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The Office UK Vs US: 15 Biggest Differences

One of the biggest battles The Office fans have to endure is The Office UK vs US. The answer on which one is better depends on several different factors, but a lot of it boils down to the audience’s take on their specific comedic stylings. Does one prefer Steve Carell’s lovable buffoonery or Ricky Gervais’ excruciatingly honest take on a mean-spirited boss who’s puffed up on his own self-importance? Both characters have different personality types.

RELATED: Myers-Briggs® Personality Types of The Office Characters

No one can deny that both actors nailed their performances, so it really comes down to personal taste. In the end, each show played to its audience.


Updated on January 15th, 2022, by Lynn Gibbs: In 2001, BBC released a show called The Office. The series lasted two seasons and focused on the menial tasks of those working at Wernham Hogg paper company. The Office UK was a hit but didn’t last long enough to make it the same kind of success as many beloved US sitcoms.

In 2005, NBC took a stab at their own version of The Office, focusing on similar characters at Dunder Mifflin paper company. The difference between The Office UK vs US is the preference in humor. Both shows have similarities but more differences keep the two sitcoms apart. 

The Office US Had More Romance

The main romance in the UK version of the show was Tim and Dawn. It was the sweet spot between David’s humorous obnoxiousness and Gareth’s arrogance.

Their Office US counterparts, Pam and Jim, were also the main focus for most of the show. However, as the seasons progressed, there were more couples to focus on. Angela and Dwight were a thing for a while and eventually got married in the series finale. Andy and Erin, Phyllis and Bob, and Erin and Pete are other examples. Even Michael found romance with his former HR manager, Holly. The Office slowly focused on couples everyone loved or hated.

The Office US Had A Changing Of The Guard

With only two seasons, the U.K. version of The Office didn’t have much time to introduce new characters or move them around. Yet, the US version did. Through its nine seasons, the show portrayed something that normally happens in offices — people come and go.

The one with the biggest effect was Michael’s departure in season 7. This led to several people in the manager’s seat as the show tried to fill the gap. Another change took place when Pam was promoted to a sales representative and Erin became the receptionist. In a way, it showed progress could be made in a small office in a middle-sized city.

The Office US Had More Subplots

There were indeed subplots within the main story of the UK’s Office, but they were quickly resolved. If not closed by the end of the series, they were left open for fans to ponder. In some ways, this was good. In others, it left fans of the original Office wanting more.

RELATED: The Office Seasons Ranked, According To IMDb

Some of the subplots of the US version went on for an entire season or even several years. This created better seasons than others. Dwight’s goal to become the branch’s manager was one. The goings-on with Oscar and Angela’s husband also ran for a season or two. It helped this version of The Office to avoid being a one-joke series.

The Office US Had Fewer Cringe-Worthy Moments

Michael certainly had his cringe-worthy episodes in the US version of the program. Most of them took place during the first few seasons when his character’s profile resembled that of the U.K.’s David Brent. However, as the show went on, Michael’s moments of embarrassment for everyone, including the viewers, became tempered with softness.

For instance, for most of season 2’s ‘Booze Cruise,’ Michael is his normal awkward self. However, when Jim reveals he has feelings for Pam, Michael wipes away that persona and seriously says he should keep pursuing her.

The Office US Had A Happier Ending

The Office

Though the finales to both versions of The Office had similar elements (having everyone gather for a photo instead of the office crew), the UK version was more downtrodden. It showed everyone three years later in various forms of disappointment. Especially David, who kept hanging around the old office for attention.

This was not so for the US crew. For the most part, everyone’s life had a happy ending. Even characters like Andy, the show’s sadsack, ended up fulfilling their dreams. Overall, The Office’s finale was perfect and it made the viewers feel good about the gang’s life after the show ended.

David Brent From The Office UK Vs Michael Scott From The Office US

Although both David Brent and Michael Scott are sure to make fans cringe, David Brent’s character will probably make fans cringe harder. Sure, Michael Scott is ignorant, tactless, petty, and self-centered, but he does manage to have some redeeming qualities. David Brent? Not so much. Unlike American shows, British shows don’t often feel the need to make their show’s stars more viewer-friendly; they are 100% down with making viewers feel uncomfortable the whole way through.

In the American version of The Office, people can (and do) change for the better, whereas in the Office UK, the characters remain static. If David Brent’s cringey, he will remain cringey.

The Office US Had More Character Development

Gareth, David, dawn and Tim pose for photo at Christmas party in The Office UK.

For the most part, both the UK and US versions of The Office have an equal amount of characters, but viewers will notice that America’s supporting cast is much more well-developed. Why is that? Probably because Ryan “The Temp” (B.J. Novak) and Toby from H.R. (Paul Lieberstein) also double as chief writers for the show.

