Let’s Settle This: British Office vs. American Office

There are great debates and great debates. Lincoln vs. Douglas. Nature vs. Nurture. And then this one…and if you say they’re both good you are, no doubt, a total wussy.

Now I’ll admit that initially this was no contest. British Office all the way. I give anything that is done first–a big head start. The initial first season episodes of the American Office were so similar to the British Office in terms of plot that the American version just seemed appallingly derivative and uninspired. However, with time the American version grew on me quite a bit.

What the American version has that the British version lacks is an amazing extended cast: Angela, Andy, Phyllis, Jan, Bob Vance, Vance Refrigeration. The addition and development of these characters has been a major strength that the British version didn’t have. For one thing, the U.S. version doesn’t just have the Tim/Dawn relationship, or the Pam/Jim relationship for your viewing pleasure. The larger, fleshed-out cast of characters allows all sorts of contrasting pairings: Jan/Michael, Dwight/Angela, the Temp/Kelly, etc. Plus, Toby is amazing.

Of course, the British version has “Free Love on the Free Love Freeway.” That alone is a very big strike in their favor. Another advantage the British office has is it’s over and done. It’s fourteen episode run has a beginning, middle, and end. The Christmas special packs a real emotional punch and ends everything perfectly. It’s a brilliant ending. British television, sponsored by the government as it is, doesn’t have a need to be quite as commercial and extend a hit to the point where the characters and concepts become tiring and annoying. So far the U.S version is still hilarious, but we’ll see how long it can hold up.

The other thing the British version has going for it is that it always played as a believable documentary. The U.S. version takes little to no pains to preserve the original conceit of the show, and while the British version never lets you forget the mind-numbing boredom of office employment, Dunder-Mifflin, quite frankly looks like a fun place to work. I also think the subtlety of the Tim/Dawn relationship is dramatically superior to the Jim/Pam relationship, where I constantly find myself asking what’s stopping those two? How many silly obstacles are the writers going to have throw in their path in seasons to come?

Another way to break it down is by match-ups.

Michael vs. David: Winner: David (And I’m not saying Carell isn’t talented, but Gervais plays it much more real and understated).
Dwight vs. Gareth: Winner: Gareth (Love Shrute/Wilson, but half the time it seems like he’s trying to steal scenes from Carell).
Dawn vs. Pam: Winner: Pam (Yeah, I like Pam)
Tim vs. Jim: Winner: Tim (C’mon, the English are masters of the deadpan expression)

Okay, I’ve decided. The British version is still slightly better than the American version of The Office.

And if you didn’t know the Season 4 premiere of The Office (USA) is this Thursday night.

As an added bonus, my favorite bit of Office dialogue, from the USA version.

Michael: Sounds like a good dentist.
Dwight: Oh yeah…
Michael: What’s his name?
Dwight: (lying) Crentist.
Michael: Your dentist’s name is crentist?
Dwight: Yeah…
Michael: Huh… Sounds a lot like dentist.
Dwight: Maybe that’s why he became a dentist.


95 thoughts on “Let’s Settle This: British Office vs. American Office

  1. Brian – I confess to not having seen the US ‘Office’, but being British and enjoying our unique sense of humour I LOVE the English ‘Office’. I don’t think you can beat Ricky Gervais.

  2. I love the UK version but haven’t watched the US version yet. Does the US version have the part where the Gervais/Carrell character has a meltdown and does that awful dance in front of the whole office? If not, I can confidently claim the UK version wins without seeing the US. That is both one of the funniest and most horrific things I’ve ever seen.

  3. I don’t really think it’s a fair comparison because they are very different animals. I’ll always take a good film over a good long-running TV show and the English Office is more like a film than a long-running TV show: it has a much tighter story arc and is one complete work. The American Office is open-ended and is not and will not be the same kind of cohesive work that the English Office is. Who knows what the English office would be like as a long-running TV show and who knows how the characters would hold up and develop over dozens of episodes.

    If I were forced to choose I’d choose the English Office. But for me that’s like choosing Robert Altman’s MASH over TV’s MASH (which I love); or “Paranoid Android” over Kid A.

