ANZ said. “We figured the world is ready for a lovable, flawed, lady boss, ruling over her packaging empire in The Office Australia. This is the first scripted project from BBC Studios ANZ, and I’m excited to partner with Bunya Entertainment and Prime Video to reimagine such an iconic show with some very Aussie characters.”
While the announcement is huge news for the Australian film and television industry, it’s worth pointing out that international adaptations of UK series haven’t always had the best success. The beleaguered shot-for-shot remake of The IT Crowd was canned after just the pilot episode while the US iteration of Jack Whitehall’s Bad Education proved to be a lesson learned the hard way for ABC.
Nevertheless, BBC Studios ANZ, Bunya Entertainment, and Amazon Studios are surging ahead with the new comedy series, eager to share their vision for the future.
“We are thrilled to be bringing one of the biggest comedy franchises ever made to Prime Video customers in Australia and around the world,” Sarah Christie, senior development executive at Prime Video Australia said. “It is an honour to continue the international comedy legacy of The Office locally while introducing new, quintessentially Australian characters. We can’t wait for audiences to meet Hannah Howard, the first female boss The Office format has explored.”
Production on the eight-part Australian Amazon Original series will commence in Sydney in June, with filming to take place over eight weeks. Joining Felicity Ward’s Hannah Howard, The Office Australia will also feature The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power‘s Edith Poor, Thor: Love and Thunder alum Shari Sebbens and Jonny Brugh, Steen Raskopoulos, Josh Thomson, and Firass Dirani.
Admittedly, we’re not overly confident The Office Australia will live up to the lofty heights of its US and UK counterparts, however, we’ll reserve our harshest of judgements for the release date. The Office Australia is set to premiere on Prime Video globally (excluding the U.S.) in 2024. Make no mistake, we are ready to be hurt again.