Going to work doesn’t necessarily have to be fun, but it helps if you’re surrounded by fun people. And great television has for decades made the most of those environments by bringing eclectic characters together for the official purpose of making a paycheck — but with maybe the side benefit of forming something like a family. Below are seven shows that will make you jealous you don’t work with the people on screen. Though, in a few cases, you’ll maybe appreciate your competent, non-wise-cracking office assistant a little more.
“NewsRadio” was a fantastic 90s workplace comedy, one of the greats of the genre that most likely would have lasted much longer than five seasons were it not for the loss of one of its main actors. Following the employees of a news radio station, “NewsRadio” starred Dave Foley, Maura Tierney, Vicki Lewis, Joe Rogan, Khandi Alexander, Andy Dick, Stephen Root and Phil Hartman. The show wast perfectly cast, with each actor portraying their characters’ eccentricities to just the right comedic point, never going over, and featured quality female characters in Tierney, Alexander and Lewis (whose wacky characterizations were subsequently stolen by Kathy Griffin for “Suddenly Susan”). Root, who we’re now used to playing blubbering goofs, was a logical yet eccentric millionaire, and yes, even Rogan had expert comedic timing as the station’s handyman.
After Phil Hartman was tragically killed, the show handled his death with respect and dignity, but when John Lovitz took over, everyone expected that he would fail miserably and the show would tank. Thankfully, Lovitz fit right in and created his own character that fit within the mesh of the station without disrespecting the memory of Hartman; “NewsRadio” was not only a great example of a show centered around the workplace, but one of the most underrated comedies in TV history. (Casey Ciprani)
Really? An office comedy in a hospital? Where’s the comedy come from? And where’s the office? Zach Braff’s star-making sitcom (for better or worse) answered both questions with exuberant creativity, introducing doctors, surgeons, and nurses who formed a collective representation of a large and scary building one has to visit daily. J.D., Turk, Carla, Dr. Cox, Elliot and more made Sacred Heart Hospital a life-affirming place to work, rather than an enormous place made to take people away.
At the heart of the show was the battle between J.D.’s goofy optimism and Dr. Cox’s determined pessimism. Neither gave much ground, with both winning and losing plenty of battles regarding the proper demeanor for various occasions (both within the hospital and outside of it). But both men — and their co-workers — formed a family in a place where many are destroyed. It became a defining characteristic of their lives, and thus a representation of their life’s work. A hospital may not immediately spring to mind when thinking of a modern office, but these people made it their own, with all the benefits (and detriments) of a more conventional location. (Ben Travers)
As head writer during the early millennium heyday of “Saturday Night Live,” and host of the show’s Weekend Update segment, everyone knew that Tina Fey was destined to make great comedy. When she announced that she was leaving to create her own show, audiences were sad that “SNL” was losing one of its best voices, especially since the women of the early 2000s era were getting some great material. But thankfully, “30 Rock” proved to be a fantastic comedy, one in which the workplace was loosely based on Fey’s own at SNL, and thus felt believable no matter how ridiculous things got.
Fey played Liz Lemon, the producer of a sketch comedy show that starred fame-hungry Jenna (Jane Krakowski) and immature Tracy (Tracy Morgan), with Alec Baldwin as the head honcho of the network who simultaneously acted as Lemon’s face of encouragement and obstacle to get around. The hilarity came from Lemon trying to orchestrate the writers room, the requests of childish actors, and the evil face of corporate media with that special “every woman” Tina Fey flare.” (Casey Ciprani)
“Parks and Recreation”
If every office worked like Leslie Knope’s Parks and Recreation Department, no one would ever complain about going to work. With the oddball characters, constant communal activity, and, most of all, the undying spirit of optimism, Pawnee’s most appealing government branch is the best place to be in the city. It properly embodies both the spirit of its occupants and the show itself: innocent, easily overlooked, and shockingly important.
