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DVD Review: The Office – Season Five

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Yet another great season from a great show, the fifth year of The Office continues to make us laugh with the day-to-day adventures of the Dunder Mifflin Scranton team.

By season five, The Office has the feel of a bunch of old friends you’re really happy to see rather than an amazing party you can’t wait to attend. It’s still funny, it’s still worth tuning in, the plots are still interesting, the acting and the directing are still just as good, but let’s face it — there is only so much that can happen in a small office like Dunder Mifflin Scranton.

While the fifth season wasn’t its strongest, it features one of the best opening sequences of this show to date — Dwight Schrute’s (Rainn Wilson) fire drill. Not only was it hilarious – I laughed so hard I had tears running down my face – but it showed how the cast has learned to work extremely well together.

The antics of the manager, Michael Scott (Steve Carell) continue with, in no particular order: his discovery that the office has a PA system to wearing a sumo suit to Body Image Day, fleeing the office right after telling Andy (Ed Helms) about his fiancée’s affair with a fellow co-worker, and what has got to be one of his best scenes yet — his reaction to Toby’s return.

All these antics make it all the more hilarious when corporate is forced to ask Michael for advice, since his branch is one of the most successful ones. And, Michael being Michael… he doesn’t have a clear answer to explain his success and rambles on in a monologue that resembles Miss Carolina’s now infamous answer to her pageant question. The same happens during the lecture tour Michael subsequently goes on to share the secret to his successful management of the Scranton branch, which, if he could have it his way, would include him turning on a chainsaw to declare a massacre of other local paper companies. Oh, Michael…

Dwight Schrute continues to liven it up with his antics; we discover in this season that he has many weapons hidden all over the office, including a crossbow under the couch in the reception area. We also have the opportunity to watch him transfer his need for approval from Michael to Charles, the new regional sales vice president. This change of loyalty causes much ado, and you’ll have to watch the season to see to whom Dwight will pledge allegiance to.

Jim (John Krasinski) and Pam (Jenna Fischer) are probably TV’s most loved couple, and they continue to delight us throughout the season. It’s the same old, same old: they love each other and are totally adorable, and yet we can’t get enough of them because the writers are careful not to overdose us with PDAs. The season finale is yet another Pam and Jim moment, and while it's great, the fact that two talented and hard-working people are stuck in their dead end jobs makes it a little annoying at times to watch. It's great to see Pam work her way up the ladder by becoming a sales representative after Dunder Mifflin’s buyout of the Michael Scott Paper Company. But what about Jim?

Other overarching plot lines include Michael’s relationship with Holly (Amy Ryan), the first person ever to ‘get’ him, Angela (Angela Kinsey) and Andy’s engagement while Angela continues her affair with Dwight, and the return of Ryan and Toby to the Scranton branch.

The most shocking plot twist that helps shake things up in an otherwise pretty regular state of affairs is Michael starting a new paper company named – are you ready for it? – The Michael Scott Paper Company. The boat is severely rocked, like it was back in season three when Jim left the Scranton branch and when the Stamford branch merged with the Scranton branch. Unfortunately, the plot twist only lasts a couple of episodes and things quickly return back to normal. Well, almost; as mentioned previously, this allows Pam to move up the corporate ladder and adds a new cast member in the form of her replacement, Erin (Ellie Kemper), on whom both Andy and Dwight have a crush. Hello, new love triangle!

One thing is certain — season five finds an already strong cast becoming even stronger. None of the cast members try to outdo the other; they all work together. I hope that season six will bring us more about some of the lesser known members of the Dunder Mifflin Scranton team. I’d especially like it if the cameras figured out a way of sneaking into Stanley and Oscar’s lives.

Unfortunately, there is one serious downfall to having a cast that works this well together; while it makes for excellent TV, writers and producers see their hands tied, as the removal or addition of characters might disrupt this equilibrium.

A personal frustration of mine, which is shared by some other Office fans, is the lack of other good romances in the office. Perhaps it’s a little hard to do, considering the success of the Pam/Jim romance; the Andy/Angela/Dwight love triangle was pretty good, but it ended suddenly with the duel between Andy and Dwight, only to be mentioned in passing once in awhile. This is a little unsettling, seeing how big it was, and how usually, in little offices, coworkers tend to meddle in each other’s affairs (remember everyone’s meddling in the Pam/Jim relationship?).

The Holly/Michael relationship is a great plotline, and carried throughout the entire season. While it makes Michael an ever more sympathetic character (because even with all the insanity, he is adorable), it also makes for some pretty depressing moments. Will they end up together? I can’t tell, but rest assured, it all happens in a Michael-Scott worthy way.

Purchasing the DVD set offers perks that both the uninitiated and the die-hard fan will appreciate. There are hours worth of deleted scenes. The most hilarious ones involve Dwight Schrute’s monologues on the various things he would do, with, of course, his own style. The gag reel is also hilarious, and clearly shows the fun the cast has working together. There are also some interesting commentaries from the cast that shed light on some great on-screen and behind-the-scenes moments.

The Office season five DVD set is a great addition to any DVD collection. A great cast combined with a great writing team make for an amazing show. Hopefully, the edge this combination gives The Office won’t fade anytime soon, and we will have at least another two seasons to enjoy (since Steve Carell signed up last year for another three seasons). Kudos to the writing team for making a boring, repetitive job (sorry to all paper salespeople out there — we love you!) actually exciting.

It’s going to be interesting to see how, during season six, the show’s writers are going to figure out more ways of making this still exciting enough for TV. At this point, changes are not only welcome, but essential — lest they be big changes in too short a span of time. Another suggestion: perhaps the season five format of 23 episodes, including three hour-long specials, stretches it a little too much?

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