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The Office (NBC Version) - Season One


TITLE: THE OFFICE (NBC VERSION) - SEASON ONE


Info:

Release Date: August 16, 2005 (Universal Home Video)
Color (Widescreen)/2005
MSRP: $29.98
Number of Discs: 1
Number of Episodes: 6
Running Time: 135 Minutes
Total Run Time of Special Features: Approximately 167 Minutes
(Including Commentary)
Languages: English (Audio, Captioning), Spanish
(Subtitles Only)
Closed Captioned
Special Features:
*Deleted Scenes
*Commentaries on 4 Episodes - Including 2 different tracks on the Pilot


Introduction:

Steve Carell (The 40-Year-Old Virgin and The Daily Show) stars in The Office, a mockumentary-style glimpse into the daily interactions of the eccentric workers at the Dunder Mifflin paper supply company. Based on the smash-hit British series of the same name and adapted for American Television by Greg Daniels (King of the Hill, The Simpsons) this fast-paced comedy parodies contemporary American water-cooler culture. Earnest but clueless regional manager Michael Scott (Carell) believes he to be an exceptional boss and mentor, but actually receives more eye-rolls than respect from his oddball staff. Entertainment Weekly called The Office "smart and trenchant" (trenchant; adj: Forceful, effective, and vigorous; caustic, cutting). All six season one episodes are now available on DVD for the first time. The awkward silences in The Office will have you laughing out loud...or will have you participating right along IN the awkward silences. As you might have guessed from that last line, this show may not be everyone's cup of tea - I find it a mediocre transplant of the far-superior British version. Regardless, the show was popular enough to earn renewal on the struggling NBC, so someone must like this version.


Memorable Episodes / Notable Guest Stars:

What's a DVD reviewer to do when there were no guest stars in the mega-abbreviated season of six, and the bulk of the episodes seemed to be mediocre, at best, to him? If you should happen to buy this set, you're probably more of a fan of this version than I am, and you'll know exactly what you'll want to watch. The pilot of any series is always a recommendation - it's always nice to see how a series got it start, to see ‘what was that spark that made network executives decide,’ "Hey, we NEED this show on our network.” Other than that - well, you're pretty much on your own here.


Packaging:

If I could come up with one word for the packaging for this set, it'd be "simple." It's a single-disc standard issue black snap case (with two extra clasps on the opening side that you have to detach to open the case). Front cover has Michael Scott standing in front of an office table with the various employees sitting around. In the left corner is a post-it note that says "Petty behavior, Zero Productivity, All in a Day's Work." Back cover has various pictures, cards, and notes, pinned to a poster board. Disc takes the form of a sheet of classic yellow legal pad-style paper - with a coffee stain on it. Included in the left half of the case - where the little booklet normally goes - is a two-sided ad. The ad that is visible when you originally open the case is an ad for the show that's guaranteed to be NBC's newest sitcom hit (sarcasm detectors explode) - My Name is Earl. On the other side is an ad for various Universal TV DVDs out/coming soon.


Menu Design and Navigation:

Menu's a rehash of the front cover, with the post-it note's text replaced by the four menu options (Play All, Episode Index, Bonus Materials, and Languages). First, if you'll pay attention on the Languages menu, there's a paper airplane on the side with the link http://www.great-tv-shows.com. This is a link to a site about the various Universal Studios TV DVD offerings (Universal is releasing The Office, naturally). Clever bit of self-promotion that's not blatantly intrusive (compared to...say...the promos at the beginning of the DVD). For each of the sub-menus, a blue bar in the lower third of the menu provides navigation for all relevant menus away from that point (more episodes, resume episode, main menu, etc.). The upper two-third varies by menu.

Languages menu have the aforementioned promotional airplane, in addition to a photo in the top-right corner, and the language options in a "sketched" box on the left. Bonus Features menu has the main character in front, with one of the co-workers (I'm not going to say which one) peeking through some shades behind him. Deleted scenes features a shot from "Basketball" on the right, with the episode titles in the left-middle, with a column of paper clips to its immediate left. Episode commentaries menu is - without a doubt - one of the plainest submenus in the history of TV DVD. With the blue bar in the lower third to quarter with relevant navigation options, the upper two-thirds is black text with the commentary options, in front of a dark/light grey background (The sides are dark grey, and it becomes lighter towards the center). A red underline shows the currently selected option. Episode selection is consistent with the other menus. You have one still photo from the episode, with a blue border around it, and a sketched border around the blue border. The episode name is below it in the font seen elsewhere on the disc. To the right is an employee (again, guess which one) holding a stack of papers. Each episode's individual menu has a still photo from the episode, as well as an episode synopsis, and original airdate (all on everyone's favorite yellow paper). Small Word of Warning: The font that the text in the menus uses can occasionally be hard to read at close distance (not a size or color issue - it's the font itself), let alone far distance.

One thing to note - if you choose to play all, you'll notice something interesting - the first three shows, and final episode, of season one are all on separate titles, while four and five share the same one - they're just on separate chapters. Perhaps within the Play All functionality, it was originally intended for all six shows to simply be on different chapters, and a last second switch was made to separate titles.

This quirk doesn't make any difference in watching the episodes themselves - it's just a strange little quirk I thought I'd point out, lest anyone point out that one episode's information in Play All was that of a double-length episode.


Video and Audio Quality:

The show is presented in 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen - as the show originally aired. The video quality is remarkably nice - there are ZERO defects or blemishes in any of the six episodes - but given the age of the series, I'd be surprised if they did. Still, with only six episodes on the sole disc, compression isn't even an issue - creating near-perfect video. Audio is your basic 2.0 Stereo Digital. No audio defects or glitches to report. Audio is clear and loud with a decent mix across both channels. Though still sounding and looking nice, it's simply expected for a show that aired in 2005, and is nothing to write home about. There are no chapter stops, and only Spanish subtitles and English closed captioning. Audio is English-only.

The episodes are obviously unedited, since this show is from 2005