Workplace TV comedies: 8 sitcoms about office life that feel like relics from a pre-Covid world

Posted by for Life

These TV shows are about to make you feel very nostalgic for office politics, meetings that could’ve been emails, and literal watercooler chat. 

As coronavirus lockdown restrictions have been eased across the UK, some office workers have begun slowly returning to their desks. Many others, though, are still working from home – prompting experts to predict a shift away from the traditional 9-5 office-based working.

“This whole culture is predominantly based on manufacturing-based working cultures where you had to start the machines at certain times,” Dr Heejung Chung, reader in sociology and social policy at the University of Kent, explained to Stylist

“Even in a lot of factories now, flexi-time and more flexible shift work are possible. So, it’s a habit more than anything to do with productivity and performance measures.”

While there’s no denying that there are many, many perks to working from home (nobody misses the morning commute, the lone office microwave, the al desko lunches, or the meetings that could’ve been emails), though, there are many aspects we miss, too. 

Such as? Well, how about seeing our colleagues IRL. Or hearing someone say they’re popping to Pret, and suddenly deciding on a whim that you’re going to join them. Shooting a meaningful look at your deskmate when there’s the slightest hint of office drama. Walking slowly back to your desk after an unnecessary meeting so you can chat to your favourite colleague for longer. Chatting about last night’s telly. Dressing in something that isn’t loungewear.

Oh god. Tucking into a Colin the Caterpillar cake on someone’s birthday.

Thankfully, there’s a way to relive all the fun of the office without… y’know, without actually going back. We’re talking, of course, about the brilliant office sitcoms and workplace TV comedies that feel like ancient relics from a pre-Covid 19 world.

With that in mind, then…

Ugly Betty

Over the course of four seasons, we watched Betty Suarez (America Ferrara) navigate the cutthroat world of fashion, earn the respect of her Mode colleagues, find the strength to move out of the family home, land a dream job across the pond in London, and stay true to her own style. How’s that for some feel-good fun, eh?

The Office

The Office revolves around the day-to-day lives of office employees in the Slough, Berkshire branch of fictitious Wernham Hogg Paper Company. There’s David Brent, who torments his subordinates with his demands for sociability. There’s Dawn, who’s trapped in some sort of strange inertia. There’s Tim, who feels forced to laugh at his boss’ terrible jokes. And there’s Finch, who always triggers raucous laughter with his casual misogyny. 

While there’s no denying this TV show lacks the warmth of its US reboot, its purposefully uncomfortable humour and dissection of human blindspots still feels relevant all these years later… as does its cautionary tale of sticking with a job you hate for all the wrong reasons.

Parks And Recreation

Leslie Knope, played to perfection by Amy Poehler in Parks And Recreation, is… well, she’s something of an icon to us here at Stylist. Not only is she a hard-working politician, feminist, and champion of female friendship, but she also navigates office life – the good, the bad, and the downright excruciating – with impossibly good cheer. 

What’s not to love, eh?

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

It’s a rogue option, sure, but the fourth and final season of this laugh-out-loud series sees Kimmy working at Giztoob, a tech company started by one of her former classmates at Columbia. No, Kimmy doesn’t really know what Giztoob does (sell internet, maybe?) but she has a great time, all the same. Except when she finds out it’s her job to do the firings on behalf of her boss. Or when she finds out that her introverted colleagues fear her and her brash optimism. Or when she learns what Giztoob actually… well, what Giztoob actually does to make its millions.

Give it a go. You won’t be disappointed.

The Thick Of It

Peter Capaldi’s Malcolm Tucker, a terrifyingly sweary Scotsman, rules the fictitious Department of Social Affairs and Citizenship with an iron fist in The Thick Of It. And Nicola Murray (Rebecca Front) is the weary minister forced to contend with Tucker’s rants, the ineptitude of her staff, and the media’s overwhelming misogyny on a daily basis.

Fair warning: this biting-sharp satire about the inner workings of modern British government feels more relevant than ever before.

The IT Crowd

Ah, we all know and love The IT Crowd. Set in the IT department of a London office (the irony!), this show tells the story of staff members Maurice (Richard Ayoade), Roy (Chris O’Dowd) and their department head Jen Barber (Katherine parkinson)… who knows absolutely nothing about IT.

The Mindy Project

Created by and starring our beloved Mindy Kaling, The Mindy Project follows NYC gynaecologist Mindy Lahiri as she tries to get her romantic life on track… with a little help/hindrance from her offbeat co-workers.

There’s more to it than that, of course. As Sarah Shaffi previously wrote for Stylist: “In a revolutionary move, Mindy’s race wasn’t central to the show. Instead, The Mindy Project was a funny, sweet, sarcastic show about a woman trying to balance her personal and professional life. It framed an Indian woman, and a dark-skinned Indian woman at that, as desirable.”

“In western TV shows,” Shaffi adds, “this was rare.”

Archer

Archer follows the day-to-day adventures of its eponymous character, a sexist and moronic spy loosely based on James Bond. It’s usually set in a mundane-looking office, though, and it’s actually the show’s women who really deserve your attention.  There’s Pam Poovey, the openly bisexual HR director, and Cheryl / Carol Tunt, a wildly self-aware billionaire with a strangulation fetish. There’s Lana Kane, one of the top field agents in the International Secret Intelligence Service – and a working mother, to boot, thanks to her insemination by sperm donor. And there’s Mallory Archer, a former super-spy who manages the entire operation from her luxurious office – when she’s not sleeping with the head of the KGB, and Bert Reynolds, or, you know, anyone else who takes her fancy.

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Main image: Jordin Althaus/Universal Television/Hulu/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.

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