Universal // 2006 // 574 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Erich Asperschlager // September 4th, 2007
"They call it Scranton! (what?) / The electric city! / Scranton!
(what?) / The electric city! / You like coal mines and you wanna see 'em?
/ Well, check it out yo! / The Anthracite Museum!"
-- from "Lazy Scranton" (A Michael Scott Joint)
It took until the third season for me to give the American version of The Office a chance. I'd already seen the full British series when the first episode of the remake hit NBC in 2005, which, as far as I could tell, used the same script as the British premiere. Freaked out by the strangers filling the office chairs of the original cast I knew and loved, and disappointed by what seemed to be another cheap American knock-off, I changed the channel and didn't look back. Despite pleas from my sister who guaranteed I'd love it, and rumblings that early growing pains had given way to a brilliant comedy in its own right, I kept my distance for two seasons.
I finally decided to give it a chance in the third season, and it was one of the best TV decisions I made that year. By January, my wife and I had gotten caught up with the second season on DVD, and we finished the year looking forward to each new episode, missing it during the breaks, and re-watching them in rerun and NBC-specialty "super-sized" form. Like every other Office fan, we left the season finale cheering and wondering what the fourth season would bring.
While we wait to see what effect the season-ending revelations and changes will have on this upcoming year of The Office, I can't think of a better way to prepare than by revisiting the brilliant third season on DVD. Universal has once again released a standout set, with a truly impressive slate of extras that, as the box says, "work overtime."
The Office: Season Three contains all 22 episodes (23 if you count the combined "Traveling Salesmen/The Return" as two episodes), "super-sized" where applicable, over four discs:
* "Gay Witch Hunt"
Michael tries to maintain control (and demonstrate his sensitivity) after he offends, and accidentally outs, a gay co-worker. Jim (John Krasinski, Jarhead) adjusts to life away from Scranton.
* "The Convention"
Michael and Dwight (Rainn Wilson, The Last Mimzy) are off to party at the Mid-Market Office Supply Convention in Philadelphia, where they meet up with Jim and his new boss, Josh (Chip Esten, Whose Line is it Anyway?).
* "The Coup"
After Michael gets in trouble with Jan (Melora Hardin, Monk) for "Movie Mondays," Angela (Angela Kinsey, License to Wed) convinces Dwight to go behind Michael's back and ask for his job.
* "Grief Counseling"
The death of Michael's former boss upsets him so much he forces the rest of the office into grief counseling.
Dwight takes Ryan (B.J. Novak, Knocked Up) out on his first sales call, a trip that includes a beet seed, a dusty barn, and an open coffin. Meanwhile, back at the office, it's Pretzel Day.
Kelly (Mindy Kaling, Unaccompanied Minors) invites the office to share in her cultural heritage by attending a local Diwali party, a celebration Michael understand as a "Hindu Halloween," which is why he wears a costume.
* "Branch Closing"
Jan informs Michael that the Scranton branch is closing, so he and Dwight head off to persuade Corporate the office should be spared.
* "The Merger"
While Michael does his best to welcome the Stamford workers with the orientation video "Lazy Scranton" (a parody of Saturday Night Live's 2005 viral video hit "Lazy Sunday"), Jim and Pam (Jenna Fischer, Blades of Glory) share an awkward reunion.
* "The Convict"
In this episode, written by series creators Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, Michael is upset to learn that one of the Stamford people is an ex-convict. He's even more upset to learn the rest of the office thinks prison life sounds better than working at Dunder-Mifflin. Who's going to scare them straight? Enter "Prison Mike."
* "A Benihana Christmas"
After Michael's Christmas card gets him dumped, he, Andy, Jim, and Dwight drown his sorrows at a certain teppenyaki restaurant. Meanwhile, Angela's iron-fisted rule over the office Christmas party inspires two of her co-workers to plan a rival party. This is the first of three episodes this season guest-directed by Harold Ramis (Groundhog Day).
* "Back from Vacation"
A "personal" photo of Michael and his traveling companion hits the company e-mail servers -- when he accidentally sends it out.
