So, here comes the inevitable question: which version of The Office is better, the original U.K. version or the American one? That answer depends on several different factors, so bear with me. Are you British, or American? Which version did you see first? Do you prefer Steve Carell’s lovable buffoonery, or Ricky Gervais’ excruciatingly honest take on a mean-spirited boss who’s puffed up on his own self-importance? I don’t think anyone could deny that both actors nailed their performances, so it really comes down to personal taste. In the end, each show played to its audience. Here are 10 of the biggest differences between the two.
10. David Brent Vs. Michael Scott
Although both David Brent and Michael Scott are sure to make you cringe, David Brent’s character will probably make you cringe a little harder. Sure, Michael Scott is ignorant, tactless, petty, and self-centered, but he does manage to have some redeeming qualities. David Brent? Not so much. Unlike Americans, Brits don’t feel the need to make their show’s stars more viewer-friendly; they are 100% down with making you feel uncomfortable the whole way through.
In the American version of The Office, people can (and do) change for the better, whereas in the UK, the characters remain static. If Brent’s a jerk, he will remain a jerk.
9. Character Development
For the most part, both the UK and America’s versions of The Office have an equal amount of characters, but you’ll notice that America’s supporting cast is much more well-developed. Why is that? Probably because Ryan “The Temp” (B.J. Novak) and Toby from H.R. (Paul Lieberstein) also double as chief writers for the show. When your supporting characters are writing countless episodes for the series, it’s inevitable that they’re going to expand the depth of supporting cast members.
8. Pam Beesly Vs. Dawn Tinsley
Both Pam and Dawn are slightly downtrodden, girl-next-door types who are both stuck in dead-end receptionist positions and allowing their dreams to fall by the wayside, but how are they different? Unlike Americans, who crave change, the Brits don’t care for it and enjoy making fun of the status quo. As a result, Dawn’s character is much less assertive and remains bound to her life as a receptionist throughout the entire length of the show. Pam, however, has an almost butterfly-like transition from an under-appreciated, insecure office worker to a self-confident, successful woman.
7. Jim Halpert Vs. Tim Canterbury
Honestly, the UK’s Tim Canterbury is a little bit more believable than Jim Halpert’s character; the Brits like to keep it real. In the UK version, Tim is a true underdog who lives with his parents and has a fair amount of good looks (but not too much). He performs well at work, but his dreams remain lackluster and isn’t particularly motivated. America, on the other hand, couldn’t have Pam’s main love interest still living with his parents! That would make him a loser, and we can’t have that. As a result, Jim Halpert was made into a “better catch” for American audiences (and for Pam).
6. Gareth Vs. Dwight
Dwight Schrute is a perfect example of an American supporting character taking on a life of his own. Dwight’s character is annoying, for sure, but he’s also one of the stand-out members of the show because of his hilarious antics, strange Amish-like background, and amusing one-liners. Gareth, on the other hand, is more realistic and therefore less exciting. Unlike Dwight, Gareth is that annoying, glorified errand boy who actually does work in your office. He’s a calculated and clueless military brat who believes everything in the office should be run according to his specifications. He’s always right and you’re always wrong. Yep, you’ve met someone like him before…
5. Length Of The Series
There’s another big reason why the side characters are better developed in the American version of The Office: the sheer length of the show. A total of 201 episodes of The Office were aired over nine seasons in the United States. Crazy, right? In comparison, there were only 12 episodes of the British version (and two specials). Unlike the American version, there were no satisfying or happy endings to be had when it was over. Yep, things continued to go on in the office just like they always had, but that’s life, isn’t it? Like I said before, the Brits like to keep it real.
4. America’s Bigger Budget
It probably won’t surprise you to find out that the American version of The Office had a much bigger budget than the UK version, which led to a bunch of guest appearances from some big-name stars, including Idris Elba, Will Ferrell, Amy Ryan, Kathy Bates, and Rashida Jones. Ricky Gervais even appeared and played his own character, David Brent, where he once befriended Michael Scott outside of an elevator and then applied for a job to Dunder Mifflin. The UK’s version, on the other hand, never let star power get in the way of the daily, boring life of an office worker.
3. Difference In Comedic Style
Both versions of The Office are a perfect example of the big differences between American and British humor. Above all, the British appreciated the cringe-worthy, realistic characters in the show as well as the brutally honest, albeit satirized, depiction of office life. The characters were remained static throughout the length of the show because Brits get a kick out of the fact that nothing ever changes. Americans, on the other hand, craved fluid characters and wacky, over-the-top humor to off-set the cringe-inducing drudgery of working in an office.
In other words, the Brits watched The Office so they could laugh at themselves, but Americans watched The Office so they could laugh at the characters.
2. Optimism Vs. Pessimism
British culture is overwhelmingly pessimistic about the future, according to one poll, whereas Americans are considered wildly optimistic in comparison. This stark cultural difference can be seen in the storylines of both versions of the show — the British version is more sardonic and cynical, whereas the American version is lighter, warmer, and easier to watch. In general, Americans believe that people can change for the better, and this is seen in the relationship between Pam and Jim and in Michael Scott himself.
1. Better Looking Cast
I’m not saying that every single cast member in the American version of The Office is good-looking, but many of the characters featured in the show did receive a glow-up, particularly Jim. Seriously, what receptionist wouldn’t be attracted to Jim? He’s tall, sweet, funny, and very good looking (but in an approachable way). While neither Dawn nor Tim from the UK version are ugly, their character’s appearances remain the same. In the American version, both Jim and Pam’s looks improve as their lives improve.