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Blu-ray Review

DVD cover

The Office
The Complete Series


Starring: Steve Carell, Rainn Wilson, John Krasinski and Jenna Fischer
Distributor: Fabulous Films Ltd / Fremantle Media Enterprises
RRP: £149.99

Certificate: 15
Release Date: 05 July 2021

Based on Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant's BBC comedy of the same name, The Office is an American mockumentary sitcom that follows the day-to-day lives of the employees of Dunder Mifflin a fictional paper supply company in Scranton, Pennsylvania. This boxset includes all 9 Seasons, all 188 episodes, over 30 hours of bonus material including 19 hours of deleted scenes, bonus commentaries, webisodes and blooper reels that are guaranteed to leave you satisfied and smiling... That’s what she said...

While I watched the original BBC mockumentary when it first began airing in 2001, I never managed to get around to watching the American version. I hadn't watched a single episode before I watched this boxset in order to review it. Why? Well, apart from never getting around to it, I suppose I was just worried that they may have taken the characters I knew and loved and put a cheesy "filmed in front of a live studio audience" vibe, with broad crappy jokes.

My preconceptions couldn't be further from the truth. What Greg Daniels (the show's creator) delivers is nothing short of a masterpiece. My American and UK friends who have watched the show, had told me that it's great for about the first three to four seasons, before the episodes start to dip in quality. Having now watched all episodes, I can honestly say, hand on heart, that with one exception (a bordering on being a clips show episode) each and every episode is finely crafted to deliver great comedic moments as well as plot points that make you reflect on earlier events. There's plenty of pathos too. Yes, there are storylines and characters that I didn't particularly care for, but these all help to flesh out the narrative. It would have been pretty dull if the writers had got stuck in a rut and not moved forward with the characters and situations.

In the original, British show, Gervais's character is pretty much an unlikable, self-absorbed prick. In the American show Steve Carell is also self-absorbed, but he has a lot of redeeming qualities. It's not just about wanting to be popular and liked by his staff, Carell's Michael Scott cares about his staff, like family, and really just wants to do the right thing. This means that while you cringe and are embarrassed by his actions, you also end up rooting for him. This can be said for just about all of the main cast. It's only really characters like Ryan, Todd Packer and in later years Gabe Lewis and Robert California where you despise almost every bone in their body because they are such wonderfully played self-absorbed characters.

The first episode (which was originally the pilot) is mainly an adapted version of the British show. And the remaining five episodes of season one use the odd situation from the BBC series, but the majority of the material is original. The show works on so many levels, but mainly the viewer is drawn into this world because anyone who has ever worked in an office environment will immediately recognise themselves or colourful characters they know in real life.

When I first started watching the show I was surprised to see actors who looked like normal people, and whose acting seemed natural, as though you or I were put in front of a camera. So it wasn't overly surprising to learn that some of these weren't actors, but writers and other crew members who the producers thought would be great in acting roles. This is something that the producers keep up for the entire run of the show. There's a lot of the crew that appear in small roles.

Attention to detail and little easter eggs are everywhere. In one episode, it's revealed that Creed has a website of his crazy ramblings. Checking out the url... the website does actually exist here. And digging a little deeper there's a more detailed website here. Characters have throw away gags that you may miss if you're not paying attention. Creed (again) is a constant source of amazement. In one episode he, matter-of-factly, claims to have dated "Squeaky" Fromme - member of the Manson cult who also tried to assassinate President Gerald Ford in 1975.

There are also plenty of appearances by famous actors. A lot are blink-and-you'll-miss-them parts. But more substantial roles include Jake Black and the late Cloris Leachman playing lovers in a bizarre romantic movie. Kathy Bates appears in a recurring role; Christian Slater turns up briefly in a promo video; Maura Tierney (ER) turns up in season 7 for one episode; and towards the end of the show's run Joan Cusack, Ed Begley Jr., Josh Groban, Bob Odenkirk and Roseanne Barr turn up.

