I’m having an increasingly difficult time accepting the mockumentary premise of shows like The Office and Parks and Recreation, especially now that they’ve been on the air for a long time.

The problem is that these shows have increasingly become dram-coms (or “dramedies” if you hate yourself enough to use annoying portmanteaux), involving characters deceiving others, keepign secrets, harboring hidden feelings, that sort of thing. Which is fine, except the core conceit of the show actively prevents the deception and secrecy from working – namely, they’re being filmed for a television show which, if they don’t watch, their friends and family probably do.

This was less of an issue with the British version of The Office because it ran for twelve episodes, then dealt with exactly this thing in the Christmas special finale. Meanwhile the American version is midway through its eighth season, and we’re expected to believe that over the course of the last right years exactly none of the characters have learnt about secretive goings-on or caught loving glances from characters harboring secret crushes.

I love the mockumentary format, especially in both versions of The Office where the cameraperson almost becomes a character in their own right, but this failure to address a fundamental truth of the show’s universe makes it difficult for me to care about what’s going on in the show. By rights, they should know too, and if they know that what they’re doing may well be seen on national television, possibly by their friends, family or coworkers, they’d perhaps be a little less obvious about it.

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One Comment

  1. Like with ‘Trailer Park Boys’, I’m willing to accept that the original premise ceases to make any sense after a couple seasons, having become more of a fourth-wall-breaking device than an in-universe documentary. (Other fans have tried to maintain that it is an in-universe documentary by saying that the documentary airs only in some obscure backwaters of Finland, or that the “documentary” still has yet to be released, etc.) It makes even less sense when you take into account the sort of things that characters have no qualms about doing on-camera—apart from frequent insubordination behind the backs of superiors, I do recall a bit of openly illegal behavior—and which things they try to conduct off-camera (Dwight and Angela’s liaisons come to mind).

    The thing that baffles me the most about ‘The Office’ is that Jim and Pam, the audience surrogates, are both complete assholes—and no one seems to care.

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