I LOVE IT.
The first episode gave me a huge amount of cognitive dissonance because of how similar it was to the British pilot, with entire scenes being verbatim. It was the same but different! And it took me till about six or seven episodes into the second season to get used to it. The characters and tone were so different, and I couldn't stop comparing. It wasn't bad, though, and I still laughed a lot. But after a while, I was all "British version what?" because the show had become its own show with its own world and characters and continuity.
The American Office is still a fake documentary, but it's a different style. All the characters are much more aware of the cameras and comment on them more often. And unlike the British version, which seemed to only intercut random interview segments, the American version cuts in "to the camera" moments that are obviously specific responses to the action or a question. You can tell what the interviewer must have asked. In that way, the camera becomes a little more of a character than in the British version (and in one very amusing scene involving a Baby Ruth, it really does become a character). And, unlike the British version, the supporting characters talk to the camera too! Hell, they even interview a Chili's guy.
Overall, the tone is a little lighter and less depressing and bleak, although the fact that the characters aren't really happy at their jobs and wish for something more does come out a lot in the interviews. I think the show is a little more fun, which makes it easier to love, although it does have its share of uncomfortable moments. There's also more of a sense of plot and continuity, which you of course get over a longer-running show. Many more chances to explore the various character relationships.
As many people told me before, the major thing that sets the American version apart is the focus on supporting characters. In the British version, the supporting characters were always there in the background, sometimes in scenes, but you never really got a sense of them as people. Here, they really come alive. And they even have an Indian woman (who also happens to be one of the writers). And the fact that she's Indian isn't really salient to her character, and, in fact, she's about as unstereotypical an Indian character as you can get. She's like a bubbly teenybopper...who's Indian. And because of her, we get a Diwali episode, to which my reaction was mostly: it's my culture! ON THE TEEVEE! Totally accurate, no less! All the office folk are entertaining in their own way. Even Angela.
But what of the major characters? Well, it took me a looooooong time to warm up to Michael Scott because his demeanor was so very different from David Brent's. In the early episodes, at least, Steve Carell plays Michael as almost manic, hitting everyone over the head with his jokes. But we get to see his softer, more human side way more than we ever saw David's; it's a little harder to tell how much of what he believes is what he believes or what he thinks he's supposed to believe. I do miss the subtle awkwardness of Ricky Gervais, but Steve Carell delivers in different ways.
I think my impression of Dwight was colored by athenacqd's thoughts, although I can definitely see where she gets it. Dwight does seem a lot more unreal than Gareth. He's much nuttier and more outrageous. The thing about him is he has absolutely zero self-awareness and one hundred percent self-confidence, whereas Gareth was entertaining precisely because he was an authoritarian figure who was nonetheless socially inept. Like, I can see Gareth crying himself to sleep, whereas Dwight would...eat the pillow or something. He's still very fun, however.
Jim is a lot livelier than Tim. Well, everyone is a lot livelier on this show, basically. We're Americans! We're lively! I can definitely see why all the ladies love Jim, as he is pretty adorable. And he does seem to make a lot of faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaces.
Pam. PAM. Pam has so much more personality than Dawn, which isn't very hard, I know. But she's got much more spunk and calls Michael on his shit, which is something Dawn would never do. And she, too, is pretty adorable.
I love Pam.
No, I mean it. In that unlikely way one loves a fictional character. Sometime during the second season, I realized I totally loved Pam and wanted to marry her. Her smile makes my insides shine. This is actually rare for me, believe it or not. I mean, sure, television crushes galore, but I don't really feel like I actually love a fictional character. The only other instance I can think of is Claire from Generation X.
But I would have to fight off Jim, who has really good taste in love interests. I'm not generally a 'shipper; I don't get overly invested in the romantic relationships. I basically root for whatever the show clearly wants me to root for unless I think it's totally ridiculous and stupid (see: Lee/Dee, Lex/Lana, etc.). But the Jim/Pam thing is pretty wonderfully done. It taps into my inner hopeless romantic. Er, and my outer hopeless romantic. I want Jim and Pam to get together because they make each other really, really happy. And it's weird because usually you want the conflicted relationships on TV because they make for better drama, and yet, they managed to turn this into a conflicted relationship without sacrificing the happiness. (Cindy! I understand the teapot icon now! And the umbrella icon! And various other icons I have seen!)
So I love the show, just like everyone said I would, and now I can join the weekly squeefests! Tell me what you love! Point me to hilarious Office-related vids on YouTube! Show off your Office icons (now with added sense-making!)!
Why do I have to wait for a new episode? I HATE THIS PART.