Sound and Sense in the Office

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I had never seen the UK version of the Office and I don’t regularly watch the US version, although I have seen a few episodes. I find the style very interesting but also a little difficult for me to get into. I don’t watch many television series, so it takes a lot for me to decide that a particular show is worth it. I know more about the show through word of mouth and through people referencing the jokes made in the shows than I know from my own experience viewing it. The mockumentary style provides a different lens to gain a perspective on the office culture. The fact that we see the inner dialogues of each character in addition to their inter-office interactions adds another layer of complexity to the action of the show. Because we have insight into the characters thoughts, their behavior is often contradictory and often funnier than it would have been without knowing what they were thinking in the process. It is also interesting because in the course of the action the characters are aware of and acknowledge the camera.

I think the use of sound is one of the elements that stands out most to me. The show has no laugh track and the music is all diegetic, which makes it more realistic as the only sounds the audience hears are coming from the characters themselves or the props on the set as opposed to randomly in the background to set the mood. The show becomes more believable and more of a commentary on actual life as opposed to an unrealistic representation of an unreality.

 

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5 Responses to “Sound and Sense in the Office”

  1. Administrator Says:

    Good questions about the dramatic impact of the “interview”/direct to camera scenes. If their primary function is to tell us what the character is thinking (and, I’d add, often what the character is desiring as well), they’re providing something close to what was missing from narrative fiction until 19C writers such as Austen and Balzac–something akin to Free Indirect Discourse. See http://narrative.georgetown.edu/wiki/index.php/Free_indirect_discourse

  2. ginaginaginagina Says:

    I agree that the mockumentary style takes some getting used to, but I do think that it helps us relate to the characters in a way that benefits the show. I especially relate to Jim, when he looks directly into the camera when he wants to convey an emotion in the US Office. He seems to be relating directly to the viewer, making a face at one of the other characters of shrugging his shoulders. The interviews help us to get to know the quirks of the characters as well, almost mocking the reality show format.

    Also, it is interesting that in both versions of the Office, the characters acknowledge the presence of the camera and sometimes tell whoever is behind it to go away or pay more attention. It makes the viewer/audience feel like he or she is the one behind the camera at some moments, while satisfying our voyeuristic fascinations.

  3. emp299 Says:

    I’ve never found The Office particularly entertaining, either. I, too, think that the quotes people repeat from it are more funny than when they’re said on the show. The exception, for me, is in the free indirect discourse (is that when they’re talking directly to the camera?). The direct discourse is just so awkward that it makes me wince. I had a similar experience with Napoleon Dynamite, though–which looks similar, lens-wise and in how the characters relate to one another. I wonder if this style takes getting used to, or if it’s more a matter of comic taste.

  4. daniellelevy Says:

    I have been thinking about this issue, the humor and style of the office (UK and US), and would like to propose that those who do not find the office funny are distracted by the show’s “closeness to reality” and the obscuring of the process of mimesis. Other comedies such as Seinfeld are appealing in that they are representations of life as well as a simultaneous departure from life. The characters, themes, and plot lines are possible within the show’s universe yet it is obvious why such things only world within the show and not is waking life. So maybe the Office is too real, and we are salivating over the process of mimersis rather than the show itself.

  5. daniellelevy Says:

    Sorry about the typos/poor grammar, this should read:

    I have been thinking about this issue, the humor and style of the office (UK and US), and would like to propose that those who do not find the office funny are distracted by the show’s “closeness to reality” and the obscuring of the process of mimesis. Other comedies such as Seinfeld are appealing in that they are representations of life as well as a simultaneous departure from life. The characters, themes, and plot lines are possible within the show’s universe yet it is obvious why such things only work within the show and not in waking life. So maybe the Office is too real, and we are craving the process of mimesis, something that is close to reality, but not quite real, rather than something we can physically see ourselves reflected in. This is probably more true of the Office UK, as the Office US employs more exaggerated comedy, but considering the American audience and audience expectations, it certainly feels this way.

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