The Office: U.K. vs. American

By Laura Crowley

The Office: U.K. vs. American

It may come as a surprise to fans of the American mockumentary “The Office” that the show is largely unoriginal. In fact, the American version that aired in 2005 is entirely an adaptation of the United Kingdom’s (U.K.) version that aired four years before.

For frequent viewers, the similarity between the two versions is stark. The invented paper business “Dunder Mifflin” is based on the paper business featured in the U.K. version, “Wernham Hogg.” While main characters such as Michael Scott, Dwight Schrute, Jim Halpert and Pam Beesly are clearly based off of the U.K. version, there are even strange similarities between minor characters such as Kevin, Meredith, Stanley and Ryan and the relationships they form with others.

Just as similar is the plot. Episodes from the American version, such as “Downsize,” “Performance Review,” “Hot Girl,” “Fire Drill” and “The Merger” are all also off of the UK’s “Downsize,” “Appraisals,” “New Girl,” “Stress Relief” and “Merger.”

Similarly, the romance between Tim Canterbury and Dawn Tinsley, or Jim Halpert and Pam Beesly, help to ground the otherwise playful plot. Likewise, the uncanny and nosy Gareth Keenan, or Dwight, in the American version, is similarly obsessed with the arrogant and infamous David Brent, or Michael Scott.

Scenes from the U.K. show are placed directly into the American adaptation. In both the American and UK versions, Jim puts Dwight’s stapler in a jello mold and forces him to eat the mold until he reaches his stapler. Both Dwight characters similarly obsess over bobble-headed figures, only Dwight obsesses over a bobble-head of himself while Gareth is drawn to “Dirty Bertie.”

While the two shows are strikingly similar, the American version has clearly gained more popular acclaim as it boasts seven seasons and 142 episodes, while the U.K. version has showed a mere two seasons and 14 episodes. This difference may be due to changes the American version implemented.

Perhaps the most noticeable change is the increased involvement of secondary characters such as Meredith, Creed, Kelly and Angela. Involvement of such characters allows for a plot that extends beyond the core cast and allows viewers to identify a variety of characters that frequent offices.

Also changed is the atmosphere. The U.K. version is held in a gray office building with poor lighting. While the American version is not far from that dismal setting, it is certainly more fast-paced, with shorter scenes and faster jokes.

Even though the American version has clearly gained more fame, the question remains as to which version is better. Critics attribute a higher success rate to the American version because of its play-it-safe use of fast-paced, generic jokes, while the U.K. version requires a more observant viewer to appreciate its dense wit. Decide for yourself by watching both versions online at

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