The recent success of ABC’s latest mockumentary, Abbott Elementary, which just scored a full, 22-episode second season, has proven that network sitcoms can be successful. Besides being incredibly funny and smashing viewing records, this mockumentary series has also been able to supply great social commentary.
Television fans love a good mockumentary series that blurs the line between reality and fiction. Viewers can easily place themselves within the world of a show as they get an inside look at all the characters’ inner thoughts. As streaming services continue to pull viewers away from cable, the one type of series that seems to prevail is documentary series. These series will not only go down as one of the best mockumentaries but as some of the best television shows of all time.
The Office (2005 – 2013)
Based on the U.K version, The Office, depicts the everyday lives of the eccentric workers at the fictional Dunder Mifflin Paper Company. Though the final episode in the series aired back in 2013, The Office has continued to grow in popularity. While the show was on Netflix, it was watched an estimated 45.8 billion minutes in the span of 12 months.
The now cult classic became iconic for its famous quotes, antics, and incredibly specific characters. Fans of the show often find themselves rewatching it multiple times like Reddit user, absentrobot, who said, “Its the only show that I can re-watch numerous times without getting sick of it.” Though the show may not be airing anymore, fans will forever be saying “that’s what she said.”
Abbott Elementary (2021 – Present)
This new show from creator Quinta Brunson follows a group of passionate teachers and their slightly inept principal at an elementary school in Philadelphia. Abbott Elementary has brought viewership back to a primetime TV show and has shown that sitcoms on cable networks are still worth the watch. The series is not only funny, but more importantly, it points out issues that face public schools today.
Redditor Ribbetbunny appreciates the honesty in the show and shares on Reddit, “This show genuinely shows what it’s like to be a teacher in todays America.” The talented cast and their clear onscreen chemistry bring the brilliant writing to life. As viewership continued to grow through season one, fans are now looking forward to the second season’s release.
Parks And Recreation (2009 – 2015)
After trying to find a way to separate itself from the other NBC workplace mockumentary series, The Office, the show finally found its unique tone towards the end of season one. By season two, Parks and Recreation was able to establish itself as one of the best workplace comedies.
Reddit user NotJerryJones45 even prefers the show to its NBC counterpart, “My all time favorite tv show! It’s similar to the office and written by the same people, but all the characters are more likable.” The show was such a success that storylines created for the show have found themselves now built into society. After SNL alumnus, Amy Poehler, created the holiday, “Galentine’s Day,” the new holiday began to be celebrated by women everywhere – even years after the episode’s airing.
What We Do In The Shadows (2019 – Present)
What We Do In The Shadows is an adaptation of a mockumentary horror-comedy of the same name. The cameras follow vampire roommates and their human familiar in Staten Island, New York. Most mockumentaries ask the audience to purely just accept that the cameras are following the characters without giving much explanation. Reddit user, defvac2, appreciates this aspect of the show saying, “Glad I gave it a chance cause the show is hilarious. It’s rare a show gets me laughing out loud multiple times an episode but they pulled it off.”
What We Do In The Shadows does a great job of informing the audience of the documentary crew’s presence right from the beginning of the series, and it continues to include the camera in scenes, even when the characters are not in confessional. At one point, the audience is even shown a cameraman being attacked by a vampire. By bringing the audience into the realm of the show, there’s much more room for laugh-out-loud moments, even in this absurdist comedy. This reveal of the “documentary crew” goes even deeper into the mockumentary aspect so much so that if it wasn’t for the farcical vampire subject matter, the audience may be left questioning if the series is really a documentary.
Reno 911 (2003 – 2009)
Reno911 bent the genre rules as it blended both a mockumentary-style comedy with a parody of the hit show, Cops. This blend proved to be not only successful but hilarious. The show had a strong following when it was on, but the jokes and characters have proven to be timeless.
HowardBunnyColvin on Reddit mentioned, “This show is flat out hilarious. At first, I didn’t see the appeal so I missed it during it’s live run on CC but after reading reviews I realized the error of my ways.” With eight seasons and two feature-length films, this series definitely stands the test of time.
Modern Family (2009 – 2020)
Modern Family took the direction of being a very subtle mockumentary. The cameras were never really referenced throughout the show, aside from the confessional sessions with each family member throughout the series. Tealcandtrip mentions this point on Reddit, “Modern Family has never really embraced that the cameras are real…It’s a sitcom in the format of a mockumentary, but is not actually supposed to be a mocking-documentary.”
With so many personalities and characters within one family, the confessionals were not only comedic but helpful for audiences to really get an insight into all the characters and their relationships. Though the mockumentary format wasn’t exactly followed, the format of the show worked for the characters and the storylines to be easily digestible for audiences.
Summer Heights High (2007)
Though this series was only one season and eight episodes, it will forever be iconic. Chris Lilley plays all three main characters at a high school in Australia. The comedy is satirical, absurd, and sometimes if viewers take the content too seriously, it could also be offensive. But the show is about more than the comedy that meets the eye as australiughhh points out, “The series as a whole is an expertly crafted cultural satire, full of the most pretentious, pompous, self-important people. It plays with social importance, hopes and dreams, and most importantly; self-absorption.”
The show’s original release date was back in 2007, but it wasn’t appreciated until it launched on YouTube and gave American viewers the chance to see it. Spinoffs of two of the main characters were aired in 2013 and 2019. Fans can all but hope that a third spinoff of the show will be made soon.
Trailer Park Boys (2001 – 2008) & (2014 – 2017)
This Canadian mockumentary about a group of trailer park residents originally aired in Canada from 2001 to 2008. After getting added to Netflix and becoming immediately bingeable, the show was rebooted for five more seasons. Most fans were late to watching the show, but once viewers discovered the hidden gem comedy, the show gained a cult following.
One Reddit user even said that “The first time I watched this, I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so hard in my life.” The hilarity ensues from stupidity, but at the core of the show is the heartwarming nature of the characters that captivate and entertain audiences.
American Vandal (2017 – 2018)
American Vandal may be the most documentary-like mockumentary to date. The way that it follows a true crime format with such an absurd crime makes the comedy that much more honest. Some fans were confused as to if it were true or not and micmea1 wrote on Reddit, “I honestly didn’t know I was watching a fake documentary at first, it was very believable.”
The show went on for two seasons, and though it may be stated that the show is satirical, it also dips into the parody genre as it pokes fun at the popular true-crime docuseries.
Documentary Now (2015 – Present)
This mockumentary is unique in that each episode is stand-alone and parodies different real documentaries. Mycoolwhitelies on Reddit says, “This show is fantastic and fairly unerappreciated. The episodes do a great job of copying the stylings of the various documentaries that they’re parodying, whilst also being decent narratives in and of themselves.”
The fact that this show is hosted by Helen Mirren makes the documentary aspect of the show much more realistic. The only true giveaway that this is, in fact, a mockumentary is the comedic acting by SNL alumni, Fred Armisen and Bill Hader.