* "Traveling Salesmen/The Return"
Everyone pairs off on sales calls; Andy schemes to oust Dwight; and Oscar (Oscar Nuñez, Reno 911!: Miami) returns from vacation.
* "Ben Franklin"
Todd Packer (David Koechner, The Naked Trucker and T-Bones Show) convinces Michael "separate but equal" means it's okay to bring strippers into the office: a woman for Bob Vance's party in the warehouse, and a certain Founding Father for Phyllis's shower in the conference room.
* "Phyllis' Wedding"
Phyllis (Phyllis Smith, Arrested Development) gives Michael a part in her wedding, but the six weeks off it earns her for the honeymoon might not be worth the hassle once Michael takes his duties as "Employer of the Bride" too seriously. The most cringe-worthy episode of the year.
* "Business School"
While Michael is away speaking to Ryan's business class, a bat is discovered in the office. When Jim begins exhibiting strange vampiric symptoms, it's up to Dwight to save the office in this episode directed by Joss Whedon (Firefly).
J.J. Abrams (Lost) directed this episode, in which Michael and Jan make their relationship public at a party held at the CFO's house.
* "The Negotiation"
Dwight saves Jim's life but refuses his gratitude; Michael steels himself to withstand Darryl's request for a raise, but it's Michael who ends up in New York, demanding a pay raise of his own.
* "Safety Training"
After a disastrous safety training seminar, Michael is so determined to prove to Darryl (Craig Robinson, Arrested Development) that working in an office is just as dangerous as working in a warehouse, he's willing to risk his life to do it.
* "Product Recall"
A disgruntled paper mill employee puts an obscene watermark on Dunder-Mifflin paper, which sends the office into panic mode. Jim takes Andy to a local high school to do damage control, while Michael and Dwight plan a press conference no one asked them to hold.
* "Women's Appreciation"
After Phyllis gets flashed in the parking lot, Michael takes the office women to the one place they'll feel comfortable enough to open up: the Steamtown Mall. In the end, though, it's Michael who opens up about his troubled relationship with Jan.
* "Beach Games"
Michael gets recommended for a job opening at Corporate, so he uses an office beach excursion as an excuse to choose his Scranton successor through a series of Survivor-style challenges.
* "The Job"
Several office workers drive up to New York and interview for the big Corporate job in this one-hour season finale, full of revelations, suspense, and a couple of big surprises.
With its second season, The Office moved out from under the shadow of its British counterpart. As much as I liked the original -- and at the risk of getting a steaming cup of Earl Grey thrown in my face -- I must admit I prefer the American version, in part because it feels less "mean." Michael Scott (Steve Carell, Little Miss Sunshine) may be self-centered, insensitive, and horrible as a manager, but he's not as intentionally cruel as David Brent (Ricky Gervais, Extras), his across-the-pond counterpart -- at least not since Michael's second-season transformation from slick-haired and creepy to lovably oblivious. Call it an American bastardization if you want, but I think the reason The Office works so well is that it has heart. Michael might be childish and wildly insensitive, but he loves what he does.
If I had to choose a word to describe this third season, it would have to be "change." Or maybe "relationships." Maybe both, though that'd be two words. Okay, how about this: if I had to choose one word to describe this third season, it would be "changeationships." We see the "change" part right away, with Jim's transfer to the Stamford, Conn., branch of Dunder-Mifflin, after "the kiss" and Pam's final rebuff. Taking Jim out of Scranton was a bold move, and, though you could argue it wasn't completely successful, it allowed us to see the Scranton gang through the eyes of some great new characters, like Karen Filippelli (Rashida Jones, Freaks and Geeks) and Andy Bernard (Ed Helms, The Daily Show). It also gave us some classic moments, like Jim floundering in an office-wide game of Call of Duty (in "The Coup").
As for relationships, we get to see the cast paired up in all kinds of ways, from the romantic (Michael and Jan, Jim and Karen, Dwight and Angela, Phyllis and Bob Vance of Vance Refrigeration) to the adversarial (Dwight and Andy, Dwight and Michael, Angela and Everybody) to the hilarious (Ryan and Dwight, Ryan and Stanley). Seeing different characters play off each other shakes up the story and, frankly, gives me hope for the show's future: it can only be about Jim and Pam's "will they, won't they" relationship for so long.
