Tuesday, 23 September 2014

TV Tuesday - 3 Reasons Why The UK Office Beats The US Office

As a matter of fact ...

I prefer the UK version of The Office. I'm sorry to all those fans out there who prefer the US version. I really am; but the original is just superior.

If you've watched one, both or neither of them. Hear me out. Here are 3 reasons why I think I'm right. I might seem bias because I'm from the UK but I think I have reasons to back it up ...

1) David Brent vs Michael Scott

Michael Scott is funny. I'll give you that. In fact, Steve Carrell is one of my favourite American actors. I do like what he did with the awkward, egotistical manager of The Office. The problem is: it just wasn't enough. I cringe at Michael Scott but I don't pity him. For me, that's the key. Ricky Gervais makes David Brent pitiful. On face value, he is just a sad individual. Out of context of the show, I would probably find Michael Scott quite funny. The stuff that comes out of his mouth are the kind of things that my friends might say and we will all roll around laughing.

David Brent is the opposite. Every comment creates a stifling silence that would happen in real life to the point that its unbearable. In a sitcom format though, I find myself smiling through my hands that cover my face. The character stays true to what I love in sitcoms: making the ordinary, believable and relate-able traits we encounter in people very funny. In those three categories, David beats Michael hands down.

2) The length of the show

I've often seen this brought up by key board warrior defender of the US version. They always claim that because the US version went on for so many seasons and the UK version was just two; that somehow makes the US version better. I think the opposite. I feel like the US version was dragged out. They beat a dead horse for what? Money? I cant think of any other reason. Even fans of the show that I know agree it went on for too long. Especially the romance. I know Americans like a happy ending but the marriage thing just ruined the awkward dynamic and sucked humour out of Pam and Jim's relationship. Tim and Dawn go togther at the end of the UK Office but we see nothing more There is an art to revealing things in TV shows and an art of hiding it; keeping the viewers guessing. The UK Office won outright at that for me.

With the UK Office, Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant knew they were going to do two seasons and then get out, despite being offered a lot of money to do more. I like that integrity but it also helped the show in the long run. I feel like a sitcom should be a snapshot into a surreal world. A quick photograph or a peak through a window into a world that you grow to love and want more of. That's what keeps you coming back to watch the DVDs of it years later: there never seems to be enough. That's great. That shows that in a short time, the show achieved what it was meant to. It's that open and shut window that makes sitcoms so adored and nostalgic for more. The US Office is less of a window into their world and more of a reality TV show. One that never ends and covers every angle until nothing is left to the imagination and you feel like you know the characters better than you're Grandma. That doesn't make me nostalgic and it wont make me run back for more any time soon.

3) The Original vs The Copy

This isnt me just saying 'The 1st one is better.' There are plenty of shows that are re-makes or re-hashes of other shows and they do a lot better the parent version.

It's a different story with The Office though. As a screenwriter myself, my utlimate goal is to write something that truly breaks the mold. The UK Office did this. If the US Office 'opened doors' for similar shows to follow, then the UK Office blew it off the hinges. Each time I watch the UK Office, I have to remind myself that this came out in 2001. Thirteen years ago, there was nothing like this. Sure, there had been a couple of mocumentary shows dotted around (Spinal Tap, Alan Partridge) but nothing birthed the fly on the wall genre more than the UK Office. I rememeber my Dad watching it for the first time and not even knowing if it was real; thats how strange, realistic and totally new it was to the public.

On the other hand, the US version came out among the tidal wave of documentary that followed in the UK Office's wake and from the first episode, it feels like a sitcom. Of course, you might say: well it is a sitcom. True as that may be, The Office was never meant to feel like that. It originally created to showcase drab and painfully awkward people in an equally drab and soul sucking office. The UK Office does this from the first episode whereas the US Office just reminds me that it's talented, successful and happy Hollywood actors who are pretending to be anything but that. I know that's what they are, but it shouldn't be at the forefront of my mind after every scene.

I might be wrong. I might be bias. You might agree or disagree. That's great! It's a testimony to both shows that they create this kind of debate. If either one was truly awful, there wouldn't even be a discussion. You don't here people comparing the Italian version to the Brazilian one. I like the discussion and I'd love to hear how you feel (even if you're wrong) ...

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