Universal // 2010 // 604 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Daryl Loomis // September 13th, 2010
"R" is among the most menacing sounds. That's why they call it murder, not muckduck.
It's been a wild ride for the folks at Dunder Mifflin Paper Company. When we last left the Scranton branch, Michael Scott (Steve Carell, Date Night) had started a paper company of his own only to sell it back to Dunder Mifflin and return as manager. Jim (John Krasinski, Leatherheads) finally asked Pam (Jenna Fischer, Walk Hard) to marry him and love is in the air. All is not right in Scranton, PA, however. Is year six the one where the show finally jumps the rails? Maybe not completely, but enough is wrong with the show to make me deeply worry for its future.
Twenty-five episodes over four discs make up The Office: Season Six.
* "The Meeting"
* "The Promotion"
* "The Lover"
* "Koi Pond"
* "Double Date"
* "Shareholder Meeting"
* "Scott's Tots"
* "Secret Santa"
* "The Banker"
* "The Manager and the Salesman"
* "The Delivery"
* "St. Patrick's Day"
* "New Leads"
* "Happy Hour"
* "Secretary's Day"
* "Body Language"
* "The Cover-Up"
* "The Chump"
Individually, I love the characters in the sixth season of The Office as much as ever, but as a whole, the series takes a sharp downturn. You could feel it coming in Season Five, and the day has arrived; The Office is not what it once was. The sharp wit that was its hallmark has been replaced by decidedly lazy writing. In nearly every episode, the entire cast gets together en masse to confront one character about some issue they have. It makes it easy for the writers to fill time by having all their people together in one place to tell one joke each, but it's a gimmick that makes no sense. If one character has to go someplace, everybody has to follow; whether it's the wedding, the birth, an adult arcade, or wherever; it's an irritating convenience. Many episodes barely have a b-plot at all, and it makes for some occasionally very tedious viewing.
Mostly, though, my beef with this season of The Office is the progression of Jim and Pam's relationship. The thing that made the show unique was how, after each episode, I felt worse than I did before it started. Sure, there were points where I laughed hysterically, but the final uncomfortable, frustrating, or downright sad moments were what hooked me. No television comedy had really done that to me before. Once the pair finally got together, the inevitable result of having no further complications to force them through, the dramatic thrust quickly dropped out and was replaced by an unwelcome sweetness that was completely out of step with what the show had spent four-and-a-half seasons building. This season, they ratchet that sweetness up considerably. Not only do we get a wedding and a baby, but new romance blooms between Andy (Ed Helms, The Hangover) and Erin (Ellie Kemper, Get Him to the Greek). I think it's become clear that I absolutely need my entertainment packed with romance and, especially, babies. The Office simply isn't the same when everything works out okay. Worse than anything, the writers condescend to a clip show, full of Michael reminiscing about the great times, even those he wasn't privy to. What, am I watching Growing Pains here? If you like your sitcoms conventional, this is the season for you.
Whatever I think about the content of the season, the Blu-ray release from Universal is fabulous in every regard. Shot in HD and presented that way, the image looks better than broadcast. It is very consistent throughout the series; with an extremely sharp picture, brilliant whites, deep blacks, and perfectly deep colors. The detail is sharp in exteriors and interiors alike and, overall, you really can't ask for a lot more from the visual side. The audio, while perfectly fine, is not a terribly dynamic mix. Office spaces aren't the most sound-intensive places in the world, so one can't expect a whole lot, and with strong clarity in all speakers and a good balance, it satisfies just fine.
The rest of the presentation is very good except for the packaging, which has two discs jammed into either side of a fold-out in such a way that you have to bend the discs to get them out. It probably doesn't damage the discs, but it seems like it would, and there are certainly more efficient ways to package the set. It does do very well with the supplements, however. Each disc contains five to ten minutes of deleted scenes for each episode, totaling over two hours of extra laughs, all out of context. Disc One features two commentaries for the "Niagara" episode -- the wedding -- the first from writer Greg Daniels and director Paul Feig, the second from a more varied selection of the crew. Both shed a lot of light on the making of an episode and are good fun. Disc One also provides the BD-Live access, which currently contains nothing pertaining to the series, but will soon at the very least give people access to the first few episodes of Season Seven just after it airs. Disc Two is more of the same, with a commentary on the episode "Murder," one of the best of the season, and one for "Secret Santa," which is not a very good episode, though we're treated to an extended version of it as an additional bonus. Disc Three features commentaries on "The Delivery" and "Happy Hour" episodes, as well as the "Welcome to Sabre" training video, which really should have been funnier. Disc Four has no commentary track, but does feature a blooper reel and an original short called "The Podcast" that tries to ingratiate audiences to a new character, but to little effect. Likewise, three short bits from characters are amusing promos for the Vancouver Olympics, but nothing special. In pure advertisement, we are given the second episode of the series Parks and Recreation, which was not as good as I'd heard. It's a large quantity of extras, but there is little of consequence. Still, it's a strong set overall.
Yes, the writing ranges from mediocre to miserable, but the characters, and most importantly, the actors behind them are as good as ever; the problems come from the situations, not the performances. The relationship between Kelly (Mindy Kaling, License to Wed) and Ryan (producer B.J. Novak, Inglourious Basterds) has come around nice and uncomfortable, and I absolutely love Angela (Angela Kinsey, Career Suicide) this season, but the successes of the season hinge on Rainn Wilson (Juno). Dwight Schrute is pure brilliance, the best comic character on television today. Dwight is the king of the nerds and irresistible to women. He's an exercise in absurd Randian misogyny, and I can't get enough. His fight with himself in the "Murder" episode is one of the funniest bits the show has ever produced. There are plenty of little gems like this throughout the episodes, but they don't come near often enough to save the season.
I love The Office, but I wish it hadn't devolved into predictable settings and conventional sitcom storytelling. There are still a few very good moments, but the series takes a steep downturn in Season Six.
There may still be hope for the series, but Season Six is guilty.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 604 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Extended Episode
* Episode Commentaries
* Deleted Scenes
* Short Films
* Bonus Episode
* Official Site