Now approaching its fifth season, The Office wasn’t always the show that had many people looking down on it in a positive light. By its expanded second season, doubters were turning around and by the time the series reached its third season, it was roping in full throttle. This fourth season, however, just kicked everything up to another level with its season starting debut of hour long episodes for the first few weeks of the season. This not only gave NBC reason to advertise the show even more, but it also gave newcomers a reason to tune in: it was devouring two slots on NBC each Thursday night, it has to be kind of good at least, right?
Although starting out simple enough, the fourth season of The Office quickly proved to start things off with a bang-literally. After running over an employee with his car, Michael (Steve Carell) forces the office to participate in a charity 5k run and from there things take a wild turn. Within a few episodes of the season, fans were already being treated to some absolutely classic scenes and lines that would go down as some of the funniest ever uttered from the mouths of the cast. With fourteen episodes, five of which are hour long, comprising this season, one thing’s for sure: the writers’ strike may have cut the run of episodes this season short, but it certainly didn’t hinder the laughs and stories to come out of the series.
There are few shows on television that I love quite like The Office. While there were a few strange turns in the season (Michael kidnapping that pizza delivery boy was even pushing it by the shows standards), the majority of everything we saw was just flat out hilarious. Rarely did a moment go by that you weren’t either laughing your face off, sitting in uncomfortable silence or actually getting your emotions played with a bit due to the various in and outside office romances going on. This season of The Office excelled like no other and I was just consistently pleased with what I saw up on the screen from week to week.
Without a doubt one of the best episodes of the season came in the form of “Dinner Party”, the episode where couples were invited over to Michael’s for dinner. The ensuing conversations that took place in his home were nothing short of absolutely priceless and by the end of it I was sent into fits of laughter. The rest of the season is smattered with great dialogue and story lines, although I have to say the biggest change that surprised me about the season was the change in character for Ryan (B.J. Novak). Not that we didn’t always know he hated working for Michael, but he really did turn into a bit of a jerk this season and by the time “Night Out” came to be, I think fans were just waiting for something to smack his character around a bit. An odd thing to say coming from a comedy, but The Office isn’t your usual show—it can mix together comedy and drama like no other. A perfect example is the conversation Michael and Jan (Melora Hardin) have on the train cars, which manages to create a superb dramatic mood and then caps it off with some hilarious dialogue.
The rest of the season was all just a ton of fun to watch and the finale wrap up with the departure of Toby (Paul Lieberstein) and the introduction of the new HR person, Holly (Amy Ryan), who not only totally mixes things up but also causes an absolutely hilarious side-story line with her and Kevin (Brian Baumgartner). It takes awhile for you to pick up on just what is happening between them exactly and then it slowly dawns on you until you begin to think “No…that couldn’t possibly be it, could it?” It really was one of the best “subtle” moments of the entire show, let alone this season.
Of course the Jim (Jon Krasinski) and Pam (Jenna Fischer) stuff was cute and funny as always, but I’m glad to see that while it’s a big part of the show, it isn’t overtaking it and becoming the behemoth that we thought it might become should they actually get together. Yes, they’re together now and thankfully we made it a whole (albeit abridged) season without any major drama coming out of it. Nor does it feel old and stale and one can hope that the inevitable proposal is held off a bit long—although we are already creeping up on its fifth season. Even if it manages to make it to the double digits in seasons, we’re already likely halfway into the series, if not near the end. A scary (and sad) thought.
Whatever the future of the show, its past is absolutely shining. The first pair of seasons was top notch, but it’s these last two that have not only driven the quality of stories up to the clouds but also the character development that continues to occur as the season goes on. It’ll be hard to top this one, but I’m looking forward to seeing if the cast and crew can pull off another impeccable season. It’s not really that much of a thing to toss onto their shoulders—they’ve kept it at this quality for several years now, what’s a few more? This season is Highly Recommend and is truly a part of the “Must See TV” category.
