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'The Office' remake set to debut online

Social networking giant MySpace will stream unusual first look at NBC's remake of cult British TV show on Wednesday night.

NBC's remake of the cult hit British TV show "The Office" is getting an unusual advance airing Wednesday night online, courtesy of MySpace.com.

The early look at the show is a plum for the young social networking site, which has captured much of the initial buzz around Friendster and other rivals with its focus on music and other entertainment communities.

The decision also shows a growing flexibility on the part of TV companies toward the Internet. A handful of shows have previously debuted online, but networks have largely steered those events toward giants such as America Online and Yahoo.

The remake of "The Office" for the American market has been viewed with some trepidation by fans of the British series, which has been shown on BBC America and has been available on DVD for the last year.

The original, a creation of comedian Ricky Gervais, was done as a mockumentary focusing on a drab paper-products office in suburban England. Gervais played a deeply self-centered manager who believed firmly that his employees loved his wacky sense of fun, while blithely treating staffers in ways that would trigger immediate harassment lawsuits in U.S. courts.

Unlike most American programming, the BBC show became increasingly painful over the course of its short two seasons, with its bitter comedy balanced by fewer and fewer redeeming qualities in characters.

Gervais served as a consultant on the creation of the NBC version, even writing a few scenes, but the new show's creators have said they aren't trying to recreate the feel of the original. Gervais' character will be played by "The Daily Show" correspondent Steve Carell.

MySpace will be streaming the show on Wednesday at 5 p.m. PST, while the NBC premiere will be on March 24. Neither will actually be the first time the show has seen the digital light of day, however.

An early version of the show's pilot was briefly posted online in January, triggering critical discussion of the performances across the blog world. NBC attorneys quickly had the show taken offline.

MySpace has had a string of successes over the past year. It has become an important place for record companies to offer early listens for potentially hit albums, with REM's latest album debuting there. The company said Tuesday that it was ranked by ComScore Media Metrix as being the seventh largest site on the Web, ranked by number of page views, with more than 9 million visitors in February.