UK Office VS US Office Round 2



UK Office VS US Office Round 2

VOICE OVER: Kirsten Ria Squibb WRITTEN BY: Charlie Peters
"The Office" is a cherished sitcom, but which version reigns supreme? In this installment of Versus, we'll be putting Wernham Hogg and Dunder Mifflin head to head for the second time to see which version of the paper supplies-based sitcom comes up trumps. We're hopping back and forth over the pond to compare the two shows on a wide range of categories.
"The Office" is a cherished sitcom, but which version reigns supreme? In this installment of Versus, we’ll be putting Wernham Hogg and Dunder Mifflin head to head for the second time to see which version of the paper supplies-based sitcom comes up trumps. We’re hopping back and forth over the pond to compare the two shows on a wide range of categories. Which iteration of “The Office” is your favorite? Leave us a comment below, and tell us why.

Round 1: Guest Stars

Both versions of “The Office” feature iconic core casts who make the shows what they are. From David Brent to Michael Scott, or Tim and Dawn to Jim and Pam, the programs are both rooted deeply in their principal characters.

It’s fair to say, however, that they dealt with guest stars in very different ways. In its short run, the UK version had very little in the way of cameo appearances from big names. Co-creator and writer Stephen Merchant does a brilliant job as Nathan, better known as “The Oggmonster” to his friend Gareth. But that’s basically it. Instead, the series takes a rather insular approach. There’s little doubt that the UK “Office” is David Brent’s production through and through. Bringing in numerous celebrity cameos would’ve probably distracted from that.

The US version, however, boasts an enviable list of guest stars. Jim Carrey, Evan Peters, and Will Ferrell are among the many celebrities who appear in one capacity or another. It’s testament to the show’s pulling power that they were able to bag so many high-profile actors in relatively minor roles. Granted, not all of these star turns landed. Ricky Gervais’ shark-jumping, canon-crossing appearance as David Brent arguably marked a low point in the show’s creative history. Still, the majority of them had real positive impacts on the series. Idris Elba’s Charles Miner, for instance, is a key part of the “Michael Scott Paper Company” arc, one of the most beloved in the show. There’s no contest.


Round 2: Chris Finch vs. Todd Packer

As David Brent never fails to remind us, Chris Finch - or “Finchy” as he’s better known - is “a bloody good rep”. Unfortunately, that’s in David’s eyes only. Finchy, who’s played to perfection by Ralph Ineson, is actually a pretty deplorable person. He’s mean, boastful, and has rather problematic beliefs. Unfortunately, many a Brit can relate to knowing a guy like him at work. The things he says and does are only funny because you’re laughing at him, not with him. And David’s pathetic attempts to win his approval are a key part of the show. Finchy’s presence tells us a lot about how willing the manager is to say and do offensive things in a bid to feel validated.

David Koechner’s Todd Packer is all of those awful things too. And his relationship with Michael pretty much mirrors that of Finchy and David to the letter. Granted, Packer is slightly whackier to suit the different comedic spin of the US show. But his character still represents one of the most faithful translations from the UK version. Yet he doesn’t feel quite as impactful on the series as his counterpart. After all, David’s sucking up to Finchy is the source of many brilliant comedic moments. While that isn’t to say the Michael/Packer relationship isn’t hilarious, the Brit simply stands out more in his respective show.


Round 3: Comic Tone

It’s only natural that “The Office” would take on a different comedic style on either side of the pond. After all, British and American humor can be rather different from one another. The UK version of the show is pretty bleak, and its gags are darker and dryer as a result. In other words, it’s cringe comedy at its finest. The jokes are almost always on David Brent, Gareth, and other big-headed characters who can’t see just how idiotic they’re being. The result is rather realistic, unlike traditional sitcoms that are littered with zingers and punch-lines.

The US show stuck rather closely to the UK original at first, and felt somewhat awkward as a result. The stapler in the jello joke, for instance, didn’t land quite as well in the States as it did in the United Kingdom. But once they switched up the formula, things really clicked. The comedy proceeded to become broader and goofier. Michael Scott driving his car into a lake is a prime example of how this change affected the stories. It’s hilarious, but not exactly realistic. And it’s certainly not the type of thing that would typically happen to the employees at Wernham Hogg. While the US iteration is unquestionably very funny, there are plenty of other shows that make you laugh in a similar way. The UK version is more specific, obscure, and unique, which gives it the edge.


Round 4: Merger Storyline

In both editions of the series, a storyline dealing with the merger of the office with another branch becomes vital to the development of the plot.

The UK merger storyline is hugely important, mainly because it serves as the catalyst for David Brent’s downfall. His whole world depends on being able to manage the Slough office of Wernham Hogg. But even though the Swindon branch ends up incorporated into his office under his leadership as opposed to the other way around, things quickly deteriorate. David’s inability to win the respect of his new staff proves to be a major hurdle. And his repeated clashes with his former Swindon counterpart Neil - who’s been promoted and is now his superior - ultimately bring about his redundancy package.

In the US, however, the merger of the Scranton and Stamford branches of Dunder Mifflin doesn’t have quite such catastrophic effects on Michael Scott. In fact, the Stamford office introduces us to one of the most notable characters in the show: the Nard Dog Andy Bernard himself. We also get to know Karen Filippelli, another great addition whose romance with Jim brings a whole new dimension to his complex relationship with Pam. The merger allows these two new characters, as well as Jim, to mingle with the Scranton crew. And they make their presence known in ways that hugely benefit the show.

At the end of the day, that’s what gives it the edge over the UK merger. Don’t get us wrong; the British arc is superbly acted and written. But David Brent probably would’ve masterminded his own downfall at some point, regardless of the Swindon branch arriving in town. The US show without Andy and Karen, however, just wouldn’t be the same.


Round 5: Gareth Keenan vs. Dwight Schrute

They’re two of the most beloved characters in their respective shows. Both fill the role of “assistant to the regional manager”, both are massive suck-ups to their bosses, and both have a pretty goofy haircut. But in the finer details, they’re actually quite different.

Gareth is played incredibly well by Mackenzie Crook in the UK version. He’s smarmy and a stickler for the rules - especially the ones he thinks will impress David Brent. He actually sticks a sign on his door while trying to find the employee responsible for making a crude joke at David’s expense! This simple act provides a window into his personality, and summarizes his leech-like persona perfectly.

Dwight, on the other hand, is a little more outlandish and cartoony. He’s weirder, and somehow even more of an obnoxious suck-up to Michael than Gareth is to David. But he’s also surprisingly well-rounded. He’s arguably one of the best-developed characters in his show. The course of his relationship with Angela is heart-warming, to say the least. And the glimpses we get into his home life and family history at Schrute Farm explain a lot about who he is. As great as Gareth is, that isn’t something we truly get with him. We know he was in the Territorial Army, but that’s about it. There isn’t as deep a backstory to him as there is with Dwight, nor is there the same level of emotional vulnerability. We’re sorry, Keenan, but Schrute’s just more fleshed out than you.


It would seem that, for a second time, Dunder Mifflin has seen off the threat (level midnight) of Wernham Hogg to claim victory for the US by a score of 3 to 2.