Perhaps as a bit of compensation for the lower number of episodes this season, Universal saw fit to toss us a bit of a packaging bonus for this season: the script for “Dinner Party” is included in mini-form and is quite an awesome little extra to have for the set. I was never impressed by scripts being included on the DVD, perhaps because I didn’t want to sit in front of a TV and use my DVD remote to flip it page by page, so this hand-held version is quite a lot of fun to skip through, as you get to see what they left out and what was changed around. The script fits inside the slipcover for the set, which in turn folds out into a two digi-pak tray with two discs in each. Layout of the fold outs include images from the show (in what looks like Pam’s desk) and beneath the discs is an “Organization Chart” by Dwight Schrute, categorizing all of the relationships in the office, as well as…well, there’s no other way to put it. There’s a “Menstruation Legend” included as well. So if you wondered about that…well, you’re weird. Or you’re Dwight, whichever.
And now…the extras! Ahh the extras on The Office sets…always so plentiful and always so enjoyable. As usual we have a huge array of deleted scenes spread across the four discs. Disc one (40:41), disc two (32:38), disc three (31:26), and disc four (32:58) all have over a half hour of deleted scenes on each and they’re all worth watching. As with past sets the stuff cut out isn’t cut out for lack of quality, but rather for time. There isn’t a single deleted scene here that isn’t funny and I love that they include them as it’s almost like watching completely deleted episodes (in some cases, subplots are completely removed from episodes as well).
The rest of the extras spread across the discs are of your general variety, with “Rabies: The More You Know” (0:24), a faux PSA with Michael Scott on disc one and “Michael Scott’s Dunder Mifflin Ad” (1:24) on disc two making up the majority of the “fluff” extras (although they’re still worth watching—I’m particularly fascinated by how well done that ad was). Commentaries on the set start with the second disc and include:
•”Money” with Rainn Wilson, Jenna Fischer, Melora Hardin, Brian Baumgartner, Paul Lieberstein, Michael Schur, and Jennifer Celotta
•”Local Ad” with B.J. Novak, Ed Helms, Leslie David Baker, Creed Bratton, Craig Robinson, Jason Reitman, and Anthony Ferell
• “The Deposition” with Rainn Wilons, Jenna Fischer, Melora Hardin, Brian Baumgartner, Ed Helms, Lee Eisenberg, Lester Lewis and Ryan Koh
• “Did I Stutter?” with Rainn Wilson, Jenna Fischer, Leslie David Baker, Kate Flannery, Justin Spitzer, Brent Forrester, Gene Stupnitsky, and Randall Einhorn
All of the commentaries are a riot to listen to and the variety of participants is great. Due to the involvement the writers have with the actors and vice versa, the variety of comments that we get on the tracks is wonderful. Plenty of behind the scenes comments litter the tracks and amidst the laughing you might pick up on some cool tidbits.
The remaining extras are housed on the fourth disc of the set. The first is a Blooper Reel (22:39) that, yes, is actually twenty two minutes in length. Even with that running time I felt like I could have watched it much longer—it is truly that fantastic. I can only imagine what it must be like to work on this series; it looks like such a fun time to be had on the set. Up next is “The Office Convention: Writers’ Block” (52:52), a panel discussion with the writing staff of The Office. As you can tell by its run time it’s a bit lengthy and at times it gets hard to watch with the way it was filmed (really shaky came and a lot of zooming in and out on individuals). It’s a cool extra to have, but even has a die-hard fan of the show I had trouble sitting through it all. “Summer Vacation Promo” (3:02) wraps up the extras and, as it sounds, is a promo for the show.
As can be expected from a modern show the video (a 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer) and audio (English Dolby Digital 5.1) are fantastic and represent the show remarkably well. I watched the show in HD before so it was a bit of a quality drop than how I originally watched the series, but it’s still a great picture all around. A strong transfer across the board, although none of the extras are in anamorphic widescreen—anything in widescreen is letterboxed, which is a bit disappointing.
No matter which way you cut it, The Office – Season 4 is a fantastic season. The DVD set has a nice array of commentaries and bonus features and the replica script is a nice touch as well. It may have been cut short due to the writers’ strike, but this set certainly didn’t suffer because of it. Highly Recommended.
The Office – Season 4 arrives on DVD on September 2nd.