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The Office Hired A Camera Operator From Survivor To Make The Documentary Elements Feel More Accurate

While the U.S. version of "The Office" would obviously not have existed without Ricky Gervais' original British series, a large part of its success can be attributed to the mockumentary format. According to FirstPost, the term "mockumentary" first became popularized in the 1980s with the iconic film "This is Spinal Tap." Vanity Fair suggests that the realness of "The Office" is what made it work, as opposed to other TV shows that "offer wish-fulfillment or a fantasy of a different life." "The Office" depicts an ordinary world in an unglamorous location that was less about the viewer's aspirations and more about finding the extraordinary in the mundane. And, because of the mockumentary style of the show, that boring realism was thrown into sharp contrast.

Shows such as Gervais' "The Office" and Canada's "Trailer Park Boys" brought the mockumentary format to mainstream TV in the early '00s. Though it mostly ended with the conclusion of "Modern Family" in 2020, popular shows such as "What We Do in the Shadows" and "Abbott Elementary" continue using the format in 2022. The mockumentary style was so important to the U.S. version of "The Office" that, in order to portray a realistic documentary style, the creators brought in a reality television camera operator to lend to the authenticity.

Creator Greg Daniels made the call

In the 2020-released book, "The Office: The Untold Story of the Greatest Sitcom of the 2000s," creator Greg Daniels revealed how he came to hire a director of photography who had worked on reality television before. "I wanted to find someone to DP from reality television, and [executive producer] Ben Silverman had worked with this brilliant guy, Randall Einhorn, who was a camera operator on 'Survivor,'" Daniels said (via SlashFilm). Einhorn's career took off after "The Office," continuing to direct and produce television including other mockumentary sitcoms such as "Parks and Recreation" and "Abbott Elementary," but also some other non-mockumentary shows like "Nurse Jackie."

In an interview with Gold Derby, Einhorn, who was nominated for two Emmy Awards for his work on "Survivor," explained how his experience on "The Office" informed his work on "Abbott Elementary." "I think shows like 'The Office' and 'Parks and Recreation' have certainly laid a lot of groundwork for viewers understanding what they're watching... but certainly the interview techniques, I learned a lot about that from 'The Office.' If I want a more agitated response from somebody, I might ask them in a bit more of an aggressive nature or a way that might bristle them a little bit, and they'll inevitably give me a stronger answer, which is really fun." So it would seem that the American version of "The Office" is the blueprint for all the other mockumentary shows that followed, which explains why the format remains so popular.