    Head-to-head, I take David over Michael, Pam over Dawn, Tim over Jim, the American fat guy over the English fat guy, the American peripheral characters over the English peripheral characters, and Dwight and Gareth tie.

  4. I think the US version wins by a country mile because of its broader focus. In the second season and the Christmas special, the scope of the English Office collapsed so spectacularly down into a myopic focus on Gervais’s goofy antics and even physical comedy that it just didn’t live up to the first season — which is the best season of the Office in either version in my opinion. Whereas the later seasons of the US Office have provided a broader scope, more identifiable characters, and actually more realism to some extent.

  5. Your point about the extended cast nails it. That’s really why the shows are so hard to compare. For me, the only things “better” about the British Office are 1. the short story arc, and 2. Ricky Gervais. Every other character, head to head, for me, is better in the American version. But still, having said that, Ricky is just so good, and such a dominating force, the British Office wins overall. Notwithstanding Toby (and particularly the Toby v. Michael stuff) being the best thing ever.

  6. Oooooh. It’s like choosing children! Right this second I would say American, but that’s only because I’m excited for Thursday. Depending on my mood, this can easily switch.
    David over Michael
    Jim and Tim tie
    Pam over Dawn
    American supporting over English (with the exception of Kelly)

    Best Am. dialogue? Where Dwight describes Schrute babies as thirsty as a means of enjoying big breasts.

  7. I haven’t seen the English version. I decided not to until the American version was done, because I love the American version so much, I didn’t want them competing in my head.

    I think the American version is the best show on TV. It has moments where it rivals Arrested Development for brilliance. There’s a scene where Jim walks into Dwight’s hotel room when they’re all away on a business trip and finds Angela in Dwight’s bed, waiting for him. He shuts the door so quickly, he doesn’t recognize her, and assumes she’s a prostitute. The expression on Jim’s face is priceless. Just priceless. We rewound that scene a few times before being able to move past it.

    I’m worried they’re going to jump the shark this season, they’re making too many episodes, and I’m not confident they can keep the quality level up.

  8. Apples and oranges. The British Office is far more incisive and biting, the American Office hits the heights of the absurd. As RT says, the extended world of the US version is amazing. Those Brits who have not seen the US version (and that requires some viewing, IMHO, past the 1st season) are missing out.

  9. Reruns of The Office (American) are currently running on TBS at 10pm Eastern. I didn’t start watching until the Christmas episode of Season 2 so it’s been fun catching up on what I’ve missed. Last night’s episode on Health Care cuts was rather enjoyable.

  10. I haven’t seen either series.

    I have heard that Ricky Gervais is one of the richest celebrities in the UK.

  11. SG – The US Office isn’t aired in the UK (not on network TV anyway), so we can’t watch it to truly compare (or not I guess if they’re apples and oranges). It seems to be very popular though in the States. I’d watch it given the chance, but since I find Steve Carrell annoying, not sure it’d win me over.

  12. The British Office had me at a stapler suspended in jello.

    Although, Jim’s mint experiment was wicked funny.

    When Michael went to his “favorite pizza place” in New York and it turned out to be a Sbarro’s? I nearly peed my pants.

  13. Also, the British version makes one cringe. To the point that my husband had to leave the room. Often.

    Has the American Office had a musical guest yet? I’ve been wondering about that for a few days now…

  14. No musical guest.

    Steve Carrell really does a great job as Michael. You’d hate him if he wasn’t just so completely clueless and eager to be liked.

  15. I’m sorry, Steve, but the apples to oranges copout doesn’t fly. We’re not comparing, oh, say THE YOUNG ONES and MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL.

    These are two shows with identical premises and at least four nearly identical characters. They demand comparison.

    In fact, I read an interesting article not long ago comparing THE OFFICEs of various countries, France, Germany, etc. The thesis was that the differences between THE OFFICEs are windows into the cultural differences between the countries they come from. It was fascinating.

  16. Brian, I agree that they are the same show, but comparing the styles of comedy doesn’t necessarily enable us to definitely say which is superior. Is British comedy superior to American? I don’t think it’s necessarily fruitful to say, especially since the Canadians are funnier than any other people.

