The Taliban have won a bid for the rights to develop their own unique take of the hit British television show The Office. Analysts are hailing the move to create an Afghan based version of 'The Office' as a step back from the Taliban's previous refusal to negotiate for any sitcom rights until all foreign troops have left Afghan soil.
"I think this is positive news for television in Afghanistan," Hiran Giwad, of the Kabul-based think-tank, Afghanistan Analysts Association stated, "Until yesterday the Taliban were not even talking about 'The Office'. But now they say they are prepared to film The Office in Qatar."
'The Office' has proven itself to be an award winning formula in each of its most well known incarnations -the US and UK series- on both sides of the pond. Several other versions based in non-English speaking countries have proven to be equally as successful and popular in their respective domains. Following in the path of the show's tried and tested format, the Taliban are now set to produce their own version of the show in the sunny-sandy-lands of the Middle-East. Though this version is being geared towards Afghani audiences, it is to be filmed in Qatar. The decision to place 'The Office' outside of Afghanistan was a necessary part of reaching the terms that needed to be satisfied in order to secure the production rights. The format may be originally British owned, but US officials held much sway upon any final decision that was to be made in regards to the Taliban receiving 'The Office', and the main point of contention between representatives of the US and of the Taliban was the location of 'The Office'. Following several negotiations a compromise, which proved satisfactory to all parties involved, was reached.
This latest evolution in the Afghan war is being touted by officials in Kabul as the key to "paving the way for peace" and as well as now receiving warm support from the U.S, it has also been greeted by neighbouring countries with much delight.
A senior government official in Pakistan said in response to the announcement that "Pakistan will support any move which can bring peace, stability and a version of 'The Office' to Afghanistan."
Securing production rights to 'The Office' is the latest in a string of recent developments which have seen sitcoms being used in the volatile region as possible olive branches between warring factions.
A recent episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm entitled Palestinian Chicken has been passed along to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the hopes that it could restart Israel-Palestine peace-talks should Abbas ever decide to sit down with Mr Netanyahu and watch the show.
Another successful British comedy format that is being adapted for Middle-Eastern audiences is Fr Ted. Scenes from the upcoming Jordanian pilot were leaked this week following an expansive shoot that took place over the holidays in Bethlehem's The Church of The Nativity.
Following in the footsteps of the BBC agreed format, the Taliban produced show will take place in an obscure paper factory, in a comically named town and follow a premise similar to that of the first 3 episodes of the British series before it will begin to put its own twist on 'The Office'. The Taliban have promised an eclectic cast of characters which will stay true to those that were pioneered by Ricky Gervais and Steven Merchant.
A high-ranking official in the Taliban was quoted as saying: "We vow to the people of Afghanistan that we will stand upon the shoulders of David Brent and create a Middle-Eastern manager of stereotypical proportions."
Another member of the Taliban, who is currently involved in preproduction of the show said the following: "David Brent's flaws are what make the office, 'The Office'! Every member of the Taliban sees a bit of himself in Brent. His unconscious sexism. His racism. His facial hair. The way he constantly puts his foot in his mouth. These are all very endearing things to us. This is why we will be basing our, as of yet to be named, character more so on David Brent rather than on the American's Michael Scott. Our character will be just like Brent but superior in every single way. For a start he will have much-much more facial hair and he will be incredibly sexist, even by our standards! He will suffer from extreme xenophobia and be very fearful of all Western cultures especially America. He will constantly say ridiculous and absurd things. He will set unattainable and impossible to reach goals for himself, his employees and his family. And when everyone eventually fails to reach these goals he will severely punish them whilst simultaneously forgetting about his misgivings and become a massive hypocrite. Also, in a move to keep with Middle-Eastern stereotypes, he will be a lot angrier than his British and American counterparts in both his physical mannerisms and his style of speaking, even a simple 'hello' will seem like a threat!"
Just as the US version of the show altered aspects of 'The Office', so as to remain culturally relative to their citizens, so too will the Taliban produced effort. One of the main rumours circulating about the show is that of the Taliban's wish to have any woman that may appear on the show wear a burqa. There is also a chance that any female character in the show will be chaperoned by either a husband or a male relative. This possible chaperoning will give the Taliban's version of 'The Office' a 35% larger character base to work with.
A supposed insider of the show attempted to quash some of the rumours doing the rounds by stating the following: "Well to be honest the Taliban forbid women from working anyway, unless it's in the medical profession and seeing as the show takes place in a paper office and not a medical office, there probably won't be any need for women to be on the show. Besides, because they enforce the wearing of the burqa if we do have to have some female characters, it might be just as easy to find some guys with thin eyebrows and get them to play the parts."
The Taliban version of 'The Office' will no doubt pose as a ratings rival for another new Afghan show that has been regarded as a somewhat unofficial copy of 'The Office' called The Ministry.
In relation to the possible conflict of interests with 'The Ministry', the Taliban had this to say: "We follow the one true format of 'The Office' as handed down to us, the chosen people of Gervais, through the appropriate channels on high. Praise be to Gervais and his glorious work. There will be no competition for us with the 'The Ministry' as it adheres to an inferior format, is of poor quality and has cheap and dated production values."