Here's the problem with having The Office on prime-time television; there's no time for dead air. What makes the original BBC version so amazing is the agony of an extended, awkward moment. The NBC version has an off-color remark, and then someone makes a grimace, and then we move on to the next scene.
Even though it didn't work, I can sorta see why NBC had their pilot be a near-exact replica of the BBC pilot; it gives the BBC fans a frame of reference. However, simply swapping out British slang for American slang does not cut it.
As for the casting... well, I'm a fan of Steve Carell. He's a very funny man, and I'm glad he got a good break. I'm also hopeful that as the series starts using its own material, he has room to maneuver past Ricky Gervais' character and come into his own. This episode was almost painful to watch, because he was clearly trying NOT to be Ricky Gervais, but the script pretty much requires him to be Ricky Gervais. Ricky Gervais's David Brent was a foolish buffoon, yes, but he desperately wanted to be liked and accepted; Steve Carrell's "______ _______" was just a bumbling idiot.
At least he was trying. The "Tim" replacement is basically Martin Freeman's American cousin, except not as charming. Couldn't they at least have given that character a new haircut, fercrissakes? And the "Dawn" replacement is sorta pigeon-y and I sense a deep psychotic breakdown just underneath the surface. I actually appreciated the "Gareth" replacement, because he was the only one in the entire show who WASN'T shamelessly aping his BBC counterpart. (Interesting side note: I was watching the bonus features on the Season 1 DVD and Steve Merchant indicated that his original vision for the Gareth character was actually someone quite big and brassy, which is sorta what the NBC version is.)
I wonder what the mood on that set is. I imagine it's one of fear. Instead of not being aware that they're creating something groundbreaking and wonderful, they're in the unenviable position of trying to re-create something that's very passionately loved, which is basically impossible. There's absolutely no personality to this version; the characters are all paper-thin and forgettable. It's probably no coincidence that I can't remember any of their names.
I'm giving the show one more chance - I want to see an original script. And the only reason why I want to see it at all is out of loyalty to the BBC version. I'm not really a TV watcher anyway, and had I not known about the BBC version I probably wouldn't have paid any attention to this new one. (Maybe Ricky Gervais will cameo as the "Chris Finch" character? Actually, he probably can't... the Finch voice on the speakerphone was clearly American.) Anyway... I can't claim to be disappointed, because my hopes for this show were pretty low to begin with. But until the scripts start getting original, it's got pretty much no shot at all.