  17. I also disagree that the Brit Office collapsed in the second season and Christmas special.

    Personally, I think the Christmas special is what elevated The Office to classic television. The jump forward in time to when David was a failed popstar, and Dawn had gone to America, and Gareth was finallyl in charge was brilliant.

    There’s an amazing turn that takes place in the Christmas special where David finally stands up against his obnoxious friend, and the other regional manager he’s been trying to compete with subtlely becomes a villain.

    As far as over-the-top physical antics, I think Gervais’s high-jinks are low key compared to Carell.

  18. Hmmm…

    I know at least one Canadian that isn’t that funny.

    Plus, I disagree. It’s frutiful to compare styles of comedy, not only does it provide insight into cultural differences, it broadens one’s understanding of comedy itself. But you know, maybe you just don’t like to think. I can respect that.

  19. Brian, you’re misreading me. I didn’t say it wasn’t fruitful to compare styles of comedy, but that it was unfruitful to label one of them as definitively superior. Apparently the profession of “writer” does not include the skill of “reader.”

  20. But Steve I think it’s fruitful to label one as superior, and also to say that one culture is more superior at certain kinds of comedy, or perhaps even comedy in general.

    If I say Brits are better at irony and dry wit and Americans are better at broad skit-style comedy, that can be fruitful.

    If I say subtle character comedy is superior to fart jokes, then that too can be useful.

  21. love, everyone. just love the office no matter what. don’t fight. cuz season four is premiering tonight.

    as for my opinion, i’m sorry, but the british office just makes me too darn uncomfortable. i mean, i know that’s the point of it, but i was cringing like i was the one there. so, i’m not in the “cool british office loving club.” toby is my hero. i look forward to the day when he will snap.

  22. British comedy > American comedy, to Brits.

    Buster Keaton, Preston Sturges, Woody Allen, Sid Caesar, Milton Berle, Judy Holliday, Lucille Ball, Carol Burnett, Jerry Seinfeld…

  23. “I’m worried they’re going to jump the shark this season, they’re making too many episodes, and I’m not confident they can keep the quality level up.”

    I think this is a serious concern. Jim and Pam hooking up is a pretty hard thing to cope with, story-wise. It could be for “The Office” what Dave and Maddy hooking up was for “Moonlighting.”

    Of course, I hope not, and I give the writers enough credit to realize this is a problem, but I’m worried just the same.

  24. I’m actually not too worried about Jim and Pam hooking up, because of the way they handled last season. With Karen still around there’s going to be lots of awkward tension. I think they’ve just got too much of a good thing going and it will ruin it.

  25. Put me with the crowd that witnessed The UK Office collapse in the second season. Something about English humour(!) equating painful, awkward situations with being funny. For example, David Brent playing Tina Turner at a business coaching seminar. It would have been more funny if he’d just stuck to reciting his empty business platitudes that made the first season so good.

    Still, the UK Office will always hold a special place in my heart.

  26. British and American. Nature and nurture. Peanut butter and chocolate. False dichotomies suck, Brian. We live in a land of opportunity! And DVRs! We shouldn’t be forced to choose.

  27. . . . oh, but put me down with those concerned about the U.S. show going too long. I would rather the show end than turn into a soap opera.

  28. I have to vote for the US version if for no other reason than it is based in my home town and makes loads of Scranton related references. It’s like going home for a half hour.

    toby is my hero. i look forward to the day when he will snap

    I’ve been looking forward to the same thing.

  29. I think the last episode of the Office (US) should feature Chris Martin of Coldplay singing Fix You in a greatest hits t-shirt. Jumping a shark.

    Monty Python, Rowan Atkinson, Eddie Izzard, Dudley Moore & Peter Cook, Frye & Laurie, Benny Hill, French and Saunders, Black Books, Spaced, Red Dwarf, Simon Pegg, Jessica Stevenson, Mark Heap, Ricky Gervais, Tamsin Greig, Jonathan Ross, Billy Connolly, Spike Milligan, Peter Sellers, Douglas Adams, Adrian Edmondson, Rik Mayall, Danny John-Jules, Joanna Lumley, Sacha Baron Cohen and Bill Bailey

    Supergenius – eh? Besides SCTV & Kids in the Hall, what do Canadians have? Terrance & Phillip?

