In honor of The Office (NBC Version) being syndicated, Season 3 being released on DVD, and the eventual premiere of Season 4 coming up, I wanted to re-release my VS edition of the office from the old site. I'll add some pictures and make some comments every now and then to make it 'newer' so enjoy.
For this edition of VS, I'm going to take on the task of comparing the NBC and the BBC version of The Office. The Office originated in England, the brain-child of Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant. I became familiar and a fan of the BBC version, and I think it is a great all around show, not just a comedy. When the NBC version came out, Ricky and Steve were executive producers of the show, and I did hear them give the NBC version their blessing, so I decided to watch some.
While I have all the BBC episodes on DVD (there are only 12 plus 2 specials) I have managed to catch up and see most of the NBC version of the show. Which brings me to my standing that I would be able to break both versions down, and for those of you that are only familiar with the NBC version that need to check out the BBC version, or vice versa, this will be helpful for you.
I'm going to use the characters as the primary basis for comparison with a few intangibles thrown in. First though, I'm leading off with an overview of the show.
The BBC version certainly has a dark, typically British humor to it. I think NBC viewers will be surprised just how similar the show is, up to a certain point. Although a groundbreaking show in Britain, The Office lasted a mere 2 season stretch spanning 12 episodes simply because the creators felt the show reached its peak, and to push it any further would be a mistake. A trait familiar to Gervais and Merchant, who just pulled the plug on the successful show, Extras, after two seasons with a Christmas Special planned.
The NBC version has gained popularity over the past couple of years. As each season passes, more and more people are watching the show. While the NBC version lacks the dark Brit humor, it makes up for it with a more Americanized relationship humor, which the BBC version stayed away from aside from the main love interest story of Dawn and Tim (NBC: Pam and Jim). Now it's safe to say The Office is one of the top comedies on television.
David Brent/Michael Scott-
David Brent is the epitome of every boss you'd love to have but can't stand to be around. Constantly attempting to be the center of humor and fun at his paper mill, Brent participates in moments that are simply painful to be a part of. Brent is basically a child. He has selfish needs and thinks he is funnier, smarter, and more charming than he actually is. Full of contradictions and poor thought process, you can actually see how all of these terrible ideas and actions form in Brent's head and how he thinks they'll actually be a great success. Completely devoid of any natural talent, Brent is a train wreck that is just enjoyable to watch.
Michael Scott, similar to Brent, has the same affinity for terrible humor. Scott is a child mentally as well. The difference is that Scott comes from is more of a can't fit in, awkward personality slant. He doesn't know how to assimilate himself to everyone else and often gets in trouble due to his poorly thought out actions and insensitive comments. All of which only add to the humor of the show, of course. I would argue Scott is a bit more "stupid" version of Brent, but it isn't exactly like Brent is a genius either.
Final Call: You can't go wrong with David Brent. He is a once in a lifetime character that is brought to reality in the most hilarious and real way. Ricky Gervais and Steve Carrell became the first actors to win an Emmy for playing the same character. If you're looking for just painful comedy then you won't get more "answering machine moments in Swingers" than from David Brent. Plus he plays guitar.
Tim Canterbury/Jim Halpert-
Tim is the typical man stuck in the middle of a job he just exists in. He has dreams of going back to university, but those dreams never come to fruition. He is sort of the sensible center of the office universe. While battling his feelings to the engaged Dawn, Tim takes out his aggravation by playing pranks on Gareth. His observations and wit that are necessary to steer the ship, so to speak.
Jim is very similar to Tim. They even have the same haircut and stares at the camera. The characters both serve the same purpose in the show. Being the center of the office doesn't permit much swing on the character interpretation. Jim too plays pranks on Dwight with the help of his secret crush, Pam. The one element that is needed to pull of the Jim character is charm. He has to be likeable, unlike everyone else, where it really doesn't matter if you like them or not.
Final Call: I'm going to have to go with Jim on this one. I think this character is more likeable, plus the pranks he pulls on Dwight are phenomenal. There are some pranks on the BBC version, but not to the extent of the NBC version. It really is just genius how funny these pranks are.
Gareth Keenan/Dwight Schrute-
The constant person getting picked on, Gareth is an ex-military who is now assistant regional manager, I mean assistant to the regional manager. Based on his ex-military background and odd social skills, the uptight Gareth is a sucker for pranks and the brunt of numerous jokes. His rants during interviews are great as well. He is the perfect side to Brent. There is also a running joke between Tim, Dawn, and Gareth where Tim and Dawn use Gareth's military training to make him insinuate that he is gay. Funny, but probably too politically incorrect for the US.
Dwight is also primarily the brunt of jokes on the NBC version of the show. Dwight is a bit more out there as a character than Gareth. Not roped in via ex-military training, Dwight is more of a wannabe military. Partnering up with Michael Scott, Dwight is much more of a suck up, gung-ho type sidekick. Giving his all for his beloved paper company. He certainly took it up a notch the past couple seasons by being concussed in a car crash and saving Jim from an attacking Roy.
Final Call: Dwight is a bit more out there and harder to believe, and I think that the writers of the NBC version use that to get some laughs as a result. With that being the case I'm going to have to go with Gareth as the better version of the character. All the laughs of Dwight without the reaches that need to be made with that character.
Dawn Tinsley/Pam Beasley-
Dawn is the love interest of Tim, while being engaged to Leigh for three years. Dawn and Tim get through the days at Wernam Hogg flirting, while she usually deals with Brent by trying to be nice, but not afraid to show him what's up when he makes her uncomfortable. Usually reserved, it's only when she spends time with Tim that she seems really happy.
Engaged to Roy for three years, Pam is the receptionist at Dunder Mifflin. While much more involved in the story compared to the BBC version, Pam has certain storylines that are separate from Dawn just based on the extra characters around the office. This adds a little more to her character and Roy isn't as much of a dick as Leigh is, so that makes her look more reasonable for staying with him, or at least when they were together.
Final Call: I'm gonna have to side with Pam on this one. She is more developed, and I think she is given more of an opportunity to as a character.
Overall I think that the BBC version is superior, and here is why. The story arch is drawn out perfectly. No time feels like it is wasted, and you appreciate everything that there is. The dark humor is a preference of mine compared to the lighter humor of the NBC version.
The NBC version does have more episodes, which is nice, and that allows itself more character development and stories to run with. In the end though that doesn't make up for the quality of the BBC version. You see hints of it with the NBC version, but The Office isn't just a comedy. It has parts drama, and moments that really hit you in a way you don't expect from the typical comedy. Plus I tire of things like the will they/won't they situation with Jim and Pam, and the reaching and liberties that are taken with Michael Scott and Dwight.
So here is the choice:
A. The dark brit humor of the BBC version, with less episodes, but a great story.
B. The zanier Americanized NBC version, with more episodes, and a slightly more diluted storyline.
Either way, I would suggest you give each series a chance. You won't be disappointed.