Judge Brendan Babish hasn't had this much fun in an office environment since he brought mistletoe to last year's Christmas party.
Our reviews of The Office (UK) Special Edition (published December 1st, 2011), The Office: Season Three (published September 4th, 2007), The Office: Season Four (published September 2nd, 2008), The Office: Season Five (published September 8th, 2009), The Office: Season Five (Blu-ray) (published September 8th, 2009), The Office: Season Six (published September 7th, 2010), The Office: Season Six (Blu-ray) (published September 13th, 2010), The Office: Season Seven (published September 22nd, 2011), The Office: Season Seven (Blu-ray) (published September 14th, 2011), The Office: Season Eight (Blu-ray) (published September 2nd, 2012), and The Office: Season One (published October 5th, 2005) are also available.
America's stuck in the office.
By now most people know that The Office is a remake of a British comedy series of the same name. The original never attained a large audience in the United States, but it still received enough acclaim to win the 2004 Golden Globe for Best Television Series: Musical or Comedy. Now its American doppelganger has just bagged a much-deserved Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series of 2006. Hot on the heels of this victory Universal is releasing the second season of the American version of The Office on DVD.
Facts of the Case
With Steve Carell's (The 40-Year-Old Virgin) rapid ascendancy into superstardom, his show has become a breakout hit. For that reason, there are few people who aren't familiar with the The Office's simple premise of a mock documentary of the banal and dysfunctional work environmental at Dunder Mifflin, a paper supply company in Scranton, PA. The documentary encompasses all of the company's employees, but its main focus is on Michael Scott (Carell), the needy supervisor whose overbearing—and awkward—humor thinly masks a deeply rooted self-loathing; Dwight (Rainn Wilson, Six Feet Under), Michael's obnoxious toady; Jim (John Krasinski, Jarhead), the mild-mannered pencil pusher whose intelligence is wasted in the corporate environment; and Pam (Jenna Fischer, Slither), an artist who works as a receptionist to pay the bills.
The second season of The Office contains 22 episodes spread out over four discs.
• "The Dundies"
• "Sexual Harassment"
• "Office Olympics"
• "The Fire"
• "The Fight"
• "The Client"
• "Performance Review"
• "E-Mail Surveillance"
• "Christmas Party"
• "Booze Cruise"
• "The Injury"
• "The Secret"
• "The Carpet"
• "Boys and Girls"
• "Valentine's Day"
• "Dwight's Speech"
• "Take Your Daughter to Work Day"
• "Michael's Birthday"
• "Drug Testing"
• "Conflict Resolution"
• "Casino Night"
In my lifetime there have been three great American sitcoms: Cheers, Seinfeld, and The Larry Sanders Show. There have been countless very good sitcoms, but greatness is highly elusive in a medium that seems to reward mediocrity (see According to Jim) and ignore innovation (see Arrested Development). The Office has only aired two seasons, one of which only contained six episodes. Still, on the strength of its second season, The Office shows it has the potential to become the first show of the 21st century to join the pantheon of great situational comedies.
I was a huge fan of the original, British incarnation of The Office. Because of my loyalty to that show I was strongly opposed to an American remake, which I was certain would embarrass everyone involved and diminish the original by association. When I heard Steve Carell was involved it only validated my fears (I am not a fan of Anchorman and found his performance in Bruce Almighty a little broad). Still, I watched the pilot—an almost line-for-line copy of the British show—and though it wasn't as horrible as I had feared, I stopped watching. Over the following months I began to hear mutterings about how much the show was improving. Then, the following year, I began to hear the show was really good. Soon afterward it reached "you have to watch this!" status. Somehow the deafening buzz—and the aggressiveness with which the series was pushed—produced a resistance in me, and I never got around to watching the show until I was assigned to review it.
My biggest fear was that, in an attempt to appeal to American audiences, the show wouldn't retain the abrasiveness and uncomfortable pauses of the original. I suppose part of my fear was rooted in the belief that Americans don't understand or appreciate the humor that comes from the awkwardness of human interactions. It seems like most American sitcoms tend to mine their humor from quips and bad puns, and buttress these with canned laughter, the television equivalent of Astro-Turf. Thankfully, The Office employs no laugh track, and may even ramp up the discomfort of the original. There are some episodes that will probably make you cringe nearly as often as Faces of Death.
What elevates the show into greatness are realistic and well-developed characters and a cast that almost never seems to be trying to make you laugh. Though I had previously had little regard for Carell's comedic talent, The Office, in conjunction with The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Little Miss Sunshine, may have launched him into comedy genius territory in only a few years' time. Additionally, Rainn Wilson's performance as Dwight was criminally overlooked at this year's Emmy Awards. However, one of the most astounding things about The Office is how literally every single cast member brings something to their character. Many of the actors are experienced improv actors, many are writers for the show, and a few are actual office workers. The show's creators have done a phenomenal job of giving each character a strongly defined personality regardless of how often they appear each week. This is something that is extremely rare for a cast this large (even Cheers had nondescript barflies like Paul). But even more rare is a show that is this consistently funny.
Universal has released a fantastic DVD set for this Emmy Award–winning comedy. The video is sharp and bright and perfectly captures the numbing, fluorescent office environment. Additionally, there is a small treasure trove of extras spread out over the four discs. Most notable are the ample deleted scenes provided for each individual episode. The majority of these excised scenes are just about as funny as what made it into the show. There is also some lively commentary with assorted cast members and producers on ten selected episodes. In addition, NBC has generously provided several fake public service announcements featuring The Office cast members. While some of these are rather dull, there are a few—such as B.J. Novak imploring viewers never to record themselves having sex—that are quite droll. The ten "webisodes"—a series of short clips comprising one full-length episode—which were previously only available online, are also included here. All in all, any fan of the show will be more than happy with the hours of bonus material here. If you're a fan there really is no reason not to pick this up.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Those who can't get enough of The Office might be interested to know there is now a French version of the show, aptly named Le Bureau. As in the British version, the first season consists of six episodes. I'm currently trying to hunt down the show on DVD, which was released in Europe in August. I have doubts that lightning will strike thrice and that this show will also be highly entertaining, but hey, I've been wrong before.
The Office has quickly become my favorite show currently playing on network television. Though I had been resisting it for the past two years, I'll be there for the Season Three premiere later this month.
Not guilty. Now get back to work.
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Scales of Justice
• Commentary on 10 Episodes by the Actors, Writers, Directors, and Producers
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