There’s one major difference between the British and American versions of The Office, and that’s the tone. In many ways, the American remake is a traditional feel-good sitcom. Yes, it contains elements of drama, but it mostly serves as a lighthearted comedy filled with jovial moments, happy character endings, and wacky comedy.
On the other hand, the British original is far darker and more realistic in its tone. The characters are more pathetic and sad, few people get happy endings, and the comedy is more rooted in pitiful tragedy. And few characters are as pitiful as David Brent.
David Brent is not a very sympathetic character, and the viewer is mostly encouraged to dislike him. However, he’s a richly written and complex character, and most of his atrocious behavior stems from a deep desire to be liked.
David is nothing but a sad and very lonely man approaching middle age, and he is so desperate in his need to be liked – and to have friends – that he often goes to inappropriate extremes. Naturally, this only turns people away even more.
David’s loneliness is taken to extremes in the Christmas Special, and viewers are subjected to the horrors that are his failed blind dates. Wishing desperately to find a companion (and a date to the office Christmas party), David goes on various blind dates with women he finds online.
Needless to say, these dates don’t go well. In one, he talks about the breasts of his date’s deceased mother. On the other, he is so disappointed that his date is overweight that he fails to put in an effort and can barely contain his frustration. These dates are hilarious, but they’re also deeply pathetic and sad.
David’s deep desire to be liked wouldn’t be so sad if it wasn’t for the fact that no one likes him. David tries a little too hard, and it only results in people finding him repulsive, offensive, or just generally annoying.
When he offers to take the office for drinks, Tim is the only one who responds – and even that’s mostly to spite Anne, not out of a genuine desire to hang out with David. And the worst part is that David has absolutely zero self-awareness, so he doesn’t even realize that people don’t like him.