NEW YORK—Hoping to replicate the success of the Emmy-winning NBC show The Office, executives at CBS announced Monday that the network will adapt the highly rated comedy for CBS audiences.
"We're excited to bring the fresh, groundbreaking comedy of The Office to a completely new channel," CBS President Leslie Moonves said. "Some people say a show like The Office can only work on NBC, but we're out to prove them wrong."
Since securing rights to the sitcom, producers Bruce Klein and Greg Winston have worked diligently to repackage the show for its new context.
"We're huge fans of NBC's The Office—we want to remain faithful to that while at the same time creating our own voice," Klein said. "Obviously we had to change some of the language and cultural references to things our audience will understand. But the show's central message is the same: Just because they call it 'work' doesn't mean you can't have a few laughs while doing it."
The show's pilot, a shot-for-shot re-creation of NBC's Office pilot, features comedian David Spade as boss Peter Craig, the fun-loving and inspirational boss of a small-town Ohio paper company.
"Having David on the project is such a thrill," said Klein, who offered Spade the part after Ray Romano and Kevin James turned down the role. "Don't get me wrong—Steve Carell is great, but David's combination of zippy one-liners and all-out zaniness just can't be beat."
The remake will also feature the same will-they-won't-they love story between a plain-looking receptionist engaged to a man from the company's warehouse who doesn't appreciate her, and a perfectly suited coworker who pines for her from afar. But producers at CBS said the love triangle will be "completely revamped" for the new series, as new names have been created for all three characters.
"The budding romance between Jen and Tom is really the foundation of the show," said director Howard Gatson, who has made their connection "more believable" by casting more traditionally attractive actors in the roles. "People are going to tune in every week to see if Jen will ever leave her fiancé to be with Tom. And they'll be so relieved when she finally does in episode three."
The producers made several other changes to the show in order to promote a greater crossover appeal. The faux-documentary format has been dropped in favor of a traditional three-camera setup, and a laugh track has been added to fill in any painful, awkward pauses in dialogue that might slow down the show.
"We're very excited about the ripped-from-the-headlines feel of [assistant to the manager] Dwayne's backstory as an Iraq War veteran," Klein said. "It will give his character some of the authority and gravity that [NBC's] Dwight is lacking."
Fans of the original NBC version and several TV critics have expressed doubt as to whether the show's dry, subtle humor can be interpreted for an entirely different channel.
"These NBC imports have failed time and time again to make the leap to other networks," Washington Post entertainment reporter Deborah Landon wrote. "Just look what happened when CBS tried to adapt the failed half season of NBC's Coupling."
"You can't just take a show that good, throw in a new set of actors, and expect the same results," said Jennie Tan, who runs a popular fansite for the NBC show. "CBS just has to accept that there will simply never be another character like Michael Scott, ever."
Despite early public skepticism, CBS executives remain confident the program will be a cross-network hit. They have already commissioned two 12-episode seasons of the reworked sitcom, tentatively titled The Office, and slotted the show for their most competitive time slot, Thursdays at 8:30 p.m.
"We're not afraid to put our version of The Office against the most popular shows out there," Moonves said. "It's something totally unique and different, and frankly, there's nothing else like it on CBS."