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.