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Last Updated: Monday, 26 January, 2004, 12:58 GMT
How The Office invaded Hollywood

By Ian Youngs
BBC News Online entertainment staff

Hit BBC comedy The Office and its star and creator Ricky Gervais were the surprise winners at Sunday's prestigious Golden Globe awards in Hollywood.

Ricky Gervais with The Office cast
The Office was the surprise winner at the Golden Globes
Gervais joked that he would use his two Golden Globe gongs as "bookends" - but their real use will be to boost his profile and career in the US.

The Office has been a cult hit on cable channel BBC America so far, but these accolades will go some way to making him a star in the US after becoming a household name in the UK.

"There are an awful lot of Americans scratching their heads and saying 'Ricky who? And what's the show?'" according to Steven Gaydos, executive editor of industry magazine Variety.

Monday morning's issue of Variety - a Hollywood bible - had Gervais on the front page and said the show's double win "took just about everyone by surprise".

"Ricky Gervais is a star in Hollywood today," Mr Gaydos said.

"All over town, people are saying 'I want a tape of that guy, I want to see the show again, I knew it was great, I want to put him in a movie'.

"I think Hollywood is his oyster today."

The Office's success can partly be put down to the people who vote for the Golden Globes.

The voters are members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association - critics and journalists based in the US but who write for the international media.

Ricky Gervais in The Office
Gervais has decided not to make any more episodes of the show
They represent countries from Belgium to Brazil, via locations like India, Russia, England and Japan - and may have a more global outlook than Hollywood natives.

But the same association has been voting on TV excellence since 1955 and has never nominated a non-American series before - let alone picked one as the winner.

And The Office has been acclaimed in the US, becoming more popular with the "chattering classes" than middle America, according to Hollywood Reporter magazine's UK bureau chief Stuart Kemp.

That is partly because adventurous viewers on the east and west coasts are more likely to subscribe to BBC America - and middle America "would not get" the humour, he said.

"America is definitely getting better at understanding British humour - but this is a very specific kind of British humour.

US version of Coupling
The Office will hope to learn from Coupling's mistakes in the US
"And it took a while for it to take a hold here [in the UK] as well - people forget that."

The Office was also named best TV show of the year by Entertainment Weekly magazine, which described it as "a classic TV creation", at the end of 2003.

But the magazine declared that the year's worst show was the US version of another UK sitcom, Coupling.

That show was remade for a mainstream US audience after becoming a cult hit in the UK.

The Office is about to get the same treatment, with a pilot show soon to be made for the NBC network.

US remakes of some UK sitcoms - such as Till Death Do Us Part and Steptoe and Son - have been highly popular and influential in America.

But others - like Fawlty Towers and One Foot in the Grave - flopped.

Too English?

Variety magazine's Mr Gaydos said despite The Office's success, The Office had to be remade because the UK version was too English for a mass American audience.

"You have to tailor things for the domestic market if you want to reach the broadest audience," he said. "That's a fact of life."

And Hollywood Reporter's Mr Kemp said he thought the US version would be a success because it will not be changed too much.

"It should work because it's a very funny thing - they'll just make it more American.

"But I don't think that will be at the expense of the originality of humour of the creation in the first place."

And BBC America, meanwhile, will benefit from showing repeats of the original and an enhanced reputation as one of the best channels in the US.




GOLDEN GLOBES 2004

In pictures
The winners and losers at the Golden Globe awards

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