Who is the TV mockumentary greatest?
I love mockumentaries like I love offering someone food and them not accepting it: Too much.We will! Source: Imgur.
From movies like This is Spinal Tap to David Walliams and Matt Lucas’ classic Little Britain series and even our own Chris Lilley’s endless supply of outrageously hilarious shows, I love them all. There’s just something about seeing actors talking directly to the camera that makes the show more relatable and personal. So, with that in mind, I thought I’d share and compare my three favourite TV mockumentaries.
Parks and RecreationJust some more Parks and Recreation shenanigans. Source: She Knows.
I’m pretty sure I watched the first four seasons of Parks and Rec in two days (I both loved and hated myself by the end of it). Who would have thought a TV show about a local government Parks Department in Indiana could make you laugh until you cry?
However, an absolutely all-star cast and guest appearances from the likes of Bill Murray, Louis C.K. and Paul Rudd flawlessly turn politics into comedy. Honestly, I would watch a spin-off about any one of the characters alone. There’s Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman), the head of the department that hates bureaucracy, government and vegetables; Andy Dwyer (Chris Pratt), the FBI agent/Karate Kid/Shoe shiner/Idiot; and of course Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler), the absurdly over enthusiastic deputy director. And the list goes on.
Whilst it isn’t necessarily the mockumentary aspect of the show that is so funny, the fact that you feel like you’re always involved in the fun makes it so easy and enjoyable to watch.
Modern FamilyAnother win for the Modernest of Families. Source: Pinterest.
It’s one of the most popular shows on TV at the moment, and for good reason too. Modern Family follows three families (one extended family) in suburban Los Angeles as they live out their seemingly normal lives – that are really anything but.
Eight seasons down and still going strong, the show is a hit with fans because it is just so damn relatable. Everyone knows someone like the immature and moronic dad Phil, or the constantly fighting sisters Haley and Alex, or of course the completely oblivious teenage son Luke (me). There’s just something about watching such a dysfunctional yet loveable crew that makes you feel like you’re part of the family.
However, unlike Parks and Rec, I think it’s the documentary style cuts to camera that really make the show. It’s the scenes when there are one or two of the characters on the couch together when we get to see what the characters are really thinking. Using this, the show’s creators perfectly cut between the actual show and the ’behind the scenes’ footage to create a hilarious and seamless interplay between the two styles. I’m fangirling hard.
The Office (UK and U.S.)Big bad bosses in The Office. Source: Zimbio.
I’m tearing up just thinking about the fact that I’ll never get to watch The Office for the first time again. This is how every mockumentary, no, every TV show ever should be run.
Honestly, how good would it be to have a boss like Michael Scott (Steve Carell)? Working at the Scranton branch at Dunder Mifflin you just never know what your day is going to consist of. It could be a parkour competition, a fire drill that turns out to be a fire, an elaborate prank war or anything in between. Meanwhile I’m still trying to work out if having David Brent (Ricky Gervais) as head honcho would be incredible or hair-pullingly terrible. Probably both.
While this show would still be one of my all-time favourites even without the cut scenes, the mockumentary aspect takes it to an entirely new level. It’s when the characters get in front of the camera alone that the audience gets to see the real personalities come out.
The fact that it is shot through the lenses of a documentary film crew helps you develop genuine connections with the characters, which is probably the reason I may or may not have cried during the U.S. finale when all the characters get together to watch the premier of the documentary they had been filming for the last 8 years.
Overall, I’m yet to watch a mockumentary I don’t love – and I’m starting to think that’s not a coincidence. If I had to pick a GOAT, I’d have to say The Office, as Ricky Gervais was a visionary and the U.S. version pulls through impeccably.
Mockumentaries are an interesting genre – one that I’m sure would be difficult to direct and write. When it’s perfected though, there’s very little that is more fun to watch.