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The American “Office” vs the British “Office”


I know what I’m about to say is not fair. I’m about to compare a British television show to an American one. These two things are inherently different, apples and oranges! Gala apples and tangerines! British television shows only last a few years, so each episode has to mean more. They simply don’t have the time to run amok with story lines that make no sense.

Lately I have given up watching The Office it WAS good but it just isn’t anymore. It’s a huge disservice to the original British version, and that’s unfortunate, because the British Office was fantastic. Ricky Gervais’ name is on the credits of the American version, but he must be busy doing stand-up and turning down offers to host award shows. He’s clearly not paying attention. What we’re left with is a disaster.

I’m not going to advocate doing something else on Thursday nights. I am going to plead with you to watch the British version. Give it a chance, and I think you’ll see what I mean.

After the jump I break it down.

The first episodes of the British and American versions are virtually the same. The boss pretends to fire the receptionist for stealing post-its, someone put a stapler in jello etc. The feeling was different right from the start, Americans need more action, they need more resolutions and it’s that incessant need for action that destroyed the show.

You know how many episodes of the American Office there have been? 86. You know how many episodes of the British Office there were? 14! FOURTEEN! Each one perfectly executed. Two six episode long seasons and a two part Christmas Special and that’s it! At the end of the second season you know what gets resolved? NOTHING. No love interests, no big dreams coming true. Nothing happens and you just have to live with it. Then they waited an entire year to bring the Christmas Special. When I was watching the show for the first time my friend and I were so upset at the end of the last episode of season two we were both crying. We felt like we had been punched in the gut and would never recover (but like, in a good way). This was in my poor grad student phase so I had to count quarters and scrounge for money to be able to buy it the next day. I couldn’t live 24 hours without knowing how my friends were, I felt like I knew them. I felt like I worked with them and maybe it’s crazy but I genuinely loved them. Now what’s happening in The Office? Michael is quitting but obviously not because he’s the main character, Jim and Pam are already engaged, and the plethora of unnecessary characters just fiddle around in the background. I don’t care about any of them (with the exception of Stanley, who I care about with a heart full of Stanley Nickels.)

Jim Halpert vs Tim Canterbury
Tim Canterbury is an underdog. He lives with his parents, and he is in love with Dawn who is engaged to Lee. He doesn’t have upper-management dreams, he doesn’t know what his dreams are exactly (like so many of us real people). Tim is adorable but not handsome, he’s frustrated, but not a go-getter. He’s just a regular guy who knows the deal but can’t catch a break or the motivation to change his life. Jim Halpert on the other hand is charming and too good looking. He tried the awkward thing and he just can’t do it. Tim’s looking at the camera shrug is brilliant, Jim’s got old. With Stringer Bell’s current dislike for Jim he’s finally falling into the underdog position, and it’s refreshing for a change.

Pam Beesly vs Dawn Tinsley

I want to hug Dawn. If she was here right now I would hug her and we would jump up and down and scream a little. Then we’d hold hands and sit on the couch in the break room and talk about how her and Tim are doing and how the drawing is going. She’d get serious and ask me how my leg is doing post-break. I’d tell her how I keep yelling at Juan because I look fat in pictures and Dawn would tell me to embrace my body and to just love myself. She would remind me that anything is possible and she spent so many years worrying about the little things but now she’s really heading in a positive direction. I would thank her for talking to me and she’d say, really Hawkes, I’m your friend and I care about you a lot. If I saw Pam right now she’d give me dirty looks and take a while to warm up to me. Much like my relationship with Kate Jackson, so really I guess that makes her pretty believable. But seriously, she fails graphic design but instead of taking it over and getting her certificate she comes home because she misses her boyfriend! That’s just silly. Dawn would never do that, and Tim would never let her.

Dwight Schrute vs Gareth Keenan
I think it’s too easy to like Dwight. He does hilarious things, and then he does mean things. He kills Angela’s cat and shows no remorse what so ever that she was cheating on her fiancé with him. But then you say, ok, so he did some mean things but he’s still great, he’s still the comic relief. Which is what I’m trying to get at, he talks too much. He’s too far over the top and out of control. Gareth perfectly nails the British comic subtlety. He was in the military and thinks that’s the way everything should be run. He’s both calculated and stupid at the same time. Gareth believes that he’s right and every ridiculous thing that he does isn’t unbelievable and is always understandable. You know someone like Gareth, I guarantee you. You met him in college in an advanced calculus class that he didn’t belong in so he sat in front asked too many questions. You don’t know Dwight, and you never will.

Jan Levinson vs Jennifer Taylor-Clark
Jan is exactly what is holding women back from positions of authority in the corporate setting. She has this job that’s higher than Michael’s, but she messes it up by getting romantically involved. She loses her job so she pouts around on the couch for weeks gets fake boobs and now she’s pregnant? So a smart, educated independent woman can’t work with a charmer like Michael Scott and not fall for him? For crap’s sake she could have done so much better, her character could have been the boss. On The Office how many women are in leadership roles? Karen Filippelli? But she’s pregnant! Why can’t a woman focus on her career? Holly Flax had to leave because she fell for Michael too! It’s literally a tragedy. Jennifer Taylor-Clark on the other hand is a career minded independent woman. She makes managerial decision with both sternness and grace. David looks her in the eye and literally begs not to be fired and she doesn’t give in she doesn’t falter. Everyone likes her but everyone respects her first and it’s important to show that.

Charles Miner vs actual Idris Elba
It’s not totally unbelievable that a British guy would work in steel then work in paper and move to PA to work at a paper company. It’s not! Let him have an accent!!

Michael Scott vs David Brent
This one’s hard. But please hear me through. The things that Michael Scott does are totally unacceptable and inappropriate. You cannot act like him and retain a job, you just can’t. David Brent is awkward and silly, he’s narcissistic and insecure, but he’s a person that you could meet. He had a dream to be a singer and it didn’t quite work out, so he’s selling paper. So he’s sad. That’s all, mostly he’s a lonely guy who just wants people to like him. In the very last episode David’s been online dating and each has been a disaster worse than the last. The last date comes to the Christmas party and they meet for the first time. David’s exhausted and defeated and is completely honest with her about his failures. He totally lays himself out on the table for the first time. The woman looks at him and says, “So what? So you’re not what people expected you to be, you’re still you, you still have your dreams and your integrity. Just keep on.” And his face changes. His face changes and your heart moves. You realize that after everything, after all the jokes have been told and all the songs have been sung that David Brent is a good guy. You instantly love him for the first time and the last time in those last minutes of the show. You fall in love with David Brent’s complexity and sincerity. It’s the perfect place to leave your old friend, the perfect moment to say, I know you’re going to be ok. The best thing for Michael Scott right now would be if he actually quit Dunder Mifflin and made some serious changes. A little time in the real world, in a place where he has to earn respect and where you can’t just fall into managerial positions by accident might do him some good. The things that Michael Scott does now would even make David Brent cringe.

Ok, ok, I’m done! In prelude to your arguments I know it’s a different show and a different cast in a different country so that comparing them is probably futile. But I feel very strongly that it’s crossed a line and gone on too long and it’s lost what made The Office great in the first place. The British version isn’t as slap-stick, but it’s still very very funny.

If you love the American version I implore you to check out the original. You won’t regret it!
I’ll be back once this disaster hits the airwaves.

If you made it this far please watch this treat:

63 thoughts on “The American “Office” vs the British “Office””

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