The mockumentary is an underused genre, and quite frankly there simply aren't enough of them being made. To-camera interviews and the pretense of reality are a potent mix for comedy. The mockumentary lives in the offbeat; the moments when it seems the facade has slipped and the characters reveal their true colors. It requires a subtlety and provides a great intimacy. Whether, like me, you're a huge fan of the genre or you haven't really dived into the filmmaking faux fun, here's five of the best available to watch on Netflix.
1. The Office
The granddaddy of mockumentary TV series, The Office (I refuse to write UK; there is only one The Office) is the story of every office job in Britain, circa the year 2000. Ricky Gervais's now-seminal corporate moron David Brent — self-proclaimed joker, self-delusional wise man — is the gift that just keeps on giving. For a total of 14 episodes.
But waylay your disappointment. Rather than stretching out or scrambling for ideas, The Office crams 14 ounces of comedy gold into every episode. It's interminably quotable, GIF-able and thoroughly enjoyable. If you've been living in a Wernham Hogg paper box for the last 15 years and have managed to miss this diamond and remain oblivious to that friend of yours who giggles every time they see a scotch egg, then get on Netflix now.
For me, the best documentaries are those that shine a light on the strange but fascinating obsessions of other people, and being a mascot is certainly that. In fact, this show left me wanting to see an unscripted tell-all about the rise and fall of Sammy the Seahawk. Of course, Mascots is a scripted parody (sort of the theme here) and it boasts a ludicrous list of funny people — Christopher Guest (mockumentary credentials confirmed from This is Spinal Tap), Parker Posy, Zach Woods, Jane Lynch and Chris O'Dowd to name more than a few but not entirely exhaust the list. This film follows the World Mascot Championships and may be a bit hit and miss at times — being that it's in part improvisational — but when it hits, it's real funny. Unconvinced by that? Enjoy some mascot funnies here
3. People Just Do Nothing
Following the fictitious lives of the no-hope pirate radio station Kurupt FM, People Just Do Nothing is now so successful that its characters have enjoyed a far from fictitious spot on the British festival circuit and on BBC Radio One Live Lounge. Yes, really. It's brilliantly funny and harrowingly depressing all at once.
The documentary style is the perfect way to highlight all of our foibles, narcissism and emotional dishonesty. For all its zany characters and cringe-worthy comedy, this truly ensemble series has incredible heart and will make you cry tears of laughter. With writing that's sharp and clever, performances that are painfully true, and timing that is consistently on point, you'll be thankful there's three seasons to get through and a fourth in the pipeline. Fancy a flavor? Here's MC Grindah — lyrical G and best MC.
4. What We Do In The Shadows
An offbeat, off the wall, hanging-from-the-ceiling comedy that follows the day-to-day lives of Wellington’s most average vampires. The combination of banal chitchat and the world of the undead — coupled with ludicrous characters who take themselves entirely seriously — is an absolute winner.
What We Do in the Shadows is fast paced and provides comedy for every minute of its less-than-90-minute run time. The deadpan performances, including Jemaine Clement, make for a hilarious, noteworthy, refreshing comedy. Given its critical and commercial success, hopefully this film, released in 2014, will trigger an interest in the genre and I'll be able to bring you another five corkers come next year.
5. Funny or Die Presents Donald Trump's The Art of The Deal: The Movie
In a world where the news feels more and more like a wacky mockumentary, watch Donald Trump safely consigned to the parodic genre in which he belongs. Written by Joe Randazzo (a former head honcho at The Onion) Donald Trump's The Art of The Deal: The Movie is merciless satire performed by a ridiculously all-star cast. Likely names like Stephen Merchant (Gervais's lanky mate and co-auteur), Patton Oswalt (pro-filibusterer) and Ron Howard (Arrested Development) are joined by unlikely superstar Johnny Depp (Johnny Depp).
Although difficult to watch at times, the team's commitment to making every moment of the film really seem like it was written, directed and starred in by Donald Trump is a solid effort. He quite literally sings the theme tune and relentlessly blows his own trumpet (not as horrendous to watch as the image possibly in your head), all captured in stunning realistic technicolor.
Any other great mockumentaries on Netflix or ones that you just love? Let us know in the comments section.