Like many successful office comedies, such as “The Office,” “Parks and Recreation” illustrates the vital nature of some unsung occupations. Without Leslie & co., the town of Pawnee could even be dead (from obesity). They certainly wouldn’t have experience the joy of meeting Lil’ Sebastian, or rocked out at last year’s Unity Concert (featuring the public unveiling of Duke Silver). It may not seem as necessary as some other public services, but life without the efforts of these people wouldn’t be nearly as joyous — and the same could be said for life without “Parks and Recreation.” (Ben Travers)
Until “Archer” became “Archer: Vice” in Season 5 — when traditional office politics took a backseat to life on the mean, drug-peddling streets of Miami — the ISIS workplace played a central role on the show. It became a character, even, to use a term exhausted by both TV writers and journalists. From Episode 1 onward — when Malory introduces the immortal quote, “Because that’s how you get ants” after a box of donuts lays scattered across the floor — “Archer” repeatedly references some of the more lackluster themes of working for the man by repurposing them in a new light: Working for the man as a spy.
Turns out it’s not as cool as it sounds, despite Archer’s insistent attempts to make it so, in part because of the business-first attitude of the boss lady. Malory is in it for the money, not saving the world or serving her patriotic duty. It’s a private company and one designed to walk away with as much cash as possible, legally or otherwise. Even in “Archer: Vice,” the dynamic created by the characters’ primary existence within an office remains: Malory takes charge; Lana (the one competent member of the team) pushes people toward the right path while always being kept a step from the top seat; Kreeger secretly experiments in the basement (the rogue office worker); Pam and Cheryl/Carol/Cherlene do whatever they want (as all bad assistants do); and Archer is the resident badass/nepotism hire who produces just enough to get away with all his reckless antics. He may flirt with the DANGER ZONE — and introduce many of the office romances — but he (almost) always brings home the bacon. (Ben Travers)
Winner of numerous BAFTAs and International Emmys, British sitcom “The IT Crowd” was on the air for four fun-loving seasons between 2007-13. Starring Chris O’Dowd (“Girls,” “Calvary”) and Richard Ayoade (who recently directed “The Double”), the show is set in the London offices of the fictional Reynholm Industries, revolving around the three staff members of the IT department: Awkward nerds Maurice (Ayoade) and Roy (O’Dowd), and Jen (Katherine Parkinson), the department head, who knows nothing about technology.
At its best, “The IT Crowd” was absolutely hilarious, playing upon well-known office-based tropes with a unique twist. The series, entirely written and directed by Graham Lineham (“Father Ted,” “Black Books”), is pretty low-key most of the way through while graciously touching upon the absurd; It also featured a few guest spots by funnymen Matt Berry, Chris Morris (“Veep,” “Brass Eye,” “Four Lions”) and Noel Fielding (“The Mighty Boosh”) as the mild-mannered Goth Richmond. (Oliver MacMahon)
Not many people may consider a police station to be your typical office environment, but the fine folks in the 99th precinct sure make it feel familiar. Coffee is sipped. Performance reviews handed down. Group outings are planned. There’s even a clear hierarchy, at the top of which is Captain Roy Holt, a stern man trying to run an efficient office with one central clown in the way. That’d be Detective Jake Peralta, who first refused to tuck in his shirt and moved on to larger pranks like fire extinguisher races using desk chairs in the middle of a work day. The duo’s adorable bashing of brains is only part of the fun for viewers: What really hooks us is their lively interpretation of the day-to-day grind of precinct life. (Ben Travers)
Indiewire has partnered with Pivot TV and its new series “Human Resources” – a new reality series about TerraCycle, an innovative company whose mission is to “eliminate the idea of waste.” TerraCycle is one of the fastest growing green companies in the world, and they’ll take anything and everything that is landfill-bound — from potato chip bags to cigarette butts — and recycles, up-cycles, re-uses, or otherwise transforms these objects into something else. The series is now airing Fridays at 10pm ET/PT — find out more here.