It’s fair to say that The Office US has become something of a phenomenon – it’s even the most binge-watched show during the pandemic. While many people consider Friends to be the most iconic sitcoms, The Office, which is based on the British show of the same name, seems to be taking up that mantle. But is The Office UK or US better?
Not only is the show, whether it's the US or UK version, far more relatable (we’ve all worked with a Meredith, or even a Dwight!), it’s a lot funnier than Friends. But let's actually compare both versions of The Office.
Firstly, The Office UK does look a little older than the US show – but this is actually more to do with the cinematography, and some British sitcoms are known to have a grainy quality.
And while it also had a smaller budget, the show has a more fly-on-the-wall feel from start to finish, while The Office US does wind up feeling more sitcom in nature as you get deeper.
The first two seasons of The Office US, however, are pretty much remakes, with minor to major variations here and there. The former recycles storylines and characters, but the most notable difference is the duration.
The Office US ran for nine seasons, consisting of a whopping 201 episodes, while The Office UK ran for two seasons with only 14 episodes. But while both shows are in many ways identical, they’re also very, very different.
The Office UK is an efficient show – it does what it sets out to do from the offset, following the daily lives of Wernham Hogg employees David Brent (Ricky Gervais), Dawn Tinsley (Lucy Davis), and Tim Canterbury (Martin Freeman).
And this suits the show perfectly – it’s very economical, and is only concerned with David Brent’s journey and the romantic predicament between receptionist Dawn and salesclerk Tim. All other characters are "background" extras.
By the end, all storylines are neatly wrapped up, and the show hasn’t been revisited since 2003. We did get the movie David Brent: Life on the Road (2016), but it’s an entirely Brent-focused film as opposed to a follow-up of the show.
While British humor might not be for you, we urge you to give it a chance – especially if you’re a fan of The Office US. After all, this is where it all started, and it’s fun to compare the shows, whether it’s storylines, scenes, or characters.
In its early days, The Office US imitates its British cousin, almost scene for scene. Even the cinematography and color pallet are identical, while Michael Scott (Steve Carrell) feels more like David Brent than he does Michael Scott.
But as we move through Season 2, the show slowly begins to retcon itself, bringing the background characters into the foreground and turning them into caricatures (which ultimately gives the show more staying power).
The show also starts to look a lot less grainy, and as the seasons go on, the whole thing becomes a lot more outlandish, characters and all (which we aren’t complaining about!).
However, in terms of storytelling, The Office US does rely heavily on The Office UK to get by. The reason for this change is simple – the first season just wasn’t being well received by viewers.
As such, the showrunners had to make the decision to give it a big overhaul, but without straying too far from what makes The Office what it is, which is a sitcom told through the medium of a "mockumentary".
In The Office US, Jim Halpert (John Krasinski) and Pam Beesly (Jenna Fischer) are your Tim and Dawn equivalents, and the first few seasons spends a great deal of time fleshing out their characters and focusing on their predicament.
Other Dunder Mifflin employees are also based off characters from the UK show, which extends to ones from the warehouse and corporate. But Dunder Mifflin-ites get far more screen time than Wernham Hogg-lings ever did.
But while the UK show is more realistic, The Office US is more entertaining. Despite many identical traits, though, it’s hard to compare the two, largely because one is longer.
It also depends entirely on your taste – perhaps American sitcoms aren’t for you (even if you’re American!), or maybe you just don’t get British comedy at all (there are plenty of British people prefer American shows!).
But if we were being threatened with having to sit next to Dwight Schrute (Rainn Wilson) or Gareth Keenan (Mackenzie Crook) for the rest of our working lives, we’d have to say that The Office UK wins in terms of writing.
The Office US actually dips dramatically in quality during its post-Michael Scott era. However, if we’re talking about longevity, and a solid binge that will keep you entertained for weeks, then look no further than The Office US.
Either way, be sure to check out both shows if you can, as they each have their own strengths and weaknesses.