France: "Le Bureau,"adaptation of the hit British series starts on Canal Plus

If the first episode of "Le Bureau," the Gallic adaptation of the hit British series "The Office" is any indication, France's white collar workers suffer no less than anyone else: a lunatic boss, exasperating co-workers and generalized boredom.

"Le Bureau," which premieres this week on Canal Plus, is the first time that the BBC comedy which also spawned an American version on NBC has been translated.

While plot lines and much of the dialogue survive, cultural references have been adapted to the Gallic context, the AP reports.

Gone are the quintessentially British allusions to endless pints of beer, replaced by talk of the occasional bottle of Champagne. Cheese is another new French tweak. In the original, the office prankster embeds his nemesis' stapler in orange jello; in "Le Bureau," he hides a hunk of pungent fromage in his opponent's desk drawer.

"Le Bureau" also downplays its treatment of sexual harassment - a recurring theme in the British series. The reason?

"In France, we don't think of it as harassment, but rather something quite nice," said Nicolas, who co-wrote the French adaptation. He and partner Bruno only go by their first names.

The office itself is as dreary as its British counterpart: The mishmash of bulky furniture - of 70's, 80's and 90's vintages - looks like it crawled there to die. Yellowing files perch dangerously on all flat surfaces, and overhead fluorescent lights cast an unflattering pall.

Veteran actor Francois Berleand plays Gilles Triquet, the Gallic incarnation of David Brent, the British "boss from hell."

Though almost as deranged and delusional as his English counterpart, Triquet is somehow more dashing - or at least a tad less repulsive - than slimy Brent. Triquet's suits seem to fit better and his ties - while still questionable - are less eye-popping. Chalk it up to innate French panache.

A closet bigot, he can't resist stereotyping his black and Arab employees. In the first episode, he calls Laetitia, the young French receptionist of North African origin, "the warmth of the Orient, the spice route, the snake charmer."

Through Triquet's cringe-worthy remarks, the French writers sought to deliberately poke fun at the racism corroding France's egalitarian principles. As "Le Bureau" highlights, racial minorities often have a tougher time finding jobs and housing than whites.