Winnipeg–The Scranton of The North

Tonight’s the night The Office moves to Winnipeg. Or, at least, Michael Scott and Andy Bernard are two of the lucky Dunder Mifflin employees off to the Manitoba capital in tonight’s episode of The Office (NBC, Global, 9 p.m.).
Maybe while they are there they can stop by the Canwest Global headquarters and solve a few more problems. (See previous post.)
Fact is nobody is really going to Winnipeg–the episode was shot, as usual, in a studio in Burbank, Calif.–but the writers decided The ‘Peg was the perfect place to peg this episode.
I spoke last week with the NBC comedy’s resident Canadian writer, Anthony Farrell, who told me, “we thought about Toronto, we thought about Montreal—too flashy.” The consensus was that Winnipeg was “just right for us to have fun with.”
Regina, apparently was also briefly discussed. “One of our senior NBC web people, she’s from Regina,” says Farrell, who seems unfazed to be working with senior web people.
Farrell is from Toronto and his only experience with Winnipeg is a stop over at the airport. I asked him if Sarah Palin has helped to make people from the north funnier to TV audiences. “She helped make Saturday Night Live funnier,” he said. “Her folksiness is kind of funny. You feel like, ‘Oh man, this is not a good representation of people from up north.'”
Canadians always go a little nuts when we get so much as a mention on a U.S. series. It’s always a big deal when The Simpsons come to Toronto (where they visited the CN Tower and the “Paul Shaffer” bus shelter”) or Canadians are lampooned on Family Guy or South Park. When Aaron Sorkin screwed up a few years ago and wrote on The West Wing that terrorists were crossing into Vermont from Ontario (two territories that do not meet), you’d think he had stolen the Stanley Cup.
Tonight’s Office episode, “Business Trip,” is credited to former Simpsons‘ scribe Brent Forrester, but Farrell and the other writes all have input into every script. Farrell said it was interesting to work on the episode right around the time of the Canadian federal election. “No one else in the writer’s room even knew Canada had an election,” he says.
Read more about tonight’s boffo border crossing in my article for The Canadian Press, picked up in last Friday’s Toronto Star.

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