From season 6 onwards there are a few producer's cuts of episodes. These include Secret Santa (original cut is 22 min, 07 sec, and the Producer's Extended Cut is 29 min, 44 sec); Training Day (aired episode is 22.07, Producer's Extended Cut is 34 min, 10 sec); Search Committee (original cut is 43 min and the Producer's Extended Cut is 55 min, 54 sec); Angry Andy (22 min, 08 sec for the original cut and 33 min, 20 sec for the Producer's Extended Cut); and Fundraiser (original cut is 22 min 08 sec and the Producers Extended Cut is 25 min, 50 sec).

There was a planned spin-off show to be called The Farm, a pilot of which was slyly slotted into The Office, hoping that it would be picked up. It wasn't, and The Farm episode does stand out a little as an oddity on the show. Also, it was originally planned that Parks and Recreation would be a spin-off. The premise was that an old copier machine was taken from Scranton, fixed up by another company and then sold and shipped to the office in Parks and Recreation. It's a great idea for a comedy link between the shows, but in the end it was decided that both shows should exist in their own, separate universes.

For those that are worried that the show does a Lost, rest assured that the final season wraps up things wonderfully and all the regular cast get their moment to shine.

And for those who are really big fans The Office Ladies website and podcast hosted by Jenna Fischer (Pam) and Angela Kinsey (Angela) has been going through the episodes in chronological order and giving fans behind the scenes information and pointing out things you may have missed. In addition Brian Baumgartner (Kevin) hosts a podcast called The Office Deep Dive with Brian Baumgartner. Both of these podcasts are still going strong. Office Ladies started in 2019, whilst The Office Deep Dive with Brian Baumgartner began in 2021.

This Blu-ray collection is a fan's dream come true. Now I have to come clean and admit that I didn't watch all of the extras. While I did watch all the episodes and all of the bonus features, I didn't watch all of the deleted scenes or listen to any of the audio commentaries (which were attached - where applicable - to each episode's menu). I do intend to do so, as I am now such a fan of the show, and I want to learn more about the making of the series, but to make sure this review goes live within a month of the Blu-ray being released, I really didn't have time.

I have started to watch the deleted scenes and I think it's important that fans watch them, as they give insights into the characters that help you relate to them even more. For example in the deleted scenes from the The Fire Angela starts to cry as she talks to camera and we discover that that she may have lost someone she loved (possibly a cat) in a fire because the fire alarms didn't work.

My only complaint is that this collection is spread over a ridiculous amount of Blu-ray discs. A season would easily fit on one Blu-ray disc - two at a push. Yet each season gets 4-5 discs, which means the boxset is enormous. In addition, because of how the show is shot I really don't see any benefit to buying the Blu-ray over the DVD boxset (which you can pick up online for under £40.

Extras include:

Season 2 - Webisodes: The Accountants (20 min, 31 sec episodic standalone story that sees the accountants trying to find out what happened to the $3000 that was mislaid due to an accountancy error); Blooper Reel (16 min, 56 sec); Fake PSAs (8 min, 02 sec - public service announcements presented in a The More You Know style); Olympics Promo (1 min, 41 sec promos played to promote The Office when the Olympics were on TV); and Steve on Steve (3 min, 21 sec - Steve Carell interviews himself).

Season 3 - The William S Paley Television Festival 2007: The Office (22 min, 48 sec Q&A with cast and crew); Kevin Cooks Stuff in the Office (4 min, 55 sec - Kevin shows us around the office kitchen and teaches us how to cook with things he gets from the vending machine); Excerpts from the 2000 NBC Primetime Preview Hosted by the Office Staff (08 min, 09 sec - Short skits which could so easily have been cut from the episodes); Toby Wraparounds (2 min, 46 sec - Interview snippets with Toby); Dwight Shrute Music Video (2 min, 07 sec - Clips from the show over Dwight Shrute song); Joss Whedon Interview (58 sec Joss Whedon vampire episode spoof interview); The Office “Make Your Own Promo” Contest (2 min, 45 sec - Short The Office based films made by fans of the show); Blooper Reel (13 min, 43 sec); “Lazy Scranton” Video (2 min, 20 sec - full version of the video that appeared in an episode); and Excerpt from the 58th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards (1 min, 12 sec - features Conan O'Brien in The Office).