  30. Creed’s the best character on either show, IMO. He’s so incredibly weird and so ignored by everybody. Hilarious.

  31. I agree with RT (#6) and Jeremy (#8) and for those reasons vote for the American version. The extended cast makes the show more interesting and rich. Also, I like the fact that the writers give Michael some redeeming graces, whereas David Brent in the UK version is just pure scum. Michael is a real jerk but deep down actually cares about, even “loves” in a really creepy way, his underlings. Also, even though he is a complete idiot, he is actually a really good salesman, which serves as a redeeming grace. I’m thinking here of the episodes where Jan accompanies him to a sales pitch at Chili’s and Michael handles it professionally, even superbly, sealing the deal that Jan never would have gotten. It shows that Michael has been promoted above his level of competency, that he should still be one of the salespeople. Also, you get to see Michael’s abilities as a salesman when he goes on the sales call with Andy and Andy screws things up irrebarably.

    I love the addition of Andy to the office, by the way — it’s hilarious.

    Our current favorite one-liner from the U.S. office around our house is from “The Injury” when Ryan says:

    “They did not have fresh yams at the gas station in Carbondale!” I don’t know why, but we’ve always found that very funny.

  32. “Let’s see, which college did you go to again? — Cor-NOT!” — Andy Bernard to Dwight in elevator on the way to work shortly after the merger.

    That was right after he said to Dwight, “1985 called and wants its car back.”

  33. I just don’t think it’s true that David Brent is pure scum. He has his redeeming moments in the Christmas special when he finally stands up to his crass friend. All the U.S. writers and performers have taken their cues from the English version, and I think that includes making David/Michael more sympathetic and human.

  34. Back in comment No. 30, Susan M said:

    I’m actually not too worried about Jim and Pam hooking up, because of the way they handled last season. With Karen still around there’s going to be lots of awkward tension.



  35. I thought it was very funny when nobody knew for sure if they were hooking up. I wish they would have kept that gag going for a while longer.

    Last night’s episode should have been half as long.

  36. Yeah, what happened to Karen? I loved having her on the show if only cuz she’s that one guy’s daughter…the fancy record producer—Quincy Jones.

    That’s the way all the hour-long episodes are probably going to be, Allison. I still love it, though.

  37. I think the hour long episodes just play like two half hours glued together.

    And I think Karen will probably be back.

  38. I think it played like an episode of The Simpsons. Start with something shocking, run with that for the first third of the show. Then use it as some sort of non-sequitor inspiration for the plot of the bulk of the show. I mean really, what does Meredith getting hit by Michael have to do with a 5k fun run? Then at the end find some way to attempt to resolve everything and come full circle.

    I also thought that this is what an episode would look like if they simply inserted all the deleted scenes that come on the DVDs.

  39. Love both versions for similar and different reasons.

    The David vs. Michael question is most interesting to me.

    On the one hand, David Brent has driven me to far more fits of paroxysm than Michael Scott. Even minor throwaway lines and subtle asides by Brent force me to pause and rewind, and rewind again, each time making my double over with laughter. Michael Scott is very funny, but doesn’t push me to such zany, drunk-on-laughter heights.

    On the other hand, David Brent sometimes pushes the subtle, but ever-so-important, boundaries of plausibility past the breaking point. Once it becomes unbelievable it also becomes unfunny. This happens often enough, especially in Season 2, that it kind of ruins some episodes for me. We have to buy the idea that despite their incompetence, Michael Scott and David Brent still possess enough redeeming qualities as managers to keep their jobs. Both shows bend this reality further than real life, but the English version pushes to the breaking point more than the American version, in my opinion.

    Still, both shows are among my all-time favorite comedies. The fact that the American remake can honor the spirit of the British version, and yet remain artistic and original in its own right, is pretty amazing given the recent track record of American sitcoms.

  40. 100% American version. Steve Carell is absolutely genius and makes the show. Jim is definetely my favorite character, yet the entire cast is brilliant. Having watched both UK and US versions I can confidently say US version is better

  41. I think which is funnier really decides on one’s sense of humor.

    I watched the British version of The Office based on that I never watched the US version until recently. The British version was just not funny to me. The characters lacked depth and I thought it was a horrible show. I do find most, not all, British comedies funny. I watch a lot of British television because the quality is excellent.

