In The Office, the workers seem remarkably willing to allow the documentary crew to follow them even to places outside of work (from Michael's improv class to the christening of Jim and Pam's child).

Is this because they were being paid for their participation in the documentary, which required a degree of compliance?

In-universe, the documentary aired on PBS (which is unlikely to have paid them), but as PBS doesn't usually produce its own documentaries in-house, it seems to me perfectly plausible that they were paid by the production company which later sold the documentary to PBS (even if I have no evidence of this either way).

  • It's not a documentary, so yes all the actors were paid...
    – Dave
    Dec 26, 2021 at 12:36
  • 2
    @Dave In universe, it is a documentary, and we even see the documentary airing in universe. Obviously, I was referring to in universe, because I said Michael instead of Steve Carell and Pam instead of Jenna Fischer...
    – officeq123
    Dec 26, 2021 at 13:23
  • Note that the whole "documentary" thing was abandoned very quickly, at least in the US version. It was a neat trick to explain why characters were breaking the fourth wall all the time, but in the end, breaking the fourth wall works the same way whether there is an in-universe explanation or not, so the writers just dumped the whole documentary idea. For example, Deadpool works just as well without an explanation, and in Doom Patrol, Mr. Nobody is literally narrating the story, knows that he is in a comic, and even knows that he is the narrator and can change the story through his narration, … Jan 5, 2022 at 10:09
  • … again, with no real explanation as to why (apart from the typical comic strip science "multiple dimensions" blabla). Jan 5, 2022 at 10:10
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    The documentary thing was absolutely not abandoned very quickly, or at all. The characters occasionally address them directly throughout the series and the documentary crew takes on an actual role in the action late in the series, with one of them actually appearing on camera. In the final season, the characters watch the documentary and attend a panel discussion on the documentary and a party hosted by PBS.
    – ruffdove
    Jun 13, 2022 at 2:25

1 Answer 1


It is implied that they did not.

There is never any mention of payment from PBS, and in the second half of the finale episode it is strongly implied that they were not compensated. At the warehouse party near the end, Phyllis goes to take a documentary promotional mug and the PBS employee at the table takes it back and states "That's for PBS executives only." Stanley who is standing nearby sardonically states that he had to pledge $50 to PBS just to get a tote bag with his picture on it. The implication here is that PBS paid them nothing and is even being stingy with the merchandise produced for the documentary.

According to a line from the first part of the finale, PBS did pay for Darrel and Andy (and presumably other characters no longer living in Scranton) to fly to Scranton for the panel discussion where fans of the documentary were allowed to ask them questions. It was strange, though that Andy flew from Ithaca (where he worked at Cornell) to Scranton--a trip of only a little over 100 miles--and Toby from New York to Scranton--only about 120 miles.

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