The Office (U.K.) and The Office (U.S.)


The Office (U.K.) (2001-    )
The Office (U.S.) (2005-    )
Type: Spin Off... kinda

   Damn. When I first added this connection to the list I really thought I'd have something to write about by the end of the 2006-2007 TV season. Rumors were flying of a full fledged crossover between the original British version of The Office and it's U.S. version. Turns out, I would have to wait four more years for the 2010-2011 season.

   The Office started as a hit sitcom/mockumentary series in England. The conceit was that a documentary team was filming a reality/documentary series about a British paper company which would be called The Office. It gave the show a different feel from your regular sitcom. It had to feel like you were watching a real office filled with real people. There was no laugh track, the characters were aware of the camera, people would be caught saying and doing things they didn't actually want on TV. They all looked like real people too and had real flaws. The boss, David Brent, thought he was the funniest kindest boss around, everyone's friend. In reality he was self serving, petty and mean. Gareth was the office nerd/suck-up who thought he was super cool and super tough. He shared a desk with Tim Canterbury who was maybe the nicest guy in the office, maybe the only one with actual job skills, and maybe the shyest guy in the office. He relieved the tedium of the workday by picking on and poking fun at Gareth. Hey, I said he was the nicest guy in the office but I didn't say the bar for niceness was set too high. His partner in boredom busting and Gareth harassment was the office receptionist Dawn. Tim and Dawn were best friends. Only Tim actually had an unrequited crush on Dawn. He couldn't act on it because she was engaged to someone else.

   Like many British shows, The Office had pretty short seasons, just six episodes per. And it only ran for a total of two seasons. Then after that they followed up with a Christmas special designed to wrap up the loose ends. Tim had told Dawn how he felt and it had gone badly. She and her jerky fiancÚ had moved to America where things weren't going kinda white trash. David Brent had also been fired at the end of the regular series.

   When The Office returned for the Christmas wrap up it actually did something pretty smart. Keeping to the conceit that this was a reality show taking place in the real world, the special began with the idea that the series The Office had aired and that it had been a hit. This actually had impact on the characters. David Brent tried desperately to squeeze all he could out of his fleeting reality show fame. He also still constantly hung out at the office despite not working there any longer. And, again, the conceit of the special was that it was a followup special being filmed by the documentary crew. Wanting to reunite everyone from the original show, they paid for Dawn and her fiancÚ to fly back to England. In the end there was some resolution. Tim and Dawn connected. And even though he was still a jerk David Brent even managed to find some love and, amazingly, some personal growth.

   The original show was not just a hit in the U.K. People around the world watched it in syndication or on DVD and it became an international hit. It was popular enough that NBC commissioned a U.S. version of the show. But it was also so popular that nobody believed an American knockoff of the original could ever live up to the original. Turns out they were wrong.

   While the American version was slightly different from the original (it can be much sillier) it too became a hit show. The setup was identical. The first episode was a remake of the first episode of the British show (Beyond that they have not fully adapted any other of the original series episodes). Michael Scott replaced David Brent as the boss who thinks he's the best when in fact he's the worst. Gareth became Dwight, a nerd with aspirations of being a cop and a bizarre sort of Amish farming background. Tim was replaced by Jim as the office good guy/nemesis to Dwight. And Pam took the place of Dawn as the office receptionist who Jim loved but was engaged to someone else.

   The show also carries over the conceit that everyone is being filmed for a documentary series. Unlike the U.K. version of the show, the U.S. Office has 20+ episode seasons (the first season was shorter; it was a mid-season replacement). As of yet, the American Office's "documentary series" has yet to air. Not sure how long the "documentary crew" intends to film before airing their show.

   As I said, in the fall of 2006 there was talk of the cast from the original series popping up on the U.S. version. At first it wasn't clear if they would appear as their original characters. Then the word was they would in fact be crossing over as their characters if the crossover episode actually came together. Then... nothing... for for awhile.

   In January of 2011, a full fledged crossover between the shows finally happened, although instead of some huge, involved event it ended up being short and sweet. Instead of, say, a whole episode involving multiple characters from the UK Office, the crossover instead was limited to a start of show teaser having nothing to do with the rest of the episode and involving just David Brent and his counterpart Michael Scott. For unexplained reasons Michael Scott is at a hotel (what it looked like to me) when he bumps into David Brent. They end up falling into a conversation in which they realize they are very much alike, in particular that they have very similar senses of humor. For instance they both have a taste for doing offensive stereotypical characters and cannot figure out why others don't always find that funny. Anyone else meeting Michael or David might find them annoying or grating. But meeting each other... it's like a weird sort of love at first sight. Like they found their other half. They complete them. As crossovers go it was short but it was sweet. Just seeing those two "find" each other was hilarious.

   Why was it short and sweet? Why were they at a hotel? Just guessing but I'd wager Ricky Gervais was in town prepping to host The Golden Globes, they ran over to his hotel, and stole just enough time for a quick bit of crossover fun. I could be wrong. And, for the record, this would be the year Ricky Gervais hosted and caused a it of a stir by making some lacerating jokes about the Hollywood elite as well as the folks behind the Golden Globes, The Hollywood Foreign Press Association.

   Of course, if I had a say, I'd do a crossover that was a bit more involved...

   At the end of the British version of The Office, David Brent was still chasing fame and fortune for all he was worth and mostly failing. The only real success he ever had was with The Office. So suddenly he says, "Wait, that's it! That's how I can make it in show business. The Office was a such a big hit... I will buy the rights to produce an American version of the show!" He begs, borrows and steals the money to make his plan happen and heads off to America and hunts down an American paper company as similar to his own as he can. He figures he'll make a U.S. version of the show and not only make tons of money, he can also crawl out from under his spreading reputation as the worst boss in the world! If he can make the U.S. version of the show a bigger hit than the original, Michael Scott will be the public's new whipping boy. David Brent instantly becomes part of the U.S. show. He's one of the guys whose been behind the cameras the whole time. And of course he'd bring Gareth along as his assistant. The flaw in his plan is, of course, that nobody in America wants to watch a primetime documentary series about a paper company. That's why they've filmed three episodes of the show but none of them have aired. David simply won't give up on the show and keeps funneling money into it. The actual crossover episode could be about David bringing over some of the folks from the British version of the show in an attempt to generate some attention and hype for the American version of the show. So for that episode they would pull the cameras back further to show and talk to Brent and the others actually filming The Office and to show the visiting folks from the U.K. version of the show interacting with their U.S. counterparts. In the end, David's stunt would partially work. Bringing the British cast over would end up enabling him to get more investors for the show so he can keep filming but he would still fail to find a network willing to carry the show. Then after that episode, David and Gareth would go back to being behind the scenes of The Office.

   Okay, maybe I'm crazy. Just sounds like a logical and fun plot that would actually clear up why the U.S. The Office is being filmed but apparently never airing.

Other The Office Crossover Links
The Office and Las Vegas


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