There’s always a sense of trepidation when a remake is announced. Why tread on hallowed ground? Fans had every right to worry when NBC decided to do their own version of the British hit series, “The Office.” The peacock network already failed twice with their remakes of “Men Behaving Badly” and “Coupling.” Without any reason to believe that the third time would be the charm, NBC surprised a lot of people by giving them one of the funniest shows in years.
“The Office” is shot in a documentary style with talking head interviews sprinkled throughout the show. Think “The Real World”, but in the workplace and much, much more entertaining. The show is set in the Scranton, Pennsylvania branch of Dunder-Mifflin, a paper manufacturer. The boss is Regional Manager Michael Scott (Steve Carell) who is, to put it bluntly, an ass. But, he’s an ass in a different way from Bill Lumbergh of “Office Space” fame. Michael won’t make you come in on weekends, however, he will most likely make fun of your appearance, weight, or ethnicity.
Despite being incompetent, insensitive, lazy, and obnoxious, Michael has an incredibly high opinion of himself and believes he’s the funniest man on the planet, even though most of his jokes are racially offensive. He is completely oblivious to how much everyone detests him. It’s amazing how he got promoted to any sort of authority or how he hasn’t been fired already. Then again, this show wouldn’t be nearly as fun without him.
Also slaving away at the office is Jim Halpert (John Krasinski), the mild-mannered salesman who survives the daily grind by pulling pranks on the nebbish Dwight (Rainn Wilson). Dwight may be the only other person people hate more than Michael. He is even more annoying, a huge suck-up, and possesses no social skills whatsoever. Rounding out the main cast is Pam (Jenna Fischer), the receptionist who has to put up with Michael’s bewildering behavior. Pam has been engaged for the past three years to Roy, a warehouse worker who comes off as Stanley Kowalski-lite. Unbeknownst to Pam, Jim harbors strong feelings for her and their budding relationship is one of the driving plotlines throughout the series.
The show takes a cue from “The Simpsons” by filling out the office with an incredibly strong supporting cast. Not surprisingly, the executive producer of “The Office” is Greg Daniels, a former writer/producer for “The Simpsons” and “King of the Hill.” Some of the background characters include: Ryan, a temp that usually gets finagled into performing degrading tasks for the boss; Angela, the ultra-religious and uptight head of accounting; and Todd Packer, a traveling salesman and Michael’s BFF (best friend forever). Packer prides himself on his dirty jokes and piggish behavior.
A combination of smart writing and fantastic performances have won “The Office” numerous acclaim during awards season. Thanks to “The Daily Show” and “The 40-Year Old Virgin”, Carell proves himself adept as a funnyman on the big and small screen. As Michael Scott, Carell absolutely steals nearly every scene he’s in with his idiotic actions. Even better are the nonplussed reactions of the employees. Some of the show’s funniest moments don’t lie with the jokes, but rather with the awkward silences or facial expressions that follow them.
“The Office” debuted in 2005 as a mid-season replacement. The first season consisted of only 6 episodes and many fans consider it a slight rehashing of the BBC version. The second season is when the show really blossoms by allowing the characters to grow and evolve. The sexual tension between Jim and Pam isn’t the only office romance that develops as Dwight and Angela carry on a secret relationship and Michael grows closer (at least in his own mind) to his boss, Jan.
The episodes in this set are as follows:
The Dundies – Michael gears up for the annual office awards, an event nobody is looking forward to.
Sexual Harassment – Michael tries to lighten the mood when the office must attend a seminar on sexual harassment.
Office Olympics – When the cat’s away the mice will play. Jim organizes a series of office games when Michael (with Dwight as his toady) is out buying a condo.
The Fire – The employees get to know each other a little better in the parking lot after a fire breaks out. Meanwhile, Dwight is concerned that Ryan and Michael are getting a little too close.
Halloween – The Halloween party becomes a downer when Michael is mandated by the corporate office to fire somebody.
The Fight – Jim goads Michael and Dwight into a one-on-one showdown at Dwight’s dojo.
The Client – Michael wows Jan by winning over an important client while Pam discovers Michael’s bizarre screenplay.
Performance Review – Michael hopes to take his relationship with Jan further when she comes in to rate his performance.
Email Surveillance – Everyone is up in arms when they discover Michael is secretly reading their emails.
Christmas Party – The holidays aren’t so happy when Michael turns Secret Santa into a White Elephant gift exchange just because he hates his present.
Booze Cruise – Michael whisks the office away for a cruise as Pam and Jim’s relationship hits a huge snag.
The Injury – Pam must deal with new levels of odd behavior when Michael burns his foot on a George Foreman Grill and Dwight crashes into a telephone pole while attempting to rescue him.
The Secret – Jim regrets telling Michael about his feelings for Pam, leading him to have an awkward lunch at Hooter’s with the boss.
The Carpet – Michael takes over Jim’s desk when somebody deposits something extremely smelly in his office.
Boys and Girls – When Jan organizes a seminar for the women of the office, Michael organizes his own for the guys.
Valentine’s Day – Love abounds at the office as Michael and Jan attend a meeting at corporate headquarters.
Dwight’s Speech – Dwight wins Salesman of the Year and, surprisingly, asks Jim for help in making his speech.
Take Your Daughter to Work Day – Michael shows a softer side when the staff bring their kids into the workplace.
Michael’s Birthday – Michael gets upset when everyone is more concerned about Kevin’s cancer scare than his birthday.
Drug Testing – Dwight goes overboard when he discovers half a joint in the parking lot and calls for everybody to take urine tests.
Conflict Resolution – Michael attempts to solve the numerous complaints of his employees.
Casino Night – The warehouse is converted into a casino as Jim attempts to confess his feelings for Pam.
The video is presented in anamorphic widescreen with an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The second season was shot in HD allowing a pristine transfer for the DVDs. Colors are bright and vibrant.
The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. The show is dialogue heavy and it comes in strong and clear.
Disc 1 contains two audio commentary tracks with various members of the cast and crew. They are provided for two episodes, “The Dundies” and “Sexual Harassment.” There’s a lot of camaraderie between the participants making these tracks a fun listen.
Disc 2 contains commentary tracks for “The Client”, “Performance Review”, “Christmas Party”, and “Booze Cruise.”
Disc 3 contains audio commentaries for “The Secret” and “Valentine’s Day”, along with “Faces of Scranton”, a documentary about the Dunder-Mifflin branch that was shot by Michael Scott.
Disc 4 is where you’ll find the most goodies. It contains commentary tracks for “Drug Testing” and “Casino Night.” Included as well is “The Office: The Accountants”, a series of 10 2-minute episodes that were made available on NBC.com. It follows Angela, Oscar, and Kevin tracking down a $3000 discrepancy in the books. Plus, Steve on Steve in which Steve Carell interviews himself; fake PSAs and Olympic promos done by the characters, and a blooper reel.
All 4 discs feature deleted scenes for every episode. The total length runs nearly two and a half hours.
“The Office” is a terrific comedy full of laugh-out loud moments. It leaves the old sitcom format of the four-camera setup and the now-archaic laugh track in the dust. Along with “Scrubs” and “My Name is Earl”, NBC is starting to fill the hole left by the juggernauts that were “Seinfeld” and “Friends.” They may not be the pop culture phenomena that their predecessors were (at least not yet), but they are the progressively new shot in the arm that network TV needs.