6 funny mockumentary series for fans of The Office
The Office did not invent the mockumentary genre. It’s been around since Orson Welles’s 1938 radio broadcast of The War of the Worlds and attributed to even earlier works such as the once banned French pseudo-documentary, Land Without Bread.
From April Fool’s Day news reports and Monty Python to Spinal Tap’s 1984 rock mockumentary, the exaggerated and fictitious take on reality has continued to lampoon and skewer in a bid to poke fun at life with a candid brand of entertainment.
While Christopher Guest, the star of This Is Spinal Tap, is the undisputed king of off-the-cuff film mockumentary, Ricky Gervais established its domain on television with the original UK version of The Office centred at a paper merchant in Slough.
The critically acclaimed show even impressed The Simpsons creator Matt Groening, crossing the Atlantic for a breezier and more mainstream reboot starring Steve Carell. Running for nine glorious seasons, The Office has left an appetite for mockumentary TV series in its wake.
Here are similar series from Mzansi and abroad to stream for your mockumentary fix.
Throw The Office, Fawlty Towers and a woordeskat in a blender and you’ll get Hotel. This delightfully wacky mockumentary sitcom is the lovechild of Bennie Fourie and Stiaan Smith. Best known as film actors, the duo have proven their knack for comedy with this charming off-the-wall series about the Fransen Hotel’s loyal staff in the small town of Fransen in Mpumalanga.
Led by old-school manager, Ferdie, the barely competent team of oddballs try to keep the hotel’s doors open as their TripAdvisor ratings continue to plummet. Shot in Afrikaans, there’s an authentic feel to this silly mockumentary that revels in awkward moments and romantic jibes with its family of nutty characters and hair-brained schemes.
Hotel boasts stellar local acting talents including: Schalk Bezuidenhout (who’s also brilliant in Showmax Original mockumentary Tali’s Baby Diary), Simoné Pretorius, Mila Guy, Beer Adriaanse and James Borthwick as Ferdie. Every quirky character is memorable with hilarious self-parody cameos from the likes of Bobby van Jaarsveld. It’s much more lighthearted and fun than its influences, delivering a koeksuster of a twist with mockumentary flair.
IMDB rating: 8.4/10
Julia Anastasopoulos is best known for her iconic role as Suzelle in a funny DIY web series that blew minds when it won the internet in 2014. Moving from a resourceful Afrikaans YouTuber with big hairdos to a ditzy, loud and materialistic Jozi Instagrammer, Anastasopoulos sinks into her characters like alter-egos.
In Tali’s Wedding Diary, the Jewish princess turned instafluencer wants to document the most over-the-top wedding ever with Tali Babes set to star as the bride. Whether she’s reshooting her marriage proposal from her doting sidekick of a boyfriend Darren or running through her wedding vow lines, everything’s a fiasco waiting to happen in this hilarious mockumentary set in Cape Town.
IMDB rating: 7.4/10
In Tali’s Baby Diary, married life is kicking in, with Tali realising the social power of momfluencers while Darren and Rael navigate the Cape Town property scene.
Just as she begins to lose faith as a fitness ambassador, she discovers she’s preggers! In this sequel series, the calamity and hilarity continues as “baby brain” runs amok as gynae visits, gender reveals, antenatal classes and maternity shoots ramp up to the big day. Taken from an omniscient perspective, this self-conscious fly-on-the-wall mockumentary captures the highs, lows and laughs of pregnancy.
IMDB rating: 8.6/10
Jemaine Clement is the creator of What We Do in the Shadows, a mockumentary about inner city vampires just trying to fit in. Having kicked it into overdrive with Flight of the Conchords, a rock mockumentary about two New Zealanders trying to break into the New York music scene, he knows how to “rock the party” when it comes to parody and faux documentaries. He switches from fretboards to coffins in What We Do in the Shadows, which documents the challenges and niggles of the every-night lives of vampires.
What We Do in the Shadows takes a playful approach to vampire lore – whether it’s fending off werewolves, sapping energy from office colleagues or trolling paramedics. Starring Kayvan Novak, Matt Berry, Natasia Demetriou, Harvey Guillen and Mark Proksch (who was also in the American version of The Office), this mockumentary series bristles with dark comedy across the ages. With the vampires trying to take over the world from their dimly lit apartment, recruiting disposable familiars and jesting with old world vernacular, this is a fun, silly and offbeat horror comedy.
IMDB rating: 8.5/10
Rotten Tomatoes rating: 96%
Modern Family S1-11 (Netflix)
Modern Family has often been compared to Friends for its longevity and popularity. The dynamic changed as the cute kids matured into schmoozing teens but it’s always been a pleasure to spend time with the show’s power couples: Jay and Gloria, Mitch and Cam, and Phil and Claire. Having recently released their final season to streaming, it’s a funny and touching goodbye to some of TV’s most lovable characters.
Knowing that S11 is their last season, show creators Christopher Lloyd and Steven Levitan were able to give their characters a proper farewell. Crisp, witty banter has been a mainstay of Modern Family and while you’re bound to run out of story ideas after 200 episodes, they’ve managed to keep it fun and fresh, lacing in funny flashbacks in a more organic way than other long-running series.
While the mockumentary edge is strong with this sitcom, it’s something that normalises to the point that the only reminders are on-the-couch interviews and breaking-the-fourth-wall moments. The doccie crew are invisible, so it would’ve been interesting to find out why this family’s lives have been documented for over a decade.
IMDB rating: 8.4/10
Rotten Tomatoes rating: 85%
American Vandal (Netflix)
Most mockumentary series take the angle of a documentary crew trying to capture moments of real-life rarely making their presence known. American Vandal is unconventional because it treats itself as a true-crime documentary, piecing together an act of school vandalism by documenting the alibis, evidence, legal proceedings and main suspects. Holding onto its straight-faced tone, American Vandal attempts to dissect an incident where a student purportedly spray-painted phallic images on 27 staff vehicles causing damage estimated at $100k.
Centred on Dylan, the school’s resident troublemaker, the documentary branches out with an actual string theory pinboard, to try to get to the bottom of the life-altering act of vandalism. Starring Tyler Alvarez, Griffin Gluck and Jimmy Tatro, who you may recognise from Modern Family, the satirical documentary composes a twisty tale of whiteboard intrigue.
The AV club dedication shines through, peppered with schoolyard language and petty politics to fit the crime. Gathering college-humour-style evidence from juvenile pranks to analysing dick drawings, American Vandal essentially turns Superbad into a true-crime documentary series.
IMDB rating: 8.2/10
Rotten Tomatoes rating: 98%