The Office: U.K. vs. U.S.A

Samantha Moore

The Office is undoubtedly one of America’s most loved shows. However, our beloved mockumentary did not get its start in the U.S.–it was based off of the U.K. version also called The Office. I have seen every episodes of both shows and have noticed a few things that make each show unique and different from the other.

David Brent, the Regional Manager of The Office U.K. does not openly create sympathy for himself, nor is he proactive in his goals throughout the series. His character does not follow the typical character paradigm, and is the main attraction of the show. So why do we like him? Personally, I love how everything he does is cringeworthy–so much so that I actually did start to feel a little sympathetic towards him. He wants the love and admiration of his coworkers so badly and is deluded in believing he has it most of the time. However, David is not nearly as lovable as Michael, the manager from the U.S. version. Michael starts off in Season 1 much like how David acts through both series–a little slimy, pompous, no self-awareness and deluded about life in general. However, producers must have realized this as they made Michael a more good natured and compassionate character.

Another difference I’ve noted is the dialogue and character development. The U.K. version has punchier dialogue (I think) and delivers the jokes in a more reformed and subtle fashion, whereas the U.S. version is a bit more slapstick and relies heavily on the facial expressions and actions of the characters. The supporting characters vary drastically in both shows as well. Keeping in mind that the U.K. version only ran for two series (or seasons), it makes sense that they wouldn’t delve deeply into the lives of the supporting characters, but I think that is one of the draws of the U.S. version. Throughout the entire series, we fall in love with Kevin, Angela, Creed, Oscar, etc. etc. and gain a fair bit of insight into their lives. We don’t get this with the U.K. version, which I think is unfortunate.

When watching both of the pilots for the shows, you can tell the U.S. show was modeled very closely after the U.K. show. I am thankful that the character of Michael changed a bit, otherwise The Office  as we know and love it might have been a flop after a season or two.


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3 Responses to The Office: U.K. vs. U.S.A

  1. mediaphiles says:

    I haven’t seen all of the British Office, though I should because Stokes has seen it well over fifty times. I think you’re right that one of the big draws for the American version is how the supporting cast is explored and developed (even though a lot of them get very little development at all). I think Parks and Recreation is the high mark for developing secondary character, but I’m getting off topic. The main difference for me (and Kevin has talked to me about this a lot) is how the British version is about Tim and Dawn getting together. It ends when it accomplishes that goal. The American version has that as a main component and loses something when it keeps going after that point, but it feels more like an ensemble show. It has more throughlines than Jim and Pam’s romance. – Max Dosser

  2. mediaphiles says:

    I had no idea there was another version of The Office in a different country! I also feel as if the majority of viewers don’t know this either. The differences when you were comparing the two is very interesting and despite the minor cultural differences, I wonder why the U.S chose to take different approaches to the forma nd type of comedy they included.
    Kendall Fischlein

  3. marymdalton says:

    There is a new version in Finland! Not sure how many different versions of the series are out there now…

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