Okay, so the US version of The Office has taken a lot of knocks from many sources, rather undeservedly. Yes, it is a remake of a UK show, but to kick it just for that is to be woefully ignorant of an excellent, surprisingly well written comedy.
The first episode is painful and the only direct copy (other shows in this season borrow a few ideas but never as much as the first episode) and as such, it is the weakest - this is a problem as many will judge the show based on this and watch no further. Mistake.
What started as a remake that had the hallmarks for a typical overseas mess up of an innovative idea has grown swiftly into a great show. It surpasses the tag 'remake' and becomes it's own entity, finding it's feet more as the first season progresses and bursting into life in the second season.
The characters are very loosely based on their British counterparts but with differences that become more obvious over time and the gulf between the two shows widens. Michael Scott is a very different character than David Brent, so to compare the two and dismiss the US show on that basis is crazy - Scott is never meant to be Brent, he is his own sad, flawed character and is all the better for it.
Michael Scott is a more tragic character, portrayed beautifully as sad, lonely, and desperately needy on a level that Brent never was. Brent was pathetic at times, even pitiable but there is an air of pathos about Michael Scott that invokes more emotion than Brent ever could. Brent was intelligent in a limited way, but more wilful and strong and arrogant. Scott is bright, but his arrogance is more based in self delusion and an often touching oblivion. He is more childlike than Brent and where Brent would get angry and hurt by criticism, often lashing out verbally, Scott goes into almost desperate denial, trowelling polyfiller over the cracks in his personality to hide the hurt that is often uncomfortably visible in his eyes.
The character's brief flashes of genius are few and far between but just enough to give the character an interesting depth, belying the superficial, arrogant idiot that he appears on the surface. Similar in a way to some of the redeeming moments for Brent where we suddenly get a glimmer that he isn't really that stupid/bad.
Jim and Pam's relationship is closer and more engaging and Dwight is delightfully toady with a creepiness tempered with a devious, calculating nature that makes him fascinating to watch. Rather like a horrible insect. The supporting characters are all strong and engaging and become more than just pale sudo copies of the UK show.
The UK series is more realistic, more of the innovative documentary style that it was meant to be, underplayed, etc...whereas the US show is more comedy and varied situations but with less grit, although it is still intelligent, clever and charming. You get more laugh out loud moments in the US show because it isn't played as gritty-real as the UK one, but it is no bad thing. It only emphasises the widening gulf between the shows as the US one stands on it's own and blossoms.
I would recommend this completely, although don't be put off by the first episode. Season 2 is outstanding and far better than this season, but it is an early treasure. Give it a chance, get them all and prepare to bury your face in your hands and cringe and laugh and hit rewind to make sure you really did hear that. :)