What can I say about this show that hasn’t already been said? That’s probably one of the biggest problems I face when writing about this show, aside from my apparent lack of writing ability. The Office is arguable one of the best programs currently on television and, even in the fourth season, it remains a great show. While this isn’t the best season of the series to date, it’s still strong and, overall, very satisfying. It had a few problems, which I’ll touch upon, but, overall, it’s another great year at The Office.
The Office is back with even more inappropriate remarks, uncomfortable silences, and obnoxious behavior in the complete fourth season of the Primetime Emmy Award-winning series! Steve Carell (40 Year-Old-Virgin) is back in his Golden Globe -winning role as Michael Scott, the clueless boss of the Dunder Mifflin’s Scranton branch who manages to create unending comical drama despite his best intentions. Trusty and loyal assistant-to-the-regional manager Dwight Schrute (Rainn Wilson) continues to uphold the office honor as Jim (John Krasinski) and Pam (Jenna Fischer) find ways to meddle with him and encourage Michael’s hysterics. Plus, see “wunder kid” Ryan (B.J. Novak) in his new role at corporate as he pushes the infinite limits of Dunder Mifflin, often pushing Michael to his limits as well.
Before I go further, I just want to say something. One of my favorite moments this season was when Michael accidentally hits Meredith with his car. The entire scene, how it plays out, shocking you at first and then causing you to erupt in laughter, is just one of those bizarre scenes that simply work. It manages to straddle the line between the usual, mundane daily existence the show excels and just pure wackiness, which, sadly, the show also dabbles in one occasion. However, this little sequence gives us that perfect balance between the two. Thankfully, this same episode also gives us the now classic “Michael Scott’s Dunder Mifflin Scranton Meredith Palmer Memorial Celebrity Rabies Awareness Pro-Am Fun Run Race For The Cure.” Need I say more?
This season, the show did dip into some bizarre wackiness with Michael kidnapping a pizza delivery boy, even if it was somewhat by accident and it sort of worked, but, regardless, it does stick out as somewhat weak. Thankfully, this didn’t happen all that much this season. Arguably the best episode of the season was “The Dinner Party,” where Michael and Jan have some couples over for a night of entertainment. As you can expect, it goes terribly awry, resulting in probably one of the most uncomfortable experiences anyone could sit through. Thankfully, it did give us “The Hunted,” probably one of the most hilarious titles for a CD ever. I don’t want to ruin the joke, but fans already know what it is and explaining it in any type of detail will likely diminish just how great the joke is.
We saw quite a few changes this season, the biggest one being Jim and Pam finally going public with their relationship. Usually, something like this would kill a show, two starcrossed characters finally getting together, but here, it works and it actually pushes the series forward. Sadly, since this a show of balance, some of the other characters have to go through some rough spots. Dwight, Michael, and even Ryan get reamed pretty hard this season, most of which culminating in a season finale truly full of surprised (especially the final frame, which, as shocking as it was, stained my vision for days). Of course, this is the same season finale that gives us one of the most hilarious subplots ever, with Kevin being mistaken for…well…just watch and see. Absolutely priceless!
This season also offers a fair share of dramatic moments, too, including a now infamous fake-out between Jim and Pam, and a truly touching moment with Michael and Jan just…talking while both sitting together in a train car. On top of that, some characters really do change this season, like Ryan, who’s now promoted to corporate and is, frankly, a total jerk. Of course, all of this culminates toward the end of the season when we find out why.
I know I haven’t gone to in-depth with details on the season itself, but, if for some reason, you haven’t seen this season yet, I don’t want to spoil the surprises here. How can anyone forget Jam and Pim visiting a Bed and Breakfast owned by Dwight and his family, including having more time with his brother Moses? You can’t, and I don’t want to spoil it in any way. The fourth season does have a few bumps, like the aforementioned kidnapping, but those are rare. The Office continues to drive itself to new heights, becoming more than just a comedy, and the fourth season presented here is proof of that. The Office: Season Four is a fun experience that culminates to one of the best finales the show has ever had. It’s an absolute no-brainer that this season comes Highly Recommeded. It’s hard to top a show like this, but I can’t wait to see how they do it next season.
Universal Home Entertainment has released The Office: Season Four in two versions. There’s the regular edition, which is four slimcases housed within a sturdy cardboard slipcase, and the special edition which features a bonus episode script reproduction in digi-pack packaging. The special edition packaging it for a limited time only, so if you want that script, you better hurry. Personally, I found the slimcases/cardboard slipcase more durable and, even without the additional script, prefer it over the digipack/script packaging of the special edition release.
I suppose my main complaint for this collection is how liberally the episodes and bonus content is dispersed here. Since this season was shortened by the writer’s strike, we have less episodes, but, still Universal Home Entertainment saw fit to spread the series over four discs. True, a great portion of the season was made up of special hour-long episodes, but this could have easily been a three-disc release without and loss to video or audio quality. The suggested retail price seems to be on par with last season’s release, which means it will cost more per episode to own the collection, which I find a bit disappointing.
However, I will applaud Universal Home Entertainment for releasing an edition featuring a reproduction of an actual script from the episode “The Dinner Party.” It’s a smart way to add new content, valued content, that manages to justify the fact that consumers will be paying the same price for less episodes this time around.
The bonus features here are what fans have come to expect, only…slightly less. We still have a great amount of deleted scenes, bloopers, features, and the like, but the commentaries are decidedly skimpy this time around. We get commentaries for “Money,” “Local Ad,” “The Deposition,” and “Did I Stutter,” arguably the best episodes of the season. The commentaries are, as usual, hilarious with little bits of behind-the-scenes info sprinkled in for good measure.
Fans can expect to spend a fair amount of time going through the bonus features, particularly the over two-and-a-half hours of deleted content, almost all of which is solid, and the nearly half-hour long blooper reel. I can’t help but praise Universal Home Entertainment for their consistency in giving us so much additional footage here, as they’ve done with previous seasons. Viewing the deleted scenes, usually a chore for other releases, is a real pleasure here. Ditto with the always hilarious blooper reel. The features manage to also be just as interesting as the bonus footage, presenting a very well-rounded and very close look at the series.
The audio and video transfer remains solid, providing us with a crisp, clear image and beautifully clear audio. The video isn’t as crisp as the HD presentations of the series (when is this series going to hit Blu-ray?), but it’s great quality for DVD.
Overall, The Office: Season Four is must-own release. It’s a solid season, though not the best to date, and the extras are off-the-charts great. If I have any complaints, it’s that the season was too short and the cover art for the release is…not that good. The Photoshop work here just isn’t particularly strong by any means. Regardless, don’t let that rather nitpicky detail hamper your enjoyment of truly one of the greatest shows on television. And, based on how this season ends, I know you’ll be counting the days until the release of The Office: Season Five. A nearly flawless series, it goes without saying that The Office: Season Four comes Highly Recommended.
The Office: Season Four is now available on DVD.