Stephen Merchant cites his and Ricky Gervais' 'arrogance' as key to success of The Office

Danny Thompson
Executive producers Ricky Gervais (L) and Stephen Merchant of "The Ricky Gervais Show" speak during the HBO portion of the 2010 Television Critics Association Press Tour at the Langham Hotel on January 14, 2010 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

Stephen Merchant says the “arrogance” he shared with co-creator and star Ricky Gervais was a driving force behind the success of sitcom The Office.

The mockumentary-style sitcom proved a slow-burning hit for the BBC upon its release in 2001, with popular ramping up hugely by word of mouth praise and monumental DVD sales.

But according to co-writer and director Merchant, it might not have been made had it not been for the dynamic her shared with the older, more experienced Gervais.

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Speaking to Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs, the 45-year-old said: "There was an arrogance about us. For me I think it was just, I didn't know better, I had the arrogance of youth.

"I think with Ricky he had quite happily got into a groove in life. He felt he didn't have anything to lose.

"I was quite dynamic and proactive. And I think Ricky was willing to walk out of a room if he didn't get his way. And I would go after him, 'what are you doing?' and he would go 'it's all a plan, don't worry'.

Ricky Gervais, Mackenzie Crook, Ash Atalla, Stephen Merchant and Martin Freeman, winners of Best Situation Comedy BAFTA for "The Office" (Photo by Jon Furniss/WireImage)

"I think maybe because he was in his 30s they trusted him a bit more. He seemed like an adult. I think it was cheap and shot in one location and didn't involve dragons and CGI and I think they just let us get on with it."

The show arguably went on to change the face of comedy - re-popularising the mockumentary-style seen in comedy hits like Modern Family and Parks and Recreation, as well as spawning numerous remakes around the world - perhaps most famously with The Office: An American Workplace, which helped make the careers of Steve Carrell, John Krazinski, Mindy Kaling and Ed Helms, amongst others.

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But Merchant is quick to acknowledge they obviously didn’t create the genre, but borrowed it off their comedy heroes from a generation before.

He said: "It was one of those things that, there'd been This Is Spinal Tap, and there had been other people who had done fake documentaries.

"So it didn't seem to us like any great revolution it was just, in retrospect, there wasn't anything else like it at the time."