The battle between the UK and US versions of The Office has been revived once again by the addition of both series on Netflix. With both versions sharing the same platform, which will be the favourite of the viewers? Both are critically acclaimed and enjoyed, but is one ultimately better than the other?
I hate to admit it, but the US version is superior, and I will tell you why. Now, to preface, no one is denying the brilliance of Ricky Gervais’ brainchild. Credit is given where credit is due. The UK version of The Office obviously came first, airing in 2001. It is a two-season mockumentary following a fictional paper company in Slough, which is headed by Ricky Gervais as David Brent. The Office US followed suit in 2005, this time with nine seasons following a fictional paper company in Scranton, and headed by Steve Carell as Michael Scott (hired by Gervais himself).
Gervais is the mastermind behind the sitcoms and should be forever credited with this. He has even poked fun at Carell multiple times in his Golden Globes speeches, sarcastically praising his ‘original’ idea for The Office US. The success of the US series has been huge, and undoubtedly overshadows the UK original. However, this success is not unwarranted.
Tim is cute, but he is no Jim Halbert; Gareth is hilarious, but not quite as comedically nailed as Dwight
Despite its copycat origins, The Office US does not try to be The Office UK. Admittedly, the UK characters find their equals in the US reinterpretation, and the first episode (or the entire first season) is almost identical in its attempts to capture the spirit behind the exploration of a mundane office environment. However, after that point it really feels as though the show takes its own journey. The Office UK perfectly encapsulates the sarcastic, witty British humour we know and love; The Office US does not lack this wit or charm, it just reinvents it.
My biggest argument for the superiority of the US version of The Office is its length. A two-season show is simply not comparable to a show of nine seasons. More episodes means more time to flesh out characters, expand story arcs, and allows more scope for hilarious content. The characters are recognisable and long-lasting. When Steve Carell left the show in season seven, it persevered for another 49 episodes. If Ricky Gervais had left The Office UK after season two, without his leading role, I do not believe the other characters have the depth or likability to have been able to carry the series. The short running time prohibits them from becoming fully understood or explored. Tim is cute, but he is no Jim Halbert; Gareth is hilarious, but not quite as comedically nailed as Dwight.
Not only are the individual characters more fleshed out, but the relationships between them are also more developed. With more seasons comes more romance. Maybe it is the inner hopeless romantic in me, but I love the pairings that come about in The Office US. Of course, we have Jim and Pam as the central love story (and let’s be honest, Tim and Dawn do not even come close) but the nine-season span also allows for several other couples to emerge. From Angela and Dwight to Michael and Holly, The Office US takes advantage of its long running time to drag out romantic plotlines that are full of quarrels and drama. The pairings are random, unconventional, and illogical, making it all the more enjoyable when they do work.
The Office US is longer, more fleshed out, and (dare I say) even funnier than Gervais’s UK original
The extended seasons of The Office US also enabled a legitimately well-rounded conclusion. Nothing could compare to the show’s serotonin-inducing finale which saw the return of Michael Scott alongside the other office employees for Dwight and Angela’s wedding. The UK ending and Christmas special were much more anti-climactic, with most of its characters ending in various dire or disappointing circumstances (though that kiss between Tim and Dawn was a definite highlight).
Which brings me onto my final point: The Office US is simply more optimistic! Not only does the finale end on a happier note for most of the characters, but the show generally grants the office workers a lot more joy in their lives. From successful romantic pursuits to promotions and starting families, the show’s positive story arcs are irresistibly happy and uplifting, perfectly balancing out the mundane misery of office life.
As Brits, we like to give the US as little praise or recognition as possible, especially when a British alternative is available, but I believe that in this instance we have to give it to them. The Office US is longer, more fleshed out, and (dare I say) even funnier than Gervais’s UK original. Both can still be enjoyed, but I know which one will be popping up on my Netflix Continue Watching list.