Is this the greatest crossover in TV history?
(Credit: NBC)

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Is this the greatest crossover in TV history?

When the fan’s favourite inappropriate boss met his alter-ego, it is safe to say the moment got deeply engraved in the hearts of the audience as one of the most iconic crossovers of television history. The show, which was initially co-written, co-created, and acted by English comedian Ricky Gervais back in 2001, was remade in 2003 in the US.

The British mockumentary sitcom based on the lives of a group of employees in a typical office setup got cancelled after a brief run of only two seasons with six episodes each. As the show resonated with social themes based on the context of the UK, it was more difficult for non-English viewers to grasp everything that was happening and its underlying implications. 

In the year 2003, Greg Daniels, a veteran writer, picked up the show from its English roots and adapted it to fit the American context of a typical office setting, which soon became a must-watch for American audiences. The characters were also based on the original UK sitcom, with quite a strong character development. For example, although Dawn and Pam played the same characters of modest receptionists, Pam develops to be a more active and assertive member instead of the way Dawn remained to be passive throughout. They chose to continue filming in the same single camera setup originally used in its original version. This style of cinematography is called the cinema verite, wherein the characters are recorded in their natural contextual backgrounds while the camera acts as an extension to the eyes of the viewer, highlighting or even unveiling underlying implications not directly being picked up while recording the presented reality. 

The Office US had a long run of 201 episodes and was aired for 8 long years. When a remake is more successful than its original version, it is often supported by a higher production value. Before more episodes after the pilot, the writers conducted research in many offices across the States. Changes to the characters were made like the male lead Michael Scott (Steve Carell) was made more likeable after the mixed reactions to the first season.

As the writers changed the tone of the show to a more upbeat and fun one, the doors welcomed foreign viewers who would better understand the context, and the narrative opened up. This is probably why the English version made a more off-putting impression- its off-beat, almost pessimistic tone of the story was accompanied by integrated niche British humour, making the late show more inaccessible to a broader audience.

Michael met David Brent in the iconic crossover episode of Season 7 called The Seminar. Fans who are devoted to both the UK and the American version of the mockumentary were purely in a state of euphoria with this classic crossover as Gervais made a cameo as David Brent.

In the brief run-in with Michael Scott, played by Steve Carell, right outside an elevator, the two lead comedians bonded over their signature joke, “That’s what she said,” along with an uninterrupted exchange of their views of the world and thoughts on jokes. This swap was seized by an emotional hug and wrapped by a satirical sense of humour- typically what Brent and Scott are known for. 

When we get deep into the discussion about the two worlds, there are several fan theories about whether both David and Michael belong to the same world. And if they do, does that mean Michael had watched the sitcom before and picked up ways to bring a more cheerful, in his definition, demeanour within the office? Considering that the two shows had almost identical pilots- Mike Ryan from Moveline raises a deep question that comes to our minds: “How did these two people, living thousands of miles apart, once live a day with the exact same events occurring?” 

Following the crossover, several discussions were brought back onto the front pages of tabloids, with fans confused as to why the English version had to see the end of its runtime after such a brief period. Ricky Gervais explains the reason why he could not follow through with his show and a rather unpopular reaction that the sitcom was met with on CBS This Morning”: 

“It’s so intense, particularly when you do everything yourself, it’s not like there was a team of 20 writers and producers. You put everything into it, and that was the first thing I did, and it’s sort of like a lifetime’s work, really. I didn’t want to repeat myself or water it down, so I just left it as it was, and I’ve never regretted that, really. I miss it, but I’ve never regretted it.”