It's been five years since the end of the US version of The Office, and 15 years since the UK original closed its doors. Both series finales are snapshots of the respective gangs following the airing of their respective documentaries. But the way that those sets of characters are shown to have grown and changed highlight the differences between these two takes on the same material. Comparing the US and UK Office series finales boils down how each ending went in its own direction, falling in line with the tone of each series.
The two finale episodes both take place after a time jump from the preceding episode (three years in the UK version, one year in the US version), and show characters adjusting to lives touched by minor fame thanks to the documentary. And both finales revolved around the ensemble reuniting for a special event — Dwight and Angela's wedding in the US version, and a Wernham Hogg paper company Christmas party in the UK version.
Other than those details, however, the two finales don't look all that much alike – possibly because of how many episodes preceded each one. The US Office finale marked the 200th and 201st episodes of the series, while the UK finale occurred after only 12 regular season episodes. For that reason, the Dunder Mifflin crew had a lot more plot to wrap up.
But both serve as a fitting farewell to the series that came before. Whichever version you prefer, these are the most significant differences between the finales of one of the most influential television franchises of the 21st century.
The US Finale Covers Many More Plotlines
Despite being shorter in runtime than the UK finale, the US finale covers a lot more ground. It includes a panel discussion as well as a wedding, and resolves the arcs of a cast of over 20 characters. Kelly and Ryan finally run off to be together forever, and end up leaving a baby for Nellie. Darryl has turned his company Athlead into Athleap, opens a branch in Austin, and promises to bring Jim along with him. Stanley retires as he's always wanted to do; Kevin opens a bar after getting rightfully fired from Dunder Mifflin; and Erin finally meets her biological parents.
The UK finale, on the other hand, mostly focuses on new storylines related the the four primary characters of the series. David Brent — the British equivalent of Michael Scott — goes on various dates to try to find romance when he's not visiting the office he used to run. Gareth (their Dwight) now has David's job, much like how Dwight has ascended to Michael's job by the finale of the US Office. Dawn (the UK Pam) is living in Florida with her fianceé Lee, and Tim (Jim) is suffering through work without having Dawn to banter with.
The Documentaries Affected Them Differently
The first scene of the UK Office finale is David Brent talking about how disappointed he is in how he was portrayed in the documentary. Aside from the image-obsessed David, however, the other cast members don't seem to be too concerned with the documentary. In the US Office, however, no one has much to say about it. Sure, the program didn't mention that Meredith was getting a college degree or that Oscar makes Origami, but all in all, the Dundler Mifflin folks seem content with the documentary. They aren't too eager to get back into the spotlight, however.
Michael Scott started out the series being similar to David Brent in a lot of ways, but the two bosses could not have had more divergent endings. While Michael often got in over his head trying to make others happy or find friendship, in the finale, he seems to finally be at peace with himself. He tries to hold back tears of joy while telling the camera, "All my kids grew up and then they married each other. It’s every parent’s dream."
David Brent, however, never stops trying to get the attention of others but finds it difficult to form any genuine connections. David spends much of the UK finale hopping around different clubs as a celebrity guest, despite the fact that he is barely recognized. He kills time between gigs at the job he was fired from, where it doesn't seem that anybody is too happy to see him. By contrast, Michael's return to Pennsylvania is filled with joyful reunions. David Brent may eventually find his happiness, but Michael Scott already has his.
The Senior Sales Representative & The Receptionist Were Always Meant To Be
It takes four seasons for Jim and Pam to finally be together on The Office, and their relationship grows into a strong marriage over the rest of the series. When they're seen in the series finale, they choose to sell their house and start a new life in Austin, Texas together.
Their UK counterparts, Tim and Dawn, are separated by an ocean at the beginning of the UK Office finale. After he confessed his love to Dawn and was met with rejection, Tim is stuck in his job without any friends. And Dawn is living in Florida with her fiancé. In the final episode, Tim gifts Dawn an art set — proving that he still believes in her dream of being an artist — which pushes Dawn to leave Lee for Tim. She returns to the Christmas party, kisses Tim, and they leave hand-in-hand. While both finales leave the show's central couple in different stages of their relationship, they both mark big steps forward for the hopeful romantics.
The US Office Ends On An Optimistic Note, While The UK Office Is More Ambiguous
Everyone in the finale of the US Office gets a happy ending, aside from Creed who gets arrested, as he probably should be. Dwight and Angela get married; Jim and Pam decide to move; Stanley gets to retire; and even the usually pathetic Andy Bernard and Toby Flenderson get brief moments of joy.
The British series ends on a less positive note, and showcases a future filled with uncertainty. Talking about the fact that his hopes for a relationship with Dawn never worked out, Tim tells the camera:
"But, if I'm really being honest I never really thought it would have a happy ending. I don't know what a happy ending is. Life isn't about endings, is it? It's a series of moments. And umm... it's not if, you know, if you turn the camera off it's not an ending, is it. I'm still here, my life's not over. Come back, come back here in 10 years, see how I'm doing then. Cause I could be married with kids, you don't know. Life just goes on."
There are a few happy moments to be found, however — Gareth is happy with his job; David manages to get the attention of a woman he fancies. But when Dawn leaves her fiancé for Tim, there's still a tinge of uncertainty. Fans will never know if Tim ends up "married with kids" 10 years later, as he hopes. But when the group takes a photo during the last scene, David Brent finally manages to crack a joke so good that it makes everyone actually laugh — just as he always wanted to.
Where the US Office turned into a story about an entire community that happened to form at Dunder Mifflin in Scranton, PA, the original ended up being a story about how hard it can be to see one's own dreams come to fruition, and how different people respond to disappointment.
Despite these shows having started from almost the exact same premise, each ended on its own terms and carried forward the themes it had established over its run.