Now that the U.S. edition of The Office ran for nine seasons and remains a binge-watching mainstay, it’s hard to remember viewers were skeptical at first. This was Hollywood trying to redo Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant’s classic British comedy. The Office creators approved the American version, though, and the U.S. show’s creator Greg Daniels said it was thanks to one of his episodes of The Simpsons.
Daniels was on the very first Television Critics Association panel for The Office before it aired in 2005. Prior to The Office, Daniels worked on The Simpsons and created King of the Hill. Daniels shared Gervais’ affinity for one of his Simpsons scripts.
The original ‘The Office’ creators Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant loved ‘The Simpsons’
When Daniels pitched Gervais and Merchant on adapting The Office, they were already fans of his.
“It certainly helped me get the job,” Daniels said. “When I met with the English guys, they loved The Simpsons, especially. That’s one of their big influences, and it turned out I had written one of their favorite episodes. We kind of hit it off based on that, so I think it does help.”
Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant’s favorite Greg Daniels ‘Simpsons’ episode
The Simpsons tackled sexual harassment in a 1994 episode. Homer’s gluttony gets mistaken for an unwanted advance in this classic.
“The episode was called Homer Badman,” Daniels said. “Homer’s going home from a convention of gummy candies and one sticks to the babysitter’s bottom as she gets out of his car, and he tries to pick it off and eat it. And he gets caught in a whole sexual harassment kind of a story, so they liked that. I think maybe that was an Office-y kind of moment.”
What Greg Daniels learned from the British ‘The Office’
Meeting Gervais and Merchant also helped Daniels develop his own voice for his The Office. The American iteration did not reproduce any characters or storylines from Gervais and Merchant’s show. Daniels did learn one principle he could apply though.
“It was kind of daunting at first because the original is so original of a show, which I love so much, and the first thing I did was really try to understand the British show, what was so innovative about it. I went to England, Ben [Silverman] and I both, to meet with Ricky and Stephen, the English creators. And we learned what their process was. And it kind of boiled down to I thought the very first thing was casting. When we got Steve [Carell] to play the lead, it felt like, OK, that’s the lynchpin. Now we can relax some.”
Daniels’ The Simpsons colleague, Mike Reiss, also revealed Daniels asked him to audition for Michael Scott. So he’d be happy to know it was Carell who made Daniels relax.