    I recently rented the British version and tried to watch it again, so I could compare. Sitting through an episode is torture. The U.S. version of the show is much more enjoyable to me. I think the characters are better, the acting is better, the story is executed better and it is a better portrayal of American culture.

    That being said, I could see where the British might enjoy the British show better or Americans who have a different sense of humor than me.

    For me, there is no contest, Michael Scott, along with the rest of the cast clearly wins. I found the British cast painful to watch (except for the guy to plays Tim, as I found him very good).

    The U.S. version is the best. It is the clear winner in my mind.

  42. I still haven’t seen the US Office, but I plan to soon.

    This makes me laugh every time I think about it:

  43. Anyone who thinks the American version is half as good as the UK one is one if not all of these things:

    1) American
    2) Slightly dumb
    3) Doesnt understand comedy.
    4) cant appreciate the nuiences of comedy.
    5) Did i mention american?

    I like the american version, its a good show, makes me chuckle, the english version however – is halarious – and one of the (if not the) best comedy shows ever made.

    Gervais is genious, you could watch it without sound and it would still be funny.

    I often hear amercians talk trash like, “its to cringeworthy” etc etc, poor buggers dont understand thats the whole point of the show.

    American TV as a whole is far superior to any other countrys, obv British is second -) but America has it covered 100%, but to even consider the US version of the office being superior is a clear sign that you are one of the above or just plain deluded with some kind of Patriotic bs.

  44. Phil, just because the cringeworthy-ness is the “whole point of the show” (I’d argue this point, by the way) doesn’t make “It’s too cringeworthy” any less valid a criticism for those who don’t like such things.

  45. MCQ, I’m an american, and not known for my understanding of comedy, but I found your comment halarious.

    You must be some kind of comic genious?

  46. So is there something Americans find hilarious that British don’t get? (Surely there’s a lot that goes the other direction) And are Canadians blessed to get all forms of humor? (Even Australian?)

  47. I love the us office. due to needing more episodes than the internet provides, i have tried getting into the british office, and i find it hard to watch. i shall continue watching but for me, the us office kicks ass

  48. Just beauce I’m American doesn’t mean that I’m stupid. I watched the UK version and I get it, i really due. But it was still too much for me to watch. David was so akward that I felt more like cringing than laughing at parts.

    Also, the Scranton people feel like people I run into everday whereas the characters from the British version are just that–characters. Part of a world that I will never be a part of and living in a country that I will visit once? twice? in my lifetime.

  49. I haven’t watched The Office this year. Somehow after the baby bit I just lost interest. (Although I did love the mistaken nursing scene) I thought the first season was too painful too. Too much awkwardness and social ineptness. However after that it hit its stride precisely for the reasons Ellen mentioned. Somehow I know these people or people like them. That cultural connection counts for a lot.

  50. I am an American who started with the Britsh version. I loved it. Brent Made me uncomfortable but I disagree that he had no redeeming qualities. All along I thought he was likeable despite his social ineptitude. I also disagree that the british version suffered in season two and the Christmas episode.

    When I first began the American version, there was no comparison. It just wasn’t funny. I felt that they had peopled the Scranton branch with a whole cast of David Brents. Where Brent and Garreth held a monopoly on weirdness, most everyone in the American version is a screwball, which I thought was overkill. For those who said they know people like this I wonder about your circle of friends.

    With that said I have to admit that, since I have started to watch later seasons of the American version, my attitudes have begun to change. I guess I got used to the office full of wierdos. It has gotten to the point wher I turned on the first episode of the Britsh version the other night to comaopre and found it rather slow. I still think that it is a far nore believable workplace and I have less trouble believing Brent would be able to keep his job than Scott, but the broad comedy is pulling me in.

    One thing I don’t get is the love Toby is getting on this board. I can’t think of a more boring, nondescript character. Admittedly, I am not yet through with season 3 but he will have to do something pretty amazing for me to understand a statement like “Toby is my favorite character, hands down”

  51. Just finished watching the UK version and didn’t really enjoy it. I got where it was supposed to be funny and why, it just didn’t do it for me. I hated the US version the first time i saw it. Just seed like pointless writing and was supposed to be funny on some mysterious level.

