Ricky Gervais is a bit of a marmite type of guy for me. See, I love his stand-up shows and he is undoubtedly a very funny bloke whether you like him or not, whether his arrogant humour is your thing or not I mean. He of course grew into the world of super stardom via writing his huge, huge hit TV ‘mockumentary’ The Office. In case you’ve never seen it, it followed the every day lives of a series of paper company workers in Slough, England and just basically followed around the workers and most prominently boss David Brent, played by Gervais. It’s a good show, don’t get me wrong, but the cringe worthy nature of Brent (despite that being the entire point of him) makes it a tad unwatchable at times because he does drive me up the wall. A few years ago, a good time after The Office was super popular in the UK, it was announced that The Office was making it’s way over to the American side of the pond. Initially, I met this with utter discontent because the humour in the show is very, very British. However, it seems that 6 seasons into the show, it for me is the utter highlight of the two by a stupid distance.
For starters, I am a huge, huge fan of Steve Carell. Whether it be his legendary performance as Brick in Anchorman, Evan in Bruce/Evan Almighty or the depressed Frank in Little Miss Sunshine, he has starred in many films where he has made the film for me. Once again, he did the job with the transition from British humour to American humour with The Office. Much like Gervais, Carell finds himself in the role of boss Michael Scott, who simply put just wants to be a nice guy! The first season of the US Office sees it basically copying everything that had been done in the original, and it was good don’t get me wrong. Michael had his loyal (to a point) kiss-ass sidekick Dwight, his ever-admiring Jim being the witty output of his office and a whole host of characters that were included. The thing is, if you saw both the original and the US Office, you could tell it wasn’t working as well in an American context. That’s why, from Season 2, the show absolutely went into overdrive into how well written, well acted and well received it became. To put it bluntly, it became bloody brilliant.
The thing is with the US Office is that it has been on our screens a lot longer now than the original was. Gervais’ creation only lasted 2 series, and roughly 12 episodes as well as few Christmas specials along the way, whereas the US Office sees it currently running through it’s sixth season in the US and well passed the 100 barrier. The characters have grown and grown, they have left and they have come and the series has expanded way beyond what was seen in that first season of the US Office. Because it has been on longer, you do know the characters a lot, lot better. You gain a greater amount of understanding between the relationship of Pam and Jim, that Dwight has his innocent moments in a sea of utter Dwight moments (it’ll make sense if you see it), that the various smaller characters like the lovable Kevin and his habits, Angela and her stern attitude to absolutely everything (except cats). and so much more. Each character has their own personality, their own story to tell in the office, their own part of the show, and it works so beautifully well because as you keep on watching you really get to know everyone as part of the office. For me the original UK version had a few characters that were worth watching, whilst the majority of the office didn’t really add much to the show.
The humour too is much more suited to my tastes. The biggest difference to the two is the fact that the UK original includes a lot of swearing as is the case with normal British banter in modern conversation, whereas any acts of swearing come at very minor opportunities or are bleeped out from the US equivalent. Furthermore, the humour as I’ve previously stated is completely different in my opinion for reasons already stated – the writing in the UK original very much seems to be based on the antics of David Brent and his judging of his office, his employees and his decisions with a back story of Tim and Dawn and the general British banter humour mixed in with Brent constantly trying to prove his comedy value, whereas the US Office is much more orientated towards the stories of the office in general with all it’s characters running around the main characters of Jim, Pam, Dwight, and of course Michael in charge, not to mention how Steve Carell makes Michael Scott a much more likeable, lovable boss despite his many flaws including his greed at times and ignorance, yet comes across as more innocent, naive and just wanting to enjoy what he does with who he considers his friends. That, for me, makes the offices of Dunder Mifflin in Scranton (US) just so much more enjoyable and warmer to feel involved in than the colder environment that is the Slough offices of Wernham Hogg (UK).
So that’s why I prefer the American version to the original. They say a lot of times that remakes of a classic TV show/film should never be done, as they inevitably end up being an embarrassment to the original; even more so most of the time when it jumps over the Atlantic I find! This however proves that, every once in a while, it’s worth going for if the outcome is as good as it became here. The show is probably my favourite comedy TV sitcom considering – it’s without a doubt up there with Scrubs and Arrested Development in terms of how fantastically done it all is.
How do you feel if you have watched both the original UK and new US series’? Are you sticking to your guns with Gervais’ creation, or more than happy to embrace our American cousins into The Office?