When a supporting character is writing countless episodes for the series, they’re inevitably going to expand the depth of supporting cast members.

Pam Beesly From The Office US Vs Dawn Tinsley From The Office UK

the office

Both Pam and Dawn are slightly downtrodden, girl-next-door types who are both stuck in dead-end receptionist positions and allowing their dreams to fall by the wayside, but how are they different?

Dawn’s character is much less assertive and remains bound to her life as a receptionist throughout the entire length of the show. Pam, however, has an almost butterfly-like transformation from an under-appreciated, insecure office worker to a self-confident, successful woman.

Jim Halpert From The Office US Vs Tim Canterbury From The Office UK

Tim and Dawn kissing in The Office UK.

The UK’s Tim Canterbury is a little bit more believable than Jim Halpert’s character; the Brits like to keep it real. In the UK version, Tim is a true underdog who lives with his parents and has a fair amount of charm (but not too much).

RELATED: Jim & Pam’s Relationship Timeline, Season By Season

He performs well at work, but his dreams remain lackluster and he isn’t particularly motivated. America, on the other hand, couldn’t have Pam’s main love interest still living with his parents. As a result, Jim Halpert was made into a “better catch” for American audiences (and for Pam), so that their relationship timeline could proceed.

Gareth From The Office UK Vs Dwight From The Office US

Dwight Schrute is a perfect example of an American supporting character taking on a life of his own. Dwight’s character is annoying, but he’s also one of the stand-out members of the show because of his hilarious antics, Amish-like background, and amusing one-liners. According to Dwight, he was one of the smartest people in the room.

Gareth, on the other hand, is more realistic and therefore less exciting. Unlike Dwight, Gareth is that annoying, glorified errand boy who actually does work in an office. He’s a calculated and clueless military brat who believes everything in the office should be run according to his specifications. He’s always right and everyone else is wrong.

The Office US Was Much Longer

There’s another big reason why the side characters are better developed in the American version of The Office: the sheer length of the show.

A total of 201 episodes of The Office were aired over nine seasons in the United States. In comparison, there were only 12 episodes of the British version (and two specials). Unlike the American version, there were no satisfying or happy endings to be had when it was over. Things continued to go on in the office just like they always had.

The Office US Had A Bigger Budget

A building in the opening credits of The Office

It probably won’t surprise fans to find out that the American version of The Office had a much bigger budget than the UK version, which led to a bunch of guest appearances from some big-name guest stars, including Idris Elba, Will Ferrell, Amy Ryan, Kathy Bates, and Rashida Jones.

Ricky Gervais even appeared and played his own character, David Brent, where he once befriended Michael Scott outside of an elevator and then applied for a job to Dunder Mifflin. The UK’s version, on the other hand, never let star power get in the way of the daily, boring life of an office worker.

There’s A Difference In Comedic Style Between The Office UK Vs The Office US

Gareth leans on his hand looking bored in The Office UK.

Both versions of The Office are a perfect example of the big differences between American and British humor. Above all, the British appreciated the cringe-worthy, realistic characters in the show as well as the brutally honest, albeit satirized, depiction of office life. The characters were remained static throughout the length of the show.

Americans, on the other hand, craved fluid characters and wacky, over-the-top humor to offset the cringe-inducing drudgery of working in an office. In other words, British audiences watched The Office so they could laugh at themselves, but Americans watched The Office so they could laugh at the characters.

Optimism In The Office US Vs Pessimism In The Office UK

Michael Scott wants people to fear how much they love him on The Office

British culture is overwhelmingly pessimistic about the future, according to one poll on The Independent, whereas Americans are considered wildly optimistic in comparison. This stark cultural difference can be seen in the storylines of both versions of the show.

The British version is more sardonic and cynical, whereas the American version is lighter, warmer, and easier to watch. In general, Americans believe that people can change for the better, and this is seen in the relationship between Pam and Jim and Michael Scott himself. As similar as Michael Scott and David Brent are, their endings are drastically different.

The US Office Has A More Glammed Up Cast

Many of the characters featured in the show did receive glow-ups, particularly Jim and Pam. Jim was tall, sweet, funny, and very good-looking (but in an approachable way). Meanwhile, Pam changed up her hairstyle and added modern clothes to her wardrobe.

While neither Dawn nor Tim from the UK version is unattractive by any means, their characters’ appearances remain the same. In the American version, both Jim and Pam’s looks improve as their lives improve.

NEXT: Jim’s Slow Transformation Over The Years (In Pictures)

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