How Bureaucracy Works, The Show
June 2, 2018 3:39 PM   Subscribe

I have enjoyed the heck out of Animal Airport on Netflix, a show wherein plucky animal handlers at Heathrow battle...late planes! And...improperly completed paperwork! The cute animals are a bonus, but I think what I really like is the behind the scenes look at how complicated systems are worked out day to day. So now I'm wondering...what else can I watch?

I grew up on Animal Planet's various animal cops shows, where animal police officers go through the steps to get seizure orders and cut off ingrown collars and things. I've similarly enjoyed various ER shows (Untold Stories of the ER, but even more so Hospital!, a much more pace-of-life show set in a Toronto ER) and the Airline show which followed Southwest stewards and ticket agents around for a while. Ive tried a few law enforcement shows (Alaska State Troopers was vaguely interesting), but those are generally too tense and make me worry about rights violations. Allowing for the inbred reality tv editing, I'm looking for slow-paced shows that feature a recurring cast of workers doing a job that is not often seen and EDITORS ATTEMPTING TO MAKE PAPERWORK AS DRAMATIC AS POSSIBLE. Any and all tangentially related suggestions welcome, I'm looking to stock up before I start grad school in the fall.
posted by theweasel to Media & Arts (26 answers total) 82 users marked this as a favorite
Also on Netflix: Mega Food. Six episodes to the series, all about what goes into planning and preparing meals for giant venues like giant cruise ships, a huge multistory restaurant, an airline, Sea World, etc. I especially liked the cruise ship one.

It doesn't have recurring characters due to the nature of each episode, but each episode follows 2-4 people engaged at different stages of the process. I found it utterly riveting.
posted by mochapickle at 4:05 PM on June 2, 2018 [12 favorites]

24 Hours In A&E
posted by EndsOfInvention at 4:16 PM on June 2, 2018 [1 favorite]

I loooooooove 24 Hours in A&E, but, just a warning, it's a show about the UK equivalent of an ER--so there is some narrative tension, and often strong emotion. (If you don't mind that after all, really, it's the best.)

BBC tends to be good for this, though--maybe Vicar Academy might be up your alley?
posted by praemunire at 4:28 PM on June 2, 2018 [2 favorites]

Flying Wild Alaska
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 4:34 PM on June 2, 2018 [2 favorites]

Airport:Below Zero chronicles Edmonton International Airport.

For tow trucks, you have Highway Thru Hell and Heavy Rescue 401 which track road crews recovering tractor trailers after accidents.
posted by crazycanuck at 5:00 PM on June 2, 2018 [1 favorite]


Please continue, good people of AskMe.
posted by theweasel at 5:29 PM on June 2, 2018

Parking Wars?
posted by augustimagination at 5:53 PM on June 2, 2018 [1 favorite]

The Great British Bake Off series are also wonderful people baking things.. with some attempt at minor reality show "drama". But they are all nice and polite, and the MC's are brilliant.
posted by nickggully at 6:49 PM on June 2, 2018

You might try Harrow: A Very British School.
It's not particularly bureaucratic, but it is a leisurely inside look at a famous school.
posted by SLC Mom at 7:27 PM on June 2, 2018 [1 favorite]

There is a show called “the big brain theory” that is kind of like project runway but for like... robots and other advanced machinery. The elimination mechanism means none of the eliminated players leave the show, they just become team players.
It’s really interesting to see their problem solving styles, and ir’s Probably the best show I have seen about leadership and teamwork.

Sadly, only one season, but very worth it.
posted by wowenthusiast at 7:31 PM on June 2, 2018 [1 favorite]

You might like "Breaking Pointe," which is about the dancers in a ballet company. There's a certain amount of narrative tension in who stays and who goes, who gets cast and who doesn't, who parties with whom after work, but it follows the creation and production of a ballet and it was really interesting w/r/t the inner workings.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:39 PM on June 2, 2018 [1 favorite]

Oh man, as much as I love it, Breaking Pointe is ridiculous (though I took a workshop from two particularly dramatic featured cast members, and at least the characters seem accurate and unedited). For a more comprehensive and less melodramatic look at what goes into making a ballet, I'd recommend Ballet 422, which follows New York City Ballet as they choreograph, dance, score, costume, and set design their 422nd ballet. It's beautiful and you get to see all sorts of different peoples' roles in the process of making the ballet - from Justin Peck choreographing to the lighting designer figuring out how to punch up the light without washing out the costumes. I love it. The trailer makes it look like there's more of a narrative and drama, but it's really just the story of this ballet coming together.
posted by ChuraChura at 10:09 PM on June 2, 2018 [4 favorites]

