It goes without saying that “The Office” is often considered the pinnacle of workplace television. Everything about it signals its quintessential-ness as the height of office TV, starting with its title. But in the shadow of Michael Scott’s “That’s-what-she-saids” and the other high jinks of Dunder Mifflin are a wide range of workplace TV shows. From cubicle-based shows with similar settings to other workplaces, step outside of Scranton and into some other series that take place almost entirely at work.
“Grey’s Anatomy” was the first show produced by Shondaland, showrunner and creator Shonda Rhimes’ production company, and is often considered the centerpiece of Rhimes’ cable empire. The show is also iconic as one of TV’s best, soapiest hospital-based procedural dramas. The work-life balance is often a central conflict in the series, as the surgeons, nurses and other staff members at Seattle Grace contend with constant drama both in the operating room and in their personal lives. Seasons one through 14 are all Netflix, so get ready for a binge-worthy session of hospital drama.
“Workaholics” is a kind of spiritual sibling to the template brought forth by the “The Office” or arguably the original British series — at least in the sense of zany misadventures of a cast of inept office workers. This series, which ran on Comedy Central, is definitely raunchier, with the story following three college friends-turned-co-workers at a generic telecommunications company. Their exploits are split between the office, where they often cause problems with their co-workers, and the house they share together. Workaholics is a bro-y, fratted-up answer to the workplace comedy, with a stream of dirty jokes and pranks to boot.
Liz Lemon, the central character of “30 Rock” played by Tina Fey, is an icon of the archetypal “career woman trying to have it all” who seemingly fails in her pursuits in every way, until she doesn’t (by marrying James Marsden’s character and starting a family). The show was inspired by show creator Fey’s experience as head writer at SNL, with a healthy dose of the surreal, which builds as the series progresses. This show shines in its one-liners, so if you’re looking for a gem of the mid-aughts, this is a great show. Bonus: Check out the show’s semi-snarky homage to fellow workplace drama Grey’s Anatomy in “I Do Do” episode 22, season four.
“Veep” is somewhat startling to watch right now, as it serves as a funhouse mirror — though not always fun — of some of the political events going on in the present. In the show, Julia Louis-Dreyfus plays the titular VP, Selina Meyer, who rises and falls in her political position and personal life, all the while her (sometimes) loyal staff jumps in for the ride. This show succeeds as another case study of people whose jobs are their entire lives, and how the personal and professional intersect in hilarious ways. The characters are deplorable, annoying and sometimes relatable, all timed up with whip-smart dialogue. If Capitol Hill is your workplace of choice, this is the show for you.
To round out the range of workplaces, “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” is a great option for a cop drama: it’s consistently hilarious, with a well-rounded cast of characters that goes against the grain of the typical workplace drama roster. The show centers around the members of the 99th Precinct, with Jake Peralta and Amy Santiago, played by Andy Samberg and Melissa Fumero, as the show’s will-they-or-won’t-they central protagonists. The show’s gravitational force, however, is Andre Braugher’s Captain Raymond Holt, who simultaneously grounds the show with his deadpan delivery and generates some of its funniest moments.
Camryn Bell is the special issues editor. Contact her at