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The Office has been at the forefront of new wave of sitcom styles that uses a documentary style of shooting.  Cameras are often hand-held, there are “talking head” interviews that explain or narrate scenes often beginning with the character rephrasing a question that was just “asked” by the documentary’s crew.   I enjoy this style of cinematography because it has a lot of new possibilities for comedy, like the aforementioned talking heads.  But this style can sometimes get in the way of the way the writers want to tell their story.

The Office tries to be as accurate as possible, adding on snow and salt onto the cars in the winter, indicating that time has passed for the company too over the summer when the series is off the air, and naming Scranton businesses or locations.  The other cities they use as Dunder Mifflin branches make sense too as they are similar ex-industrial towns like Scranton (Utica, Milford).  But this type of shooting style gets awkward the camera hears what it shouldn’t be able to.  Often times, a door will be shut and audio will still be heard through the walls (sometimes unconvincingly explained by them having microphones on), many of the car scenes don’t really make sense, and the documentary crew being allowed into depositions and the like.

But all these problems aside, the “mockumentary” style is an innovative form that The Office takes to the next level.  They have re-energized what can be a tired genre.

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2 Responses to “”

  1. Administrator Says:

    Are these “problems” so much as jokes–fourth-wall breaking nods to the viewer that add to our pleasure?

  2. nataliezutter Says:

    I’d categorize the “confessionals” as more pleasures than problems, because they enhance the plot by acting as the punchline to a joke; revealing surprisingly emotional moments; and even as the point of action.

    What I’ve always liked about the US Office is how the cameras slowly became woven into the show’s style, especially with regard to Jim and Pam. SPOILERS HERE FOR SEVERAL CHARACTERS, so be careful…

    In the Season 2(?) arc where Pam is trying to figure out if Angela and Dwight are dating, it’s the camera man who, after seeing Dwight give Angela his candy bar, rapidly jerks from that image to Pam at the desk, getting her attention. She follows his “gaze” until she sees the evidence, and she gives him a triumphant smile. Teamwork.

    Then, in the Season 2 finale “Casino Night”, the cameras are lurking in the offices, watching Pam from a distance (you have to figure that she doesn’t see them) while she’s on the phone with her mom. If I remember correctly, the camera is watching through blinds (so, perhaps located in the confessional room) when Jim bursts in and kisses her.

    And of course, the confessional is the space of major action in the Season 3 finale, when Jim bursts in to ask Pam out on a date. The first person to receive that news is the camera man.

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