I've been meaning to write something about the American The Office and the British The Office for some time.
The British version is, simply put, comedy genius. David Brent and Gareth Keenan are so funnily annoying in part because they are so "real." There's something authentic in their absurd annoyingness, whereas their American counterparts, Michael Scott and Dwight Schrute, are cartoonish caricatures of annoyingness. They are funny, but in an over-the-top, unrealistic way, while David and Gareth are annoying in an authentically real way that makes it much, much funnier.
However, we have to be fair to the American version. The British version was a success bit of comedy that entailed 12 episodes and 1 special. American sitcoms are expected to make 22 episodes in a single season; the American The Office has already made 36 episodes. They're going to have to get more over-the-top, and they're going to have to spread their comic gold out further. I laugh out loud at the American version quite a bit--but I laugh out loud nonstop at the British version.
And yet, the American version comes from (or into) a very different TV comedy tradition, and is addressing the experience of a different society, that makes the differences understandable.
There's a certain understatedness to British humor that I like, and see in such things as The Office, Da Ali G Show, and Tristram Shandy: a Cock and Bull Story. There's a tone of wryness and subtlety in a British comedy that a lot of American comedy lacks.
For pure comedy, the British The Office gets an A+, while the American The Office gets a B.