There was a huge amount of anticipation over the American adaptation of the British sitcom hit of the same name. The original version, with Ricky Gervais as the office manager David Brent, won a series of Emmy equivalents in England and Gervais even won a Golden Globe for his work on the show. And with Steve Carell (Anchorman) appearing in the American version as Brent’s counterpart, expectations were high from more than a few people.
Not having seen the British version of the show… I’ve gotta say that the American version is underrated and quite brilliant. Set in the sleepy Pennsylvania town of Scranton in a sales office, Carell supervises a small group of workers in their daily professional lives that face the possibility of being downsized, among other things, and it’s all being filmed as part of a documentary. Featuring a group of virtual unknowns, the cast comes through with outstanding performances, and Universal has struck while the iron is hot in Carell’s career, and released the first season’s run of six episodes on DVD.
Carell as Michael Scott runs the office with a certain ineptitude, and his ability to misspeak makes for some hilarious moments in the show. As Michael’s assistant manager (or assistant to the manager, to be exact), Dwight Schrute (Rainn Wilson, Sahara) is a lonely person who clings to office power however he can, and steals laughs from Carell even when Carell is on a roll. The surprising actors from this show are Pam the receptionist (Jenna Fischer, The 40 Year Old Virgin) and one of the salesmen, Jim (John Krasinski, Kinsey). The two seem to be the most realistic of the group, and have a flirting dynamic in their relationship, even if Pam is engaged (and has been for three years). And the way Jim torments Dwight makes for some great humor in the show.
Adapted to American television by former Simpsons writer Greg Daniels, and featuring a quality ensemble cast of performers, The Office has thankfully been renewed for a second season, and with its release on DVD, this gives everyone a chance to check out how good the show is for themselves.
There’s nothing really going on here that merits a 5 speaker setup, so the show is presented in 2.0 Dolby Digital Stereo. Everything sounds good without any distortion or other complaints.
On the plus side, the show is presented in a 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation that looks excellent. All of the beautiful blacks and drab grays are reproduced very well with no artifacts and little edge enhancement, and looks razor sharp.
At about 23 minutes per episode, the show’s running time is about two and a half hours. So to have almost an hour of deleted and extended scenes is pleasantly surprising. There are a LOT of scenes featuring Dwight will have you replaying them several times. In addition, there are commentary tracks on five of the six episodes on the show that feature most of the stars and some of the writers. The initial episode commentaries feature recollections by the principals on how they wanted to make the show different from the original version, and the remainder of the tracks recall how things were on the set. Overall, the commentary tracks don’t really provide too much new information, but the environment in them has a lot of fun in them, and it must be an enjoyable set to work on.
Fans of the show will be eager to see how this version matches up with the original, and on its own, the show is very funny. Carell is a funny performer, and this season has helped him become a breakout star, and sets the show up for some high expectations when it returns for the second season. Comedy fans will also enjoy this too, perhaps even enough to buy it for their own collection.
Special Features List
- Deleted/Extended Scenes
- Cast/Crew Commentary