    Over time the American version became my favorite comedy. The only character I could stand on the British version was Tim, but he was written to be likable anyway. I can relate to his attitude better than I can Jim’s, but still like Jim better. I really have met people like those in the office. Not always to the extremes of someone like Dwight, but still makes it a bit more funny for me.

  52. America imports a lot of shows from the UK and claim them as their own. ie: Survivor (AKA Castaway in UK) American Idol (Pop Idol), Top Chef (Hell’s Kitchen), America’s got Talent, (Britain’s got Talent), Whose Line Is It Anyway? (…), and now The Office).
    There generally doesn’t seem to be too much imagination in the American media.or perhaps in the USA there is more pressure for an idea to be succesful, along with the financial risk if the feature is a failure. So it is easier to steal ideas from an apparently more artistically creative country.
    But that being said, I like the US version better, heh.

  53. I hate these debates because both have their merits and I think both are enormously entertaining shows. If I were forced to pick, however, the U.S. version would get the nod from me for having a lot more heart. The fact that I simultaneously loathe Michael Scott and can be driven to sadness by something bad happening to him speaks volumes about the depth of the characterizations.

    And honestly, I’ve never quite developed a liking for the way Brits play these kinds of characters at arms-length, like they’re secretly afraid of getting too tangled up in it, like there’s a constant “wink wink” going on with the audience. I’m sure it’s one of those cultural nuances that I don’t understand but the bottom line is that the acting comes off forced and flat in a way the U.S. version does not.

  54. John, while I’m all about the lack of imagination in Hollywood, let’s be honest. The number of BBC imports are a pretty small percentage of Hollywood offerings. And saying Top Chef is an import of Hell’s Kitchen seems odd when there is an American Hell’s Kitchen. (The two are somewhat different) Also one might argue that American Idoal and America’s got Talent were themselves copies of Star Search. So I don’t buy that kind of copying as that’s just a long standing variety show staple.

  55. I vote for the American version of “The Office”. I watched two seasons of the UK “The Office” and quite honesty, did not find myself laughing. In fact, I couldn’t figure out what the heck they were talking about half the time because of their UK slang.

    The American version of the “The Office” I find very hilarious and enjoyable.

  56. UK version is easily better for one simple reasons it has balls the US version like 99% of US sitcoms has none. Sorry I just cannot get my head around a show that is trying to compete with a once in a generation show. Brent dusts Cavell it isnt close. I also see everyone rushes to the peripheral characters…yep even in UK version Chris the traveling salesman is miles beyond any second tier character in US version, again not close. Where is the risk in US version? Characters that say things that make you squirm and then laugh? Instead we fall into the warm embrace of a sitcom that though good in comparison to the other bilge on TV never crosses the rubicon into truly daring and outlandish areas. I also see the I didnt understand what they where saying nonsense. Sad, truly sad, I am from Mississippi and picked up the gist very well. Bottom line any comparison to a comedy series that had superior acting, a willingness to push boundaries, superior dialogue, depict reality that everyone one us knows and still have moments that having you laughing yourself senseless leaves a very competent US effort in the deep, deep shadows. Break out of the comfort zone and stop the BS I didnt understand crap, that truly is the lamest of excuses and stinks of laziness.

  57. The original no doubt.

    I think the American office is a good comedy series, but that is the extent of it. It is essentially a sitcom with no laughter tracks. The humour is derived from the usual formula of larger-than-life characters getting into ridiculous antics in otherwise everyday settings(nothing wrong with that btw).

    The British office is meant to be watched as a whole series and not defined through a couple of gags on youtube. What made it such a groundbreaking comedy was that it constantly tread a fine line between humour, tragedy, self-awareness, correctness and all that stuff Gervais likes talking about.

    This is what makes Gervais a genius and the Brent character much more superior to Michael Scott. Brent is a guy who you can’t help but sympathise and hate at the same time. You weren’t sure whether to laugh at his pathetic attempts to fit in or feel sorry for the fact that he is a desperate, lonely man. Scott meanwhile is just a lovable, bumbling idiot.

