Universal // 2011 // 530 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // September 2nd, 2012
"Erin, when you recount your day, never say that you woke up. That's a waste of your time. That's how every day is begun for everyone since the dawn of man." -- Robert California (James Spader)
It's another year in Pennsylvania with everyone's favorite office drones. Although their fearless leader, Michael Scott (Steve Carrell, Crazy Stupid Love), has flown the coop to be with the one he loves (Amy Ryan, Gone Baby Gone), everyone else must carry on as their office gets a new shake up, a new CEO, and a brand new product to push (an electronic tablet, like the iPad, only in the shape of a triangle and three pounds heavier). You can follow all of The Office: Season 8's misadventures on Blu-ray care of Universal Home Entertainment.
There's big changes happening in Scranton. With the departure of Michael Scott, Dunder-Mifflin finds a replacement in Andy "Nard Dog" Bernard (Ed Helms, The Hangover). Andy wasn't the first choice, though. The reptilian Robert California (James Spader, Less Than Zero) was somehow able to convince CEO Jo (Kathy Bates, Misery) to give him HER job title. As a power struggle ensues, the Scranton branch soldiers on. Pam (Jenna Fisher, Blades of Glory) and Jim (John Kraskinski, Leatherheads), and Angela (Angela Kinsey) and the Senator are having babies...both couples naming their boys Phillip. Kevin (Brian Baumgartner, Licence to Wed) is still rocking his new toupee, while Dwight (Rainn Wilson, The Rocker) hits some new highs (Angela's baby might be a Schrute!) and lows (he lost out on the manager job). Erin (Ellie Kemper, Bridesmaids) still pines for Andy, while Kelly (Mindy Kaling, The Five Year Engagement) contemplates what it would mean to win the lottery (answer: $1 salary). The rest of the crew struggles with various issues -- most notably Daryl (Craig Robinson, Hot Tub Time Machine) wooing one of the warehouse workers -- as the clock ticks down towards the end of the work day.
The Office holds a special place in my heart. Around 2005, after a self imposed thee year network TV exile (having gotten rid of cable and just watched movies), I came back into the fold with sitcoms, police procedurals, and reality TV. One of the first programs I began watching was The Office. This was after much protest, as I had fallen head over heels in love with the original UK version on DVD. In my relenting, I quickly fell in love with this cast of loony characters as well. The differences between the UK and American versions are vast; whereas Ricky Gervais' show was far more subtle and subversive, Steve Carrell's take skews slightly more slap-sticky and goofy. Although I still give the edge to UK (maybe because it never had time to wear out its welcome), I'll always love those wonderful little Dunder-Mifflinites.
The Office has been been running now for eight years. It's a series that peaked in Season Three and has steadily gone downhill since. To be clear, when I say its "gone downhill," I don't mean it has become terrible. The show is still funny, silly, and uncomfortably entertaining. Yet it's clear the golden age is far in the past. The end of the Season Seven brought the departure of Steve Carell's Michael Scott, arguably the glue that held The Office together. After Michael's farewell, fans were left wondering if the show could continue on without its drunken captain. It was clear the successor would be Ed Helms' Andy Bernard, one of the most popular characters. The writers even made a decision to bring on new characters, including the enigmatic and forthright Robert California, who gained a lot of mileage out of being creepily intoxicating.
Without Michael Scott, The Office flourishes and flounders. There are moments in Season Eight where I was happy to see some of the periphery characters front and center, and yet I still missed the focus the creators put on Steve Carell. While it's a gas to see Toby Flenderson (producer Paul Lieberstein) and Creed ('60s rocker Creed Bratton) garner more screen time, the series feels stuffed to the gills (Have you seen the cover art for this Blu-ray set? 'Nuff said). I haven't even touched on the show's token gay character Oscar (Oscar Martinez), the boozy Meredith (Kate Flannery), or "big personality" Phyllis (Phyllis Smith) because, frankly, there just isn't enough time. That's how it feels: there isn't enough time for each character to have their moment in the sun.
Season Eight runs the gamut from amusing to boring. One episode in particular ("Tallahassee") fails to gain some big laughs from Dwight's emergency appendectomy. Dwight, being the persistent fool he is, actually leaves the hospital and comes back to a seminar to show off for his superiors, thus ensuring himself a higher position at the office. Unfortunately, Dwight's sickly return never gets the laughs it planned for, with the character coming off as sweaty and foolhardy. Yet for every episode that falls flat, there are two that shine. One episode finds Dwight installing a doomsday device in the office to get better productivity out of the workers. Another features Daryl's depression, as his warehouse worker buddies win a million dollar lottery pool that, as a white collar worker, he's not longer a part of. Happily, this season also marks the return of one of my favorite characters: former General Manager David Wallace (Andy Buckley, The Other Guys) in a fun cameo that hints at more to come in Season Nine.
One of the aspects I've loved most about The Office is that it doesn't go for cheap laughs or cheap sentiment. I've enjoyed watching the strange friendship/enemyship (is that even a word?) between Jim and Dwight, never more prominent than in Season Eight. Small moments count, as when Jim is forced to share a hotel room with Dwight at a seminar, and share a bowl of dessert while watching TV in bed. In another episode, the employees at Dunder-Mifflin freak out when they find a list split down the middle and names on each side. As the story comes to a close, Pam holds up a list that Jim "accidentally" dropped by her desk, one side naming off his family and the other stating "everyone else." These are the moments that make The Office more than just a sitcom; it's a show with true heart.
Though the show has had a respectable and successful run, you can feel the writers are straining to keep this ship righted. I'm happy to hear The Office plans to bring back old faces for one last send-off.
Presented in 1.78:1/1080p high definition widescreen, each episode sports a very attractive transfer. One of the show's conceits is that it's shot on video, so the image isn't always meticulous or perfect. That said, I don't have any complaints about how good these transfers look. The colors are rich and vibrant (even though it takes place in an office most of the time) and the black levels are solid. Universal has made this a combo set, meaning on one side is the Blu-ray, while the flipside contains a standard def DVD copy.
The DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track is good, but not great...and it doesn't need to be. The show is dialogue-driven, so aside from the bouncy theme song, there aren't a lot of moments where side speakers or surround sound effects are deployed. There are times where ambient noise and sound effects come into play (slamming doors, people running), but they are few and far between. Also included on this disc are English and Spanish subtitles.
Fans will be disappointed to find nary a commentary here, unlike each of the previous seven releases. What we do get are 100 minutes of deleted scenes (most are a lot of fun to watch, though rightly cut), two "Producers' Cut" episodes ("Angry Andy" and "The Fundraiser") that are a bit longer than the usual episodes, a blooper reel, two short webisodes, and some network promos.
As much as I still find a place for it on my Tivo, the show just isn't the
same without Steve Carell. The Office: Season 8 may be one of the weakest
seasons in the series' run, but even weak episodes are funnier than most other
comedies on network television. I'll be looking forward to seeing how creator
Greg Daniels and his time wrap things up. Until then, this is a decent purchase
for hardcore fans, but casual viewers will want to rent or stream.
Worth two staplers in the hand and one in the Xerox machine.
Review content copyright © 2012 Patrick Naugle; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 530 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Deleted Scenes
* Blooper Reel
* Extended Episodes
* DVD Copy
* Official Site