The Office

January 17, 2007

Ken Jennings, you know, the guy who made Jeopardy a game of Memory had a little post popup on TVsquad about my favorite show, The Office.

Basically, he just pointed out that The Office has more of a mockumentary style than a truth-oriented spontaneous documentary style (link). He’s got a point. It’s obvious that The Office cameramen are shooting right during a punchline. He points out one example:

In one of my favorite episodes, “Conflict Resolution” from Season 2, the camera whip-pans onto Jim just in time to see him mouth the words “That’s what she said!” to match Steve Carell’s delivery of the line, and then zips 90 degrees back to the first speaker. Wow, that was one alert camera operator! He can pick out unspoken bits of business from halfway across the room, the exact second they’re developing.

But really, it is so much worse than that. At the end of season 2, during the tumultuous kiss of Jim and Pam there seems to be a cameraman… in the kitchen… in the dark… peering through the slightly open blinds – similar to the second Jan/Michael kiss when Michael is visiting Corporate. In the 3rd season’s Christmas episode there is a camerman seemingly on another roof a block away shooting Dwight waiting for his CIA helicopter to come.

There are also instances where during the daily shenanigans someone will make a joke or just general statement about another person and then suddenly will be in a scene  explaining their reasons for the joke. I think it was early second season where Michael is emasculating Dwight about something by saying “TMI” and then, all of a sudden, there is Michael explaining what TMI means and why he uses it. “TMI? Too Much Information. I used to say ‘Don’t go there’ but.. that’s lame.”

Does any of this make the show less funnier? Hell no. It is just the sort of irrelevant point someone would make about a TV show simply because it either isn’t staying perfectly honest to itself or to the form. It’s like when someone says about 24 “How did Jack Bauer get from East LA to Downtown in under 10 minutes?” or for The Simpsons “Does anyone in this friggen town age? Maggie has been an infant for almost 16 years now.” They are all logistical problems that are ignored.

Sure 24 could make transportation a little more realistic but do you really want to see Jack Bauer having to stop at a Shell gas station to fill his gas-guzzling SUV in between torturing someone and saving the country from utter destruction? Sure The Simpsons could have everyone age appropriately, but do you really want to see Montgomery Burns dead, Lisa married and/or pregnant, Bart in prison for arson, and Homer recovering from his 12th quadrupal bypass this year alone? Sure The Office cameramen could act like a real documentarian but he’d end up only catching about half the jokes, if that, on film.

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