The Office (US) vs. The Office (UK)

I know this topic has been done before, but not recently as far as I can tell, although I’m happy to be corrected on that . . .

So anyways. Just finished watching the UK Office. It took me a while to get used to the accents, but I liked it. I think that Gervais is a better comic actor than Carell, simply because he talks so quickly and has such characteristic facial expressions and mannerisms. However, I think that Michael Scott is a more sympathetic character than David Brent. Scott genuinely seems to care about his employees, whereas I feel like Brent cares only about himself. Also, Carell did a great job of taking Brent’s character and making it “his own.”

I like Jim/Pam better than Dawn/Tim. I guess ultimately it’s because they both just seem like nicer people, and it’s easier to see why they would fall in love with each other.
Because Gareth is much more benign and helpless than Dwight, Tim’s pranking seems a lot crueler. And Pam comes across as someone who is timid and shy but also really tries to help others, whereas you never see that side of Dawn. Also, and this is minor, but Dawn’s insistence on kissing Tim (for a pound) when Tim was dating someone else really irked me, as it made it seem like Dawn only liked Tim when he was unavailable.

The US supporting cast, obviously, is much better fleshed out than the British one.

Overall, the two shows have such distinct flavor. I really think Gervais makes the British version, whereas the American one draws strengths from all its cast members.


If you haven’t seen it already, try to get hold of the (UK) Office Christmas Special. This is the final episode and ties up a lot of ends and character arcs, and I feel it’s vital to understand the whole thing.

My only thought is that Brent is meant to be egotistical and uncaring. It’s part of the character and making his equivalent more sympathetic, while not wrong, is a very different approach.

I have to second what jjimm is saying. The two-part Christmas special is a must watch. I’ve noticed a few US people online who have watched the UK Office, but were unaware of the essential coda, and that’s not ideal. :wink: It’s one of the most uncomfortable things I’ve ever seen, but, but, well watch it and see.

I don’t think Brent is so much egotistical and uncaring, I think he’s just oblivious.

I have seen the christmas specials. Netflix has all of it on streaming.

Upon reflection, with the exception of Gareth/Dwight, everyone on the British version is a bigger jerk than their American counterparts.

From what I recall of the previous threads about this, the general conclusion is most people like the version they saw first the best. It holds true for me - I saw the British version long before the American one, and I like it WAY better.

I think that’s possibly one of the biggest differences between British and American sitcoms in general. Not that it’s an inherently better or worse way of doing things, but we have never found the need to make our characters likeable or sympathetic.

I’ve seen both, but I started with the British one when it was new. I like the British one better, mainly because it only had a few episodes and each episode is funny.

I would have preferred about 20 American episodes and have it all wrapped up.

I saw the American long before the British, and I think on balance, as a show, the British version is superior. It gets massive points for originality and brevity, and also it’s much more realistic. I also think Brent as a character is superior to Scott, but it’s close. However, as an institution, the American one wins for me. It just carries a lot of sentimentality, since it has been on so long and I feel like it’s been a part of my life for a while.

I haven’t seen a ton of British shows, but I can think of a few American ones where characters aren’t likeable. . . Archer is the first one that springs to mind.

No kidding. I stopped watching the American one about 3-4 years ago when I realized I was forcing myself to watch each one. It turned from something innovative and new to just another sitcom.

I think on an average-episode-quality basis, the British version (which I saw first, and like a lot) is clearly superior. But the American version, which is clearly vastly worse now than it was at its height, had a really long run (seasons 2 through 4 or 5) of sustained excellence, so the overall amount of enjoyment I got out of it was quite a bit higher. I think the biggest advantage the American version has is the supporting cast. There is no Creed in the British version.

And it is not just the accents, but the words and references make little sense to (my) American ears.

I just saw an episode from season one where David Brent very quickly spills out:

“I’m not doing this for an Esther Rantzen heart of gold or…You know, if Esther’s handing out awards, then… do it for my charity work! Five fund runs in two years,You know. Why don’t you ask Philippa Norris or Simon Coleman at mencap what they think of David Brent!”

It was said so quickly that it mostly sounded like a garbled mess of names that I was totally unfamiliar with. I had to turn on closed captioning to figure it out what he said.

There were other references in tha episode that I had to look up. “Territorial army” I think.

I understand it was make for a UK audience. What can you do?

I first was introduced to the UK Office and loved it. When I saw the US version, it took me a few episodes to adjust. They’re just two very different shows in their style of humor, despite all the superficial similarities. The UK version is played more deadpan, it’s more true-to-life, it’s a much darker type of comedy than the American one, which is more-or-less an American-style sitcom in terms of tone, character development, pacing, and plots, framed in the conceit of a doc(mock)umentary.

These days, I like both. The very best seasons of the US Office I enjoy a little bit more than the run of the UK Office, but it’s an apples-to-oranges comparison for me.

I will say that the episode where Michael grills his foot may be the best episode of either show.

“I need someone to pick me up off the bathroom floor…and clean me off!”

One of the big things for me is that it is impossible to like or feel bad for David Brent. He’s such an unlikeable person. Though I have this on DVD I simply can’t watch it again for that reason.

There are several moments though where you can like and feel bad for Michael Scott.

Laggard, have you seen the Christmas specials of the UK version? If not, you are only getting half a story. There is a an arc that is wrapped up in the specials. It all makes sense. I’d put a strong case forward for those being some of the finest moments in television, let alone television comedy.

I shan’t spoil it but safe to say that you may feel differently about David Brent after watching those.

I will look for it. Thanks!

Just watched the two part Xmas special and sadly David is an obnoxious, embarrassing asshole to the very end.

I don’t think so. There are signs that he’s improving as a person in the Christmas Special. He is more aware of other people’s feelings for one- note how mortified he is when he accidentally insults the obese lady he thought was his blind date.

He also manages to get a genuine laugh out of the Tim.

The pommy one was more in the traditional anarchic British comedic tradition, the US one quickly became a traditional US type sit com.

Loved them both but as a boy who was brought up on Monty Python and Spike Milligan I LOVED the pommy version.

I think the key point of Brent’s arc in the specials iswhen he tells Finchy to fuck off. He has been subservient to Finchy since the beginning, and the level of hero worship is, as everything else in the show, extremely uncomfortable. He lets Finchy get away with murder - having a witch-hunt against someone distributing porn in the office then calling it off when he discovers Finchy did it, etc. For Brent meets a lovely, compassionate woman and for the first time in the series, there’s something other than himself that Brent cares about, which finally reveals Finchy’s inexcusable obnoxiousness to Brent. And he doesn’t cringe from it: for the first time ever, he actually stands up for something he believes in. Which hints that his character may change for the better.