Entertainment

From Scranton to Winnipeg: The Office goes north

Winnipeg is about to take a star turn in the offbeat TV comedy The Office.

Winnipeg is about to take a star turn in the offbeat TV comedy The Office.

An episode scheduled to air Nov. 13 has star Steve Carell, in his role as office manager Michael Scott, taking a business trip to the windy capital of Manitoba.

Emmy-winning writer Brent Forrester chose Winnipeg as a suitable destination for the cringe-inducing boss of fictional paper firm Dunder Mifflin.

"It seemed like Montreal was maybe too exotic and Vancouver also a little maybe too conventionally sexy, and Winnipeg seemed to strike the right balance between exotic and obscure," he told CBC News in an interview from Los Angeles.

"In fact, some people on our staff have named it the Scranton of Canada in a way — a nice kind of analogy to where Michael is from."

Office underling characters Oscar Nunez and Andy Bernard make the trip to Winnipeg with Michael. The episode centres around Michael having an affair with the concierge at a hotel in the city.

"Michael Scott is trying to turn Winnipeg into a city of international intrigue in his mind so much that he wants this business trip to be all it's cracked up to be. We sort of imagined that Winnipeg in November was not Paris in summer, so it's a little colder and a little lonelier than he hopes," Forrester said.

Episode shot in California

Carell and the rest of the cast and crew actually never set foot on Canadian soil.

The whole episode was shot in the Los Angeles area, with the aid of some background footage and a shipment of Canadiana from Destination Winnipeg.

The show's propmaster contacted the Winnipeg tourism promotion agency, which sent along airport baggage tags, shopping bags from The Bay, Old Dutch potato chips, Fort Garry brewing company paraphernalia and other distinctive items.

In consolation to fans of The Office who had hoped to see its stars in Winnipeg, Los Angeles also stands in for Scranton, Penn., the supposed location of the office featured in the NBC sitcom.

Forrester says the show, the U.S. version of a British sitcom of the same name, has too tight a budget to move locations.

"We know it's cold and we know, if we had the budget, we would have put a lot more snow in the shots," he said.

"The episode is supposed to represent Michael travelling in November, when presumably you would have a bit of snow there, but it turns out snow is incredibly expensive and difficult to create, especially in downtown Los Angeles, which is where we filmed our fake Winnipeg."

The show is known for its irreverent humour and improvisational acting.

"I would think there would be a joke or two at our expense, but I think we'll laugh," said Jody Tresoor of Destination Winnipeg, who helped send Winnipeg artifacts to Los Angeles for the shoot.

"We have a really good sense of humour over here and we're willing to accept the jokes, but we're really curious," she told CBC News.

With files from CBC Winnipeg's Chris Read