The Office is the title of two television situation comedy shows created by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant. The first was the UK version, which was initially broadcast on BBC Two on 9 July 2001 and ran for two series plus a pair of Christmas specials. The show's success prompted NBC to create an American version, which premiered on March 24, 2005. Gervais and Merchant are credited as executive producers of the show along with Ben Silverman, Howard Klein and Greg Daniels. A French adaptation of the series, titled Le Bureau, aired in Spring 2006 on Canal +. A Québec version of the show, produced by Anne-Marie Losique and called La Job, premiered on January 11th, 2007 (the lead character in this version is called David Gervais, a cross of Ricky Gervais, and his character, David Brent).
The German series Stromberg (first aired in 2004) also used The Office as a basis, but did not secure official rights; the German creators later on were made to add Ricky Gervais in the credits as having "inspired" the series (Ricky Gervais additionally said he "can't go into details but yes there was an agreement reached and we are very happy with it").
The Norwegian TV comedy series Fremtiden kommer bakfra (literally, The Future Comes from Behind) also resembles The Office in some ways, so much so that it has been described as an unofficial remake. However, few of the series' characters correspond directly to those in other versions.
In July 2006 it was reported in the Hollywood Reporter that BBC Films was considering a feature length version of The Office for cinematic release.
All of the core elements of the UK series were brought over to the U.S. version. Both are structured as mockumentaries, without laugh tracks. Both are set in the offices of a paper supply company, with a boss whose high opinion of his own managerial skills (and his sense of humour) are not shared by his employees. Both feature an irritating "assistant to the regional manager" and two characters, an in-house sales representative and a receptionist, who are good friends with an apparent chemistry between them that hints to the viewers that their relationship could go beyond friendship if the receptionist were not already engaged.
The first episode of the first season of the American 'Office' was almost an exact adaptation of the first episode of the British version. The characters have different names, are played by different actors, and behave slightly differently. There is more obscene and sexual language in the British version. Starting with episode 2 in season 1 of the American version, the producers started making original episodes.
The UK original is set in the town of Slough, Berkshire. The fictional paper company in the show is called Wernham-Hogg. The U.S. version is set in the city of Scranton, Pennsylvania, at a paper company called Dunder-Mifflin.
Each episode of the British version is about 29 minutes, as opposed to 20 to 22 minutes for the U.S. version. This is due to the lack of commercials on the BBC version versus the network U.S. version with commercials.
A January 2006 Los Angeles Times article commented briefly on some of the changes that the producers of the U.S. version have introduced as the show has developed. NBC's entertainment president Kevin Reilly, whose support kept it on the air during a period of dismal initial ratings, characterized the differences in the characters this way: "I think Americans need a little bit more hope than the British." Reilly was talking about such differences as making the boss be a bit more competent, and plots that are slightly more upbeat, with humour less cruel.
The temporary employee in the American version, played by B.J. Novak, has much more of a presence than the equivalent role in the British version, played by Oliver Chris. In the British program, this character is only present in the secondary cast for the first six episodes. In contrast, the American temp is billed as the fifth lead character of the show. On the other hand, however, Michael Scott's friend Todd Packer plays a minor role in the American version, compared to his counterpart in the British series Chris Finch, who has quite a large role. Novak began the series as a writer as well as an actor, but by the second season was billed as "co-producer". Novak's character, Ryan Howard, was made a permanent employee in the third season.
The British version focused on a few main characters, mainly David, Tim, Dawn, and Gareth. The American version includes several characters that have no obvious counterpart in the British version, such as Angela, Oscar, Creed, Stanley, and Phyllis. This may be because while the British show, like most British television programs, had a short run (twelve episodes and one holiday special), the American program will have many more episodes in accordance with the standard American sitcom format of 22 episodes per season and multiple seasons. Thus the American program requires more characters to serve as material for more storylines.
Spoiler warning: Plot and/or ending details follow.
In the commentary on the DVD release of the second season (second series) on BBC it is mentioned that Gervais' character was made less evil and more silly as he slowly gets into more and more trouble and eventually finds himself out of work and without prospects, and in this state begins to pathetically beg for his job back, promising to change his ways. A parallel change can be seen in Carell's character in the second season. He displays his ability to close deals (though this was hinted at in the premiere of the first season), he is seen flirting with his real estate agent, and he actually gets his corporate boss "into bed." The encounter between Michael and his female boss Jan is a source of speculation during the majority of the second season until she confirms what actually happened that night to Jim in the season finale, "Casino Night." He is depicted as less vain and self-centered, but more incompetent at social interaction in the real world. A couple of redeeming features emerge as he gets along with the daughter of Toby, a coworker whom Michael despises, at work during a "Take Your Daughter to Work Day".
* UK version: 2004 Golden Globes for Best Television Series - Musical or Comedy and Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series - Musical or Comedy(Ricky Gervais); 2002, 2003 and 2004 BAFTA TV awards for Situation Comedy and Best Comedy Performance (Ricky Gervais).
* US version: 2006 Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series - Musical or Comedy (Steve Carell); 2006 Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series; 2007 Screen Actors Guild Award for Oustanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series.
* German version: 2006 Adolf Grimme Award for Fiction/Entertainment - Series/Miniseries.