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Blu-ray Review: The Office – Season Six

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Ever since first premiering in March of 2005, NBC’s The Office has managed to consistently be funny even if it has never been a massive ratings hit.  Based on the Ricky Gervais/Stephen Merchant British series of the same name, the show follows the lives and semi-careers of the workers at the Scranton branch of the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company. 

Well, at the start of the season they work Dunder Mifflin anyway, one of the season-long story arcs this go-round is the impending financial ruin of the company.  As the show is returning to NBC’s schedule this fall, everyone knows that whatever befalls Dunder Mifflin, the core group of Scranton staffers will be remaining together at the end of the season, but it is still a fun storyline to watch play out.

One of the biggest strengths of The Office is not just the aforementioned core group of staffers, but the fact that the producers have managed to expand the series into a much larger, and much more realistic office world with a large group of secondary characters.  Yes, season six still finds much of the action revolving around office manager Michael Scott (Steve Carell) and paper salespeople Jim Halpert (John Krasinski), Dwight Schrute (Rainn Wilson), Pam Beesly (Jenna Fischer), and Andy Bernard (Ed Helms), but it certainly extends beyond those people as well.  Everyone from Oscar (Oscar Martinez) to Stanley (Leslie David Baker), to Darryl (Craig Robinson), to Phyllis Lapin (Phyllis Smith), and Kevin (Brian Baumgartner) gets their moment to shine.

It has been widely publicized that Steve Carell will be leaving the show when his contract expires after season seven.  While he will certainly be a great loss to the show, even with his being the center of so many storylines, it is not impossible to imagine the series without him due to The Office‘s ensemble nature.  Anyone who has spent time watching will have a favorite supporting player, many of whom the series has managed to flesh out into true, three-dimensional individuals. 

Pam and Jim fans will be pleased by the fact that season six not only contains a double-episode featuring their wedding, but another featuring the birth of their first child.  For those less amused by the antics of the couple, not only are there lots of other things happening as well, but there are episodes without either one or both of them (following the wedding and the birth).

What is most impressive about The Office by season six is the fact that neither have they run out of stories, nor do any of the tales feel more ridiculous than any of what has come before.  The producers have been quite successful in balancing both semi-outlandish humor and down to earth heart.  The series has the rare ability to both make people cry from laughter and just plain cry.  This particular season has its fair show of both types of moments and, as a whole, is very enjoyable.

The weakest aspect of the show at this point is its inability to find an emotional hook quite as strong as the one from early seasons – the will they-won’t they, Jim and Pam story.  Watching that love story unfold was a great reason to tune in every Thursday night and while it is still wonderful to see the happy couple living their life together, the audience’s emotional entanglement is somewhat lessened.  There are office romances – and potential office romances, like Andy and Erin (Ellie Kemper) – in season six, but wisely the producers have chosen to go in a more comic fashion with them.  To attempt to duplicate the Jim-Pam story would not only be impossible, but hugely disappointing.

The Blu-ray release of season six sports a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack, but in a sitcom, the surrounds, while used, are not strictly necessary to enjoy the experience.  The track is a crisp and clear one, but obviously dialogue and center channel heavy.  The visuals are good, with high levels of detail including textures on clothes.  However, this reviewer’s copy of the episode “Scott’s Tots” contained a scene which was not correctly transferred to the disc – rather than appearing in the correct 16:9 aspect ratio, the scene played out as a letterboxed 4:3.  All the other scenes in that episode and in all the other ones were correct, and while we have asked the publicist about this particular issue, we have not yet heard back.

The release also comes with, as you would expect, a plethora of special features.  There are hours of deleted scenes and a blooper reel that lasts as long as an episode of the show.  There are also commentary tracks for several episodes, an episode of Parks and Recreation, an Office digital short, a copy of a video that was played within an episode this season, and the promos the series did for the Olympic games.  The set also contains the ability to watch episodes from the upcoming seventh season after they have aired via a BD-Live connected player.  As no season seven episodes have yet aired we were not able to test the feature but it is advertised as being in HD (depending on your internet connection) and is certainly intriguing. 

Season six of The Office proves that the long-running series is still going strong.  To this point it shows no signs of slowing down nor becoming less funny.  What will happen once Carell leaves is still unclear, but season six anyway is on safe ground.

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About Josh Lasser

Josh has deftly segued from a life of being pre-med to film school to television production to writing about the media in general. And by 'deftly' he means with agonizing second thoughts and the formation of an ulcer.