In 2005 the world was introduced to, "The Office" and from that point on it has remained a cherished diversion. The real-life stylings of "The Blair Witch Project" had started a trend and "The Office" capitalized on this style, with a television version of fake reality that easily perched itself high on the bandwagon. It felt like it could really be a documentary about the lives of these people at work - and it was pretty darn funny. In no small part thanks to the zany and mostly lovable characters. Everyone wanted a boss like Michael Scott and some even believed, for a short time, that this show was about a real place and real people.
Here we are now in 2020 and people still love "The Office" but for most, it's just as much about nostalgia than it is about the show itself. The truth is that if "The Office" never was, and one such show was released today, the results in popularity could be vastly different. That reality look that the "Blair Witch Project" made fashionable is gone and for the most part, that look is considered lazy filmmaking - or the hallmark of low budget production. Once upon a time, this style was a gimmick that paid off in spades - now the shine has tarnished and even reality TV shows employ a system of rigs and tripods to keep things smooth and watchable.
So, the question becomes this - can a series modelled from the look and feel of "The Office" stand up to today's younger, and older viewers? Can writer, director Crystal Barnes production "Churched" hold its own? I am personally not a fan of this particular style, and never have been - even fifteen years ago - so to turn my head even a little, "Churched" needed to offer something more than a gimmick - and I had my doubts. "Churched" even uses "The Office" as a promotional tool, further establishing that quite possibly, there's nothing new here - nothing unique. From their own description, modelled after "The Office" but in church. It's a bold move that could alienate today's generation - but let me tell you this reader, "Churched" can and does manage to stand on its own. Throwing the Dunder Mifflin comparisons aside, there's some really good fun to have with this web series - even if you've never stepped foot into a church. For me, as the reviewer - I'm so very glad.
"Churched" follows along with newly minted lead Pastor Stevens, as he bumbles his way through his new duties. Well, perhaps saying it's him that bumbles around is not quite right, rather those around him. We have the expected rag-tag bunch of fellow cohorts including a fruit playing musician, administrative and IT folk, and even the required Bill - not the invoice, rather the person. Every show needs a slightly odd Bill - and this is no exception. Topics range from musical inclusions, edibles, and yes reader - even farts. It can get quite funny and yes, the show really does draw from, "The Office" in its format, and even the feeling you get as you watch. Luckily, it has some funny characters and situations and actually is, thankfully, funny. As I wrote above I've never been a huge fan of the style, but at least watching this show, I laughed more than a few times. It's for this reason that I awarded "Churched" with an above-average score - but honestly, if you are a big fan of "The Office" you just may slip in an extra half star. No question.
Normally at this point, I go into the technical elements of a production. I don't really need to do that here because, well, it looks like it's supposed to look. Moving around cameras and the staged, but seemingly natural happenings of its cast - stopping this format only when the camera is stationary during personal interviews with its characters. Again, much like "The Office" in format. What did surprise me was the audio quality and edit; both were very well done solidifying the fact that although this series employes a laid back look, there's nothing lazy about it. Some care has gone into "Churched" and it really shows.
Another surprising aspect of this series is the large number of talented folks playing the characters of the show, and doing it so darn well. There really is a good number of people here so individual name dropping would literally turn this write up into a novel. So, I'll just say this - these characters all seem to fit right into the style and aesthetic of the show. Nobody feels off and wrong, except when they are supposed to, and nobody really stands out as feeling awkward or anything but real. Over-the-top? Yes, of course, but on purpose for the series. It's all about getting a chuckle here and there but more importantly, it's all about simply creating that comedic atmosphere in general. Even when there isn't a gag taking place in some way, you are expecting one. "Churched" nails the atmospherics that can make or break a production like this. Again, I'm so glad.
At the end of the day? I got a lot more joy out of this series than I would have thought possible. Just another example of not judging a book by its cover. This review contains a lot of references to "The Office" as does the promotions for "Churched" themselves - because there is a lot of similarities between the two shows. However, I believe that if Crystal Barnes and her troupe could get past the self-induced comparisons, "Churched" could stand on its own two feet - without the hyped-up expectations of associating this show with the other. There's a lot here to be proud of and for any potential viewers reading this, you'll get it very quickly - then it all comes down to personal preference. A solid three stars.