This season has everything: romance, betrayal, violence, and several deaths (though at least two of them are birds). There are, in fact, some pretty moving moments, made all the more dramatic by the surrounding absurdity. Characters who spent most of the first two years in the background get chances to shine, and by setting so many storylines out of the office -- at a convention, a wedding, business school, a Diwali celebration -- we get to see Michael embarrass himself in front of brand-new people. Adding to the variety this year are some big-name guest writers (Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant) and directors (Joss Whedon, J.J. Abrams, Harold Ramis). In a season when the writers and actors could easily have relied on the series' popularity and established character quirks to phone it in, they pushed the show in new directions and delivered the best season yet.
Watching these episodes again, I'm amazed by the number of classic Office moments in this season: faxes from "future Dwight," vampire Jim, the cell phone in the ceiling, Ryan's initiation, Michael's unfortunate suit choice, Creed's blog, Prison Mike. If you've seen them, you know what I'm talking about. If not, you're in for a treat. The Office is among a select number of comedies that stay funny through repeat viewings, which -- along with its clean anamorphic video (sans annoying "lower third" ads) -- makes it perfect for DVD.
If infinite replayability isn't a compelling enough reason to buy this set, the quantity (and quality) of extras should have you reaching for your credit card. There are fun diversions, like the vending machine how-to of "Kevin Cooks Stuff in the Office," the winning entries of the "Make Your Own Promo" contest, wraparounds made originally for "Cast of The Office"-hosted evenings on NBC, an apparently fan-made "Dwight Schrute Music Video," a Joss Whedon interview, a blooper reel, and the full "Lazy Scranton" video. What's that? You want more? How about eight commentary tracks that are insightful and funny, recorded by writers, actors, and (on two of them) guest director Harold Ramis? Not enough? Get this: there are deleted scenes for every episode in this set. I know, I know. Most DVD deleted scenes seem like afterthoughts, made up of material that deserved to hit the cutting room floor. If you watched the previous Office DVD sets, however, you'll know that's not the case here. There are over three hours of deleted scenes in this set -- scenes that, in a perfect world, would have made it into the finished shows. Subplots are fleshed out, and hilarious sequences are made more hilarious in the approximately ten extra minutes of footage available for every episode. If you needed another reason to buy The Office: Season Three, this is it.
As much as I loved the extras, my only gripes about this set come from the bonus features. Rather than having the option of playing an episode commentary from the main episode list, you have to go to the "Commentaries" section of the bonus materials menu to find them. It's a minor annoyance, but the extra steps seem unnecessary. Another annoyance is that, unlike the episodes themselves, the deleted scenes are not presented in anamorphic widescreen. I got pretty tired of having to manually change the settings on my set between each episode and its deleted scenes. I guess if you really want to get picky, the DVD cases are designed so two discs overlap each other, forcing you to remove one disc to have access to the one beneath it. I guess that's the price of progress.
For fans of The Office, buying this set is a no-brainer. I'm not even going to call it "the American version," because I think by now it's proven itself, with some of the sharpest writing, funniest acting, and most memorable characters on current network television. If you're new to the series, I'd recommend working your way up through all three seasons. Don't worry, though. It's money well spent, no matter where you have to work to earn it.
Michael Scott may be guilty of many things, but appearing on a lousy DVD ain't one of them. Not guilty!
Review content copyright © 2007 Erich Asperschlager; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 574 Minutes
Release Year: 2006
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Deleted Scenes
* Episode Commentaries
* Excerpts from the 2006 NBC Primetime Preview Hosted by the Cast of The Office
* Toby Wraparounds
* Dwight Schrute Music Video
* Joss Whedon Interview
* Videos from The Office "Make Your Own Promo" Contest
* Blooper Reel
* "Lazy Scranton" Video
* Excerpt from the 58th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards
* Kevin Cooks Stuff in the Office
* Official Site
* DVD Verdict Review of The Office: Season One
* DVD Verdict Review of The Office: Season Two