If you're looking for interesting "behind-the-scenes" action, you should check out How It's Made. It's all about manufacturing processes (i.e., how things are made.) There is zero attempt at making it dramatic, it's just a fascinating look at things you might never have thought about. A few seasons are currently available on Hulu.
posted by Johnny Assay at 6:22 AM on June 3, 2018 [1 favorite]

You might like ‘Carrier’, which is a documentary series about life on board an aircraft carrier. The cast of characters includes thrilling work in the cafeteria and maintainence bay.
posted by bq at 12:45 PM on June 3, 2018 [4 favorites]

The show Cheer Squad I think kind of fits this - it is about the inner workings of a professional cheerleading team as they attempt to make it to Nationals. Very inside baseball, but with cheerleading.
posted by sockermom at 5:08 PM on June 3, 2018 [1 favorite]

The BBC's Amazing Hotels series turned out more interesting than I thought it'd be. They spend a fair bit of time behind the scenes at some very different hotels.
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 6:14 PM on June 3, 2018 [2 favorites]

It's tangential at best, but might work for you:

Victorian Farm and Edwardian Farm. Pretty self-explanatory - showing how people farmed and lived back in Victorian/Edwardian England. It's completely without tension and totally lovely. A good antidote to the madness of current events and social media.
posted by fso at 6:31 AM on June 4, 2018 [2 favorites]

I love Animal Airport too! You might also like Amazing Hotels: Life Beyond the Lobby where they go to various specialty hotels (huge hotels, hotels in extreme places, etc.) and join staff during various parts of their routines, from the administration to the kitchen to housekeeping. It's better than it sounds (bet you never considered how cleaning works in the ice hotel before).
posted by mosst at 1:43 PM on June 4, 2018

oops, I missed that rhamphorhynchus already suggested that above. Shucks, foiled again!
posted by mosst at 1:44 PM on June 4, 2018

(I also 2nd Cheer Squad. I was tempted to write it off because I didn't know anything about cheerleading, but it's a surprisingly well-produced show that doesn't feel like it was edited for drama.)
posted by mosst at 1:46 PM on June 4, 2018

I was just looking for similar shows, and found (via Youtube; don't know if anyone has US licensing for it) the show Nothing to Declare. Basically, UK Customs and Border Patrol stopping people who smuggle things through customs. Watched a few episodes last night, and it was mostly tobacco / narcotics smuggling. Very similar feel to Animal Airport, but less cute.
posted by Making You Bored For Science at 9:29 AM on June 5, 2018

I have hoped for so long that someone would ask for shows similar to Animal Airport -- it really is the best!

It's significantly higher in conflict, but Nightmare Tenants / Slum Landlords is all about procedure. There's also 'Border Security: Canada's Front Line' and their USA / Australia / New Zealand equivalents -- it gets a little repetitive (Chinese couple brings in massive amounts of food! Party happy young person has traces of cocaine on their bag! Person from poor country tries to work in a rich country without the correct papers! American with DUI is aghast they cannot go to Canada!), but I still like it.

Along the lines of Ballet 422, there's a documentary called The Paris Opera that is about the operation of an opera house, as expected.
posted by batter_my_heart at 9:23 PM on June 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

Drat, apparently 'Border Security: __'s Front LIne' is just 'Nothing to Declare', Netflix-named.
posted by batter_my_heart at 9:25 PM on June 5, 2018

Revising my last comment -- they actually are not the same show. 'Nothing to Declare' always has people smuggling in cigarettes from outside the EU, and people they suspect have swallowed packages of illicit drugs.

But also I found another -- Ultimate Airport Dubai! Seems to cover the maintenance aspects of airplanes as well as customs.
posted by batter_my_heart at 11:21 PM on June 10, 2018

Ok, sorry for the quadruple post, but this one is really good! Heathrow, Britain's Busiest Airport. This episode includes time with the guy whose job it is to keep birds away from the runway (he plays bird distress calls, to no avail), and a bike paramedic, who cycles around the airport with medical supplies in panniers. It is very entertaining!
posted by batter_my_heart at 10:04 PM on June 14, 2018

Ok all, time to close post, you all have been brilliant! Just wanted to add for anyone's future reference, the Norwegian version of "Ice Road Truckers" is Ice Road Rescue and it has been LIFE this 102 degree summer.
posted by theweasel at 4:58 PM on July 3, 2018 [1 favorite]

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