In 2001 we entered the world of David Brent, Tim Canterbury, Dawn Tinsley, and Gareth Keenan. The show laster 12 episodes and a 2 hour special that tied up all loose ends. Two years later we are introduced to their American counterparts Michael Scott, Jim Halpert, Pam Beesley, and Dwight Schrute. The American version had a rocky start but has quickly grown momentum and become one of America's most watched television programs. The question is can the remake actually be as good, if not better than the original? People have been debating this question for close to 4 years now, and many of these debates have erupted into highly emotional fights. Why do people cling to the British version as if it were some form of biblical scripture? Why do so many people refuse to even rent british version because they "Just know its not as funny"...? Here we will dissect this question and analyze the key points that make this battle of Brits v.s. Yanks as great as the Civil War... wait... the other one...
Let us work our way down. We'll begin by comparing David Brent (Ricky Gervais) and Michael Scott (Steve Carell) Both are obnoxious and egotistical. They both spew racist filth, and their offensive elucidations. So what is the difference? They are both funny. They both rely on awkward silence and the uncomfortable pause of others. The difference is both delivery and how the characters have developed. Gervais's Brent is unaware of the awkward silence he inflicts on those around him. He believes the pause is them simply not understanding the joke. Carell's Scott can be like this as well. The difference is that when they are horribly offensive things, Scott realizes several seconds later what he has done. It is at this point that he becomes as uncomfortable as those around him. Neither men think before they speak, but Carell's character stops for a moment after he has.
Michael Scott is also aware of his loneliness. It is this factor that makes him so much more endearing than David Brent. Brent realizes in the very end of the series that he doesn't have the friends he thought he had, but Scott is aware of this most of the time. He acts the way he does in hopes of deluding himself of the fact that he actually has nobody. He is afraid of being alone. He is afraid of being unloved. He is afraid of black people. But most of all, he's afraid of losing the one thing he does have, "his job." Brent rarely shows remorse for his offensive actions, and when his employees don't love him for his softer side, he gets angry with them.
Below Regional Manager is the Assistant Regional Manager... Assistant to the Regional Manager. Here we find Gareth Keenan (Mackenzie Crook) and Dwight Shrute (Rainn Wilson) Here we battle Territorial Army v.s. Lackawanna County volunteer sheriffs department. Fear of homosexuals v.s. Fear of unprovoked bear attacks. A big eyed friend named Oggmonster v.s. Beet growing cousins named Mose. Trying to compare two of comedies greatest (and most absurd) characters is an almost unthinkable task. Both have hold some of the shows greatest lines..."Will there ever be a boy born that can swim faster than a shark?" .... and "I am not a hero. I am a mere defender of the office. You know who's a real hero? Hiro, from Heroes. That's a hero... Also, Bono" These are merely the shortest of the best quotes I could find.
They are both hard working and sad in their own ways, but to really dissect these characters we must look at their interactions with their counter parts. For Gareth we have Tim Canterbury (Martin Freeman) and with Dwight we have Jim Halpert (John Krasinski) Both Tim and Jim purposefully screw with their enemies heads. The difference is that Tim seems to be more mean spirited than Jim. Jim can feel bad for Dwight when he feels he has gone to far, where Tim doesn't realize until the end of the shows run. Unfortunately for the audience they have already started feeling bad for Gareth several episodes before. Plus, Dwight and Jim's jokes are just a lot funnier.
The look of the show is one of its greatest differences. The actors for the British Office were chosen because they were all unknown, and look like real people that could work in a regular office. They weren't particularly irregular looking, and were neither attractive nor particularly unattractive. American audiences watch television to get away from the real world, and see pretty people. People on American television are either attractive, or "interesting looking." There isn't really a middle ground in hollywood. Not that Steve Carell is a particularly attractive man, or Jenna Fisher going to win the next "Miss America Pageant" but they do have a certain charisma and charm that the Brits lack in appearance. Even a particularly rumpled Pam would trample over a rouged up Dawn in a contest. While they are both vulnerable and cute, you find yourself pitying Dawn more. Where as with Pam you spend more time rooting for her. The british actors are so believable that it completely changes the tone of their actions. While they may say the same line as the Americans they don't their appearance makes them come
The humor is two very different forms. The British version relies on a more realistic view of the world. The situations are all real, and uncomfortable. How realistic they are is what makes them so funny. The American version is more zany. Gareth would never actually fall for having an IM conversation with the company website because it suddenly "became self aware" After all is said and done, this is the difference. The comedy is just different. The Brits lean towards a dryer, straight form, where the Yanks slide into their usual zaniness with wacky situations.
In actuality The Office (UK) and The Office (US) are two entirely different shows. They may share the same concepts and story lines. Their characters may be similar, and they may share that same cheap fluorescent lighting. But in the end, they are two very different shows. The Office (UK) is a comedic, but very realistic look at how real people live in the work place and an analysis of character. The Office (US) is what you wish your office was like. Now, I am aware that this may be referred to by many as the "pussy way out" but the truth is I can't rate one as better than the other. They are two very different shows, with two very different worlds. Two try and compare the two would be like someone forcing you to compare Arthur Miller and Neil Simon. Two very great playwrights, just for two very different reasons.