One of the many perks of American Studies is the wide variety of content its broad parameters cover. This coming term we’re going to be studying a film and visual culture module, which got me thinking about all my favourite American movies and sitcoms. By far my favourite TV show, including British ones, has to be Parks and Recreation, an American “mockumentary” based on the parks and recreation department of local government in Pawnee. You may be wondering where I’m going with this, don’t worry, I’m wondering that too.
It dawned on me that almost all of my favourite TV shows tend to adopt this “mockumentary” format (a mockumentary is a mock documentary for those of you not in the know) which is obviously quite telling of my sense of humour. I’m not a huge fantasy fiction or sci-fi fan, although I occasionally dabble in the Lord of the Rings films, and far prefer some real life comedic drama which tends to be far more relatable. This mockumentary style has become increasingly popular in the past few years thanks to shows such as Parks and Rec and The Office. Although it’s undeniable that the original British Office ignited the mockumentary flame, American writers and producers have latched on and run with the idea. Often appealing to a far dryer and arguably wittier sense of humour (I’m probably not even that much wittier than you dw), the format of these kind of shows usually follows a group of people, typically in a work environment, going about normal everyday actions. What makes these shows so addictive is the connection you form to the characters as a result of the high quality acting which lulls you into a false sense of belief; these aren’t actors and this isn’t fake, this is all real, yet just really really funny. The mockumentary style allows the actors to break the fourth wall (look into the camera for those of you still not in the know), engaging directly with the audience and often providing some of the most amusing moments in the shows.
I could honestly ramble on for hours with relentless praise for the mockumentary and Parks and Rec in particular, however I feel I’ve wandered off on a tangent and should probably steer it back towards the original point. Believe it or not the original point of this post was to a )show appreciation for the diversity and broad spectrum of subjects that my course allows me to delve into and b) let others know what a diverse and contextually relevant course American studies is (just don’t expect to watch Parks and Rec or The Office in your lecture).