Season 4 - Rabies: The More You Know (23 sec); Michael Scott's Dunder Mifflin Ad (1 min, 22 sec - the full ad that was included in an episode); The Office Convention: Cast Q&A (58 min, 46 sec - Interesting panel Q&A filmed at the Scranton convention); Blooper Reel (22 min 38 sec); The Office Convention: Writer's Block (52 min, 53 sec Q&A panel with the writers. It appears to have been filmed on a phone or camcorder and the sound is quite poor); Summer Vacation Promo (3 min, 02 sec - characters from the office talking about what they did over summer between seasons 3 and 4 in short promos to promote the new season.

Season 5 - Gag Reel (14 min, 48 sec); 100 episodes, 100 moments (8 min, 45 sec - which shows 101 short highlight clips); Academy of Television Arts & Sciences presents The Office (30 min, 02 sec - Q&A with cast and crew); The Office Promos XLIII Football Championship (2 min, 31 sec - couple of specially filmed sketches that relate to the football championships); Beijing Games (2 min, 08 sec - 4 promos that were played during Beijing Olympic Games advertising the return of the office; Webisodes (20 min, 18 sec - Kevin's Loan and The Outburst episodic stories starring the three accountants.

Season 6 - Welcome to Sabre (56 sec - Christian Slater's Sabre promo from the episode; Blooper Reel (23 min, 50 sec); Original Digital Short “The Podcast” (9 min, 20 sec - When Oscar's blog is used on the Sabre website, Gabe also decides to start a blog to impress his boss); The Office Promos - Canada Games (2 min, 04 sec - Winter Olympics promos); Parks and Recreation Episode “Hunting Trip” (21 min, 35 sec. Not really sure why this is included. While I know Parks and Recreation is by the same team and was originally planned as a spin-off from The Office - but that idea was quickly shelved - there is absolutely no link to The Office at all in this episode. Just seems to be a ploy to get people to buy the Parks and Recreation DVDs. Having said that, there are much better episodes they could have chosen).

Season 7 - Threat Level Midnight: The movie (A Michael Scott Joint) (26 min full version of the Bond spoof. It's worth hanging around until after the credits); Blooper Reel (15 min, 11 sec); Webisodes: The 3rd floor (8 min, 01 sec in which they make a zombie movie).

Season 8 - Blooper Reel (19 min, 10 sec); Webisodes: The Girl Next Door (6 min, 41 sec spoof documentary on the band Subtle Sexuality. 'Girl Next Door' is their new single); The Office Promos: XIVI Football Championship (3 min, 49 sec).

Season 9 - Blooper Reel (14 min, 14 sec) The Office: A Look Back (20 min, 24 sec - cast and crew look back which includes original auditions and all of the actors saying goodbye to fans. Although Carell doesn't appear. It also features the wrap party with fans); Finale Table Read (1 hour, 17 min, 19 sec - worth watching for the opening act of the finale, which was cut from the episode. The other missing scenes are available in the episode's deleted scenes, but the opening appears to have never been filmed); Autotune Andy (1 min, 05 sec - autotune viral video that appeared in the episode); 2003 Casting (5 min, 43 sec look at some of the actors (who you may recognise) who didn’t get chosen and those who did. The funny thing is, that some of those auditioning here were auditioning for other role: Angela was originally auditioning for Pam and Kevin for Stanley); The Office: Behind-the-Scenes Panel Discussion (45 min, 16 sec - filmed on 04 May 2013 - Scranton Wrap Party Q&A with crew, which includes an interesting props warehouse tour).


Darren Rea

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