The Office got off to a rocky start during its abbreviated first season, but grew into its own during Season Two. If you still haven’t boarded the hype wagon, the newly arrived Season Two DVD box set is now available to get you up to speed.
The show is based on the original UK version of the same name that launched Ricky Gervais into stardom and led to his ongoing current TV show Extras (shown on HBO in the US), as well as movie roles, occasional stand-up specials, and a long-running radio show with his writing partner and Office co-creator Stephen Merchant. In other words, Gervais blew up as a direct result of this show, and now US star Steve Carrell is following in his footsteps with the same results.
Although Carrell isn’t as instrumental in the show’s success from a behind-the-scenes creative standpoint, he’s the poster boy and the only member of the cast with any built-in recognition due to his previous work on The Daily Show and his breakout role in The 40-Year-Old Virgin. His burgeoning film stardom is quite possibly the only reason this show was allowed to exist long enough to build an audience, so — if for no other reason — he should be respected for his continuing involvement with the show.
So what’s it all about? The show focuses on the employees of a non-descript paper company called Dunder Mifflin in Scranton, PA. Like most office employees, their lives are caught up in the boring 9-5 grind of a bland, gray, cube-farm work environment. Nobody except the company kiss-up really wants to be there, some of them have other aspirations, but they’re all stuck in the slow lane to nowhere. Although that doesn’t sound like the makings of hilarious comedy and it hits painfully close to home for many viewers, the show delights in roasting the conventions of a safe, politically correct workplace.
Carrell plays the idiotic office manager, Michael Scott, who likes to think he’s funny, charming and intelligent but comes across as rude, dim, and completely non-PC. His underlings know he’s a dolt but usually play along with his ludicrous ideas for enhancing morale, such as a booze cruise and a Christmas gift exchange. His only ally is the show’s most interesting character, the Assistant to the Manager who thinks everything Michael says and does is gold. As Dwight Schrute, co-star Rainn Wilson gets the juiciest, most ridiculous material and makes the most of it, always bordering on the buffoonish but also most memorable actions.
It’s not all comedy though, as there are also some romantic sparks between the office receptionist, Pam, and Dwight’s nemesis, Jim, but events usually conspire to prevent their happiness and keep the tension alive. The rest of the office is staffed with average co-workers that actually look like they could have been plucked from any real office but in reality contribute greatly to the comedy as their minor contributions begin to accumulate throughout the season. Interestingly, some of those workers are also writers and producers on the show, adding a unique touch to the proceedings.
The original BBC show ran for a total of 12 episodes plus a couple of Christmas special bonus episodes. The US show eclipsed that mark early in its second season, so fans of the original can’t protest that this version is simply riding the coattails of past greatness. While its pilot episode was a disastrous direct adaptation of an original BBC episode, the US version has since found its own footing and diverged from the path of its predecessor, becoming stronger in the process. Carrell’s character isn’t quite as unlovable or clueless as Gervais’, and Dwight is more of an obvious fool than his counterpart Gareth. Moreover, this show has done a better job of exploring and playing up the strengths of the large supporting cast.
In short, while the UK version was almost always painfully uncomfortable, the US version has drifted toward more comedic touches that give the show a lighter, more upbeat feel without detracting from its core concept. It’s now one of the best shows on TV, redefining the meaning of “must-see TV” for its ailing NBC home.
The DVD box set contains all 22 Season Two episodes in addition to a wealth of extras including deleted scenes, a blooper reel, short webisodes, and a hilarious set of Public Service Announcements the cast taped in character. The season was jam-packed with memorable moments and a few episodes that will go down as all-time classics, making this an essential purchase. Bring on Season Three!
Written by Caballero Oscuro