by Deke Rivers

Along with family-based sitcoms (The Brady Bunch, The Cosby Show, Leave It To Beaver, Father Knows Best, My Three Sons and so on) and friend-based sitcoms (Friends, Seinfeld and many more), the workplace sitcom has been equally popular. Such classic shows as The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Taxi, Barney Miller, Cheers, Scrubs, Just Shoot Me, 30 Rock, Night Court, Ally McBeal and many more have helped to set the template for this very popular branch of the American sitcom family. The best of these mix a sense of absurdity with a ringing familiarity, creating the kind of workplace that we all recognise, but which we could never really imagine working. The turn of the century has seen a flurry of activity in this sitcom sub-genre, with popular favourites like Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Abbott Elementary, Veep, Blockbuster, 2 Broke Girls, Workaholics and more dominating our small screens. Three post-2000 American workplace sitcoms, however, are unarguably deserving of promotions…

THE OFFICE US (2005-2013)

Though Ricky Gervais’ ingenious, groundbreaking and utterly magisterial UK TV series The Office only lasted for two short seasons, a couple of Christmas specials and a feature film, the American adaptation created by Greg Daniels romped through to a hugely successful nine seasons, running with much critical and fan acclaim from 2005 through to 2013. Starring the brilliant Steve Carrell as doltish, hilariously uninformed but ultimately well-intentioned boss Michael Scott, and John Krasinski, Jenna Fischer, Rainn Wilson and B.J Novak as his long suffering (and in some cases) equally insufferable staff, The Office takes the classic office set-up and pushes it right to the comic edge. The laughs are smart, the comedy is knowing, and the cast is absolutely brilliant. “When you’re casting, you look for funny people, not good-looking people,” The Office creator Greg Daniels once said of his show’s success. “Not to say my cast isn’t nice-looking – but they’re mostly character actors, and they’re mostly funny people.” In 2016, Rolling Stone Magazine named The Office one of the 100 greatest television shows of all time.

COMMUNITY (2009-2015)

Created by Dan Harmon, and zinging and stinging with meta-humour and hilarious pop culture references, the brilliant Community follows the singularly peculiar but utterly loveable staff and students enrolled and working at Greendale Community College in Colorado. Comedian Joel McHale leads a great ensemble cast (Gillian Jacobs, Danny Pudi, Yvette Nicole Brown, Alison Brie, Donald Glover, Ken Jeong, Chevy Chase, and Jim Rash) as Jeff Winger, a lawyer who is disbarred and suspended from his law firm when it is discovered that he lied about having a bachelor’s degree from Columbia University. To earn a legitimate degree, Jeff enrolls at Greendale Community College in Colorado, where he becomes another curious cog in this strangely spinning wheel. Over six very strong seasons, Community developed a highly committed cult audience and won over critics in huge numbers. “We’re all there together all the time,” star Chevy Chase has said of the chemistry that makes Community work. “It’s a seven-person thing. The charm has to lie not just with the writing, but with the individual performers. Each one has to count, and I could run down the list and say what makes each one compelling and fun to watch. They’re terrific, I like them all.”

PARKS AND RECREATION (2009-2015)

As if creating the US version of The Office wasn’t enough, Greg Daniels at the same time (in collaboration with Michael Schur) delivered another modern classic in the charming form of Parks and Recreation, which ran for seven seasons from 2009 through to 2015, and amassed an army of loving fans. The series stars comic titan and Saturday Night Live legend Amy Poehler as the impossibly perky Leslie Knope, a mid-level bureaucrat in the Parks Department of the fictional town of Pawnee, Indiana. Though the show really runs off Poehler’s brilliant comic energy, the supporting cast is equally excellent, with Rashida Jones, Aziz Ansari, Nick Offerman, Aubrey Plaza, Chris Pratt, Adam Scott, Paul Schneider, Rob Lowe, Jim O’Heir, Retta, and Billy Eichner all delivering hilarious work. “It’s wonderful that Leslie means a lot of things to so many people,” Poehler has said of her leading character. “It’s so cool to see her used as a representation of community, hard work and taking care of each other. And it’s one of my proudest achievements that we were able to end the show eloquently, on our own terms.”

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