There are few shows on the air that progressively get better as they go along. Even fewer are adaptations of a critically acclaimed and award winning British series of the same title. But The Office has managed to go to places that the original twelve episode British series never imagined. With further expansion of the cast’s individual and interpersonal relationships, this fifth season of The Office introduced viewers to a whole other set of laughs, smiles, the occasional tear, and just a whole lot of all around fantastic humor.
The latest season of the ultimate workplace comedy finds the employees of fictional paper company Dunder Mifflin enmeshed in surprise office hook-ups, break ups, romantic triangles and new business ventures. In a subversively funny look at corporate life, self-important, insensitive regional manager Michael Scott (Steve Carell) still thinks he’s the best boss ever—despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary! As Michael leaves the security of Dunder Mifflin and strikes out on his own, Andy (Ed Helms) and Dwight (Rainn Wilson) do battle for Angela’s (Angela Kinsey) affections, and Jim (John Krasinski) and Pam (Jenna Fischer) finally plan their long awaited nuptials.
I was surprised when rewatching this season how much occurred during it. Although there were so many episodes (twenty-six total) it’s easy to forget how the season started and how it ended (especially since I can only seem to remember the mid-season break that split the season in two, effectively), so watching them all straight through was certainly an interesting experience. But what really made this an absolutely superb season to watch was the inclusion of Holly (Amy Ryan). Although her presence in the series was short lived, the chemistry between her and Steve Carell was without a doubt the highlight of the series. While their relationship was kept humorous and lighthearted, when the two were broken apart it was a genuinely wrenching batch of sequences to witness, as was their eventual reunion in the season finale. It’s just general soap opera style nonsense in some cases, but they made such a ridiculously sweet couple that anything they do had you flying to either end of the emotional scale.
Michael and Holly weren’t the only scene stealers this season, however. There was pretty much a romantic angle with every major group in this season. Jim and Pam continue their relationship in a way that has really just floored me. They manage to talk about it and be as happy as can be on screen and I’m still not sick of them. I thought once the will they/won’t they element of the series disappeared that the desire to see them together all the time would as well…but, nope. Like Michael and Holly there’s just a fantastic little bit of chemistry between the actors that make it relentlessly entertaining and funny. It doesn’t hurt that their dynamic didn’t really change all that much either—they’re a couple now, sure, but the same jokes and quips they make about one another hasn’t changed.
But as cute as those two couples were to watch in this series, it was really the Andy/Dwight/Angela triangle that made the season such a standout. From the reactions of each of them to the various stages of their relationship to the eventual “duel” between Andy and Dwight in the parking lot (the joke about Andy’s Prius by Oscar still sticks out in my head as one of the best product placements and genuinely hilarious quips of the season) was really one of the stand outs of the season. I can probably say that about every episode this season, however—there really weren’t any weak points.
But as much of a romance centered show this has become recently, the show is still very much a comedy. The show lives and breathes from joke to joke and quite remarkably this show hasn’t missed a beat. Some will say that it’s declined from its cutting and biting humor a bit, but I still feel the sarcasm and uncomfortable moments (mostly fueled by Creed and other supporting cast members for the most part…although Dwight still reigns supreme king of stupid comments) to be some of the defining characteristics of what makes this show still work, even in the fifth season.
The only weak point of this season I felt was the whole Michael Scott Paper Company segment of the season, simply because it introduced a character that was never really all that likeable (even as a “villain”); I just found Charles Minor (played by Idris Elba) to be a total jerk in every sense of the word. It was probably because of his dislike of Jim, which really seems to turn hatred towards anyone. I mean how do you hate Jim? Nonsense. So while the Scott Paper Company angle got a bit worn at the end, I do think it infused the show with a new sense of purpose when the cast came back together at the end. It also made for a way that Pam and Ryan could be worked back in, as there was no other logical way that they could be re-introduced into the main cast after what their characters did.
Overall the season was a really strong outing and even as the main romantic angles and side plots would occasionally drag it, the jokes and in-between looks from the cast around the office is what kept me coming back with each episode. While I could feel my attention wavering on other shows each week, I always found time to make sure I tuned into The Office whenever it was on. As a result I cannot stress how Highly Recommended this season was. It was even a solid jumping in point for newcomers, as it started off with a new characters and relationships that it felt slightly newer than previous seasons.
But hell, one of the major highlights of being a fan of The Office are the eventual DVD releases. Each season comes packed to the brim with bonus features and this set is no different. The set itself arrives in similar packaging as past seasons, with a digi-pak fold out case housed inside of a sleeve. Sadly no bonus script of an episode is included this time around, but there is a chance to win a “Golden Ticket” to win a chance to visit the set of the show (I didn’t win, so that’s one more chance for someone else out there). There’s also an insert for an ad for The Jay Leno Show and the usual amount of cool packaging and jokes from the show built into it. Only downside of the packaging is the disc art, which is the usual plain reflective mirrored surface…but other than that, everything about this set is awesome. That’s including the menu system and video/audio transfer for this set which is what you’d expect from a modern show—crisp visuals and a solid DD5.1 track. Granted this season is available on Blu-ray, so if you need it in 1080p with DTS-HD Master Audio, then that’s available too. But this is type of show I’m more than content with on DVD and considering there are no bonus Blu-ray goodies for this season, you can safely pick up the DVD without worry you’re missing out on something (other than HD visuals and audio, that is).
• Episode Commentary with the Cast and Crew of The Office (“Weight Loss,” “Business Ethics,” “Employee Transfer,” “Customer Survey,” Moroccon Christmas,” “The Duel,” “Dream Team,” “Michael Scott Paper Company,” “Casual Friday,” “Company Picnic”)
• Over Three Hours of Deleted Scenes!
• Gag Reel
• The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Presents The Office
• Four Webisodes
• The Office Promos: Beijing Games and XLIII Football Championship
The commentaries are a real delight to listen to, as always, and watching the deleted scenes is nothing short of fantastic as it’s like watching completely deleted episodes at certain points. Not to mention the gag reel, which this show always seems to have the best of (especially since it runs over fifteen minutes long…awesome). All the other extras are just cake and, as usual, this is one of my favorite TV show season sets so far this year. Absolutely fantastic and Highly Recommended.
The Office – Season Five arrives on DVD and Blu-ray on September 8th.