  58. By the way, nothing related to the debate about which is better, but I think the biggest difference between the two is the characters’ self-awareness.

    The UK office is deliberately shot like a documentary where all the characters break the fourth wall. They are aware of the audience’s presence and hence appear really awkward and stiff.

    The American office has come to the point where the characters completely ignore the camera (save for the interview segments) and pretty much act without any inhibitions. I think has been one of the reasons why the comedy would differ so much.

    Not an argument, merely an observation 🙂

  59. I’m impressed this debate is still going on.

    Interesting blog item I saw recently said that Catherine Tate (who you might know from her sketch comedy or from her stint as Doctor Who companion Donna Noble) is being considered to replace Michael Scott. That would be an interesting choice and would infuse some British-ness back into the show.

  60. K I haven’t watched the Office for a while but there for a while the camera really did affect things. I remember one where a character was trying to avoid the camera and the cameraman was chasing them. It was pretty funny. Personally I think the American show only got up to speed in the second season and then has gone on a few too many seasons.

  61. I think the American office did start off as a sort of imitation of the original (mockumentary style and all – in fact the first episode was a like-for-like copy). But due to low ratings and views, the studio & Merchant/Gervais decided to revert to more formulaic sitcoms. Ironically, that’s also when I think the show really found its footing. And I totally agree, I remember seasons 2 and 3 being my favourites.

    Unfortunately, big studio executives want to milk the cow dry so you always end up with shows stretched way beyond their expiry date. Lost being one of the best examples.

    By the way, I dug up these youtube clips of the Office’s comedy style. I’m surprised my opinion is almost the same as the creators!

  62. I don’t think you can completely blame big studio executives. A huge difference between American TV and TV in the U.K. is that American TV isn’t subsidized by the government. Therefore it must be much more commercial. It must be shorter in terms of episode length so that commercials can be ran, and it must be designed so that viewers come back after each commercial break. It also must run for a great number of episodes in order to be syndicated and then become profitable. If the U.K. Office had to do even 22 episodes (about the average season for a successful American sitcom) it likely may have diminished in quality. In the U.K. they had the luxury of only doing 12 half hours and the 2 hr. Christmas special.

  63. Lost being the example? Come on. It was great. I’d have honestly preferred an extra season to wrap things up better.

    I agree with Brian that there are incentives the American market has to meet that changes things quite a bit. I’m intrigued by Netflix financing a conversion of a British show for the American market. It seems like it’s being decided purely by the ratings of British shows on Netflix. The closer market to Britain in the us market is more Showtime, HBO and so forth. There you have some ratings incentives but not the same at all as basic cable or network. It’s all about driving DVD sales and subscriptions rather than ratings proper. (Thus HBO canceled Deadwood before its time primarily due to the cost of the show)

  64. The UK version is a simple, polished, finished piece of comedy. The US version has no end in sight. It’s really funny, as a sitcom, but the values of the format – like it being a fake documentary – need to be stuck to like glue. If you don’t stick to the rules, it’s no good. I saw a bit on the US office where our heroes get lost. If I saw it, there’s a camera crew; if there’s a camera crew, THEY can help our heroes out of their fix. To ignore this simple fact robs the show of any integrity. I know that’s not too important – it’s funny, right? but even so, it ruined it for me.

  65. I have to say, I’ve watched the whole of the British version, and all of the US version available on netflix, and I honestly prefer the American one. For starters the theme music is more catchy and seems more appropriate for a comedy. not only that but the characters are more developed. It’s sort of like the difference between the British and American versions of Top Gear. in the American one it seems like everyone has the same personality. While in the British one Clarkson, May, and Hammond are totally different people. For me that makes it much more enjoyable. But one of the big killers by far, to me at least, is when Gabe yells at Andy during a job interview (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GiTWnfTPPrc)or when Dwight attempted to counter interview Andy for acceptance to Cornell. The pranks Jim plays on Dwight are just something I haven’t seen replicated by the UK version of the show. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K545bA6Dr3A&feature=related),(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O8c5n3mlLGI),(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uAMG7G-egAI) plus, you can’t forget about Creed (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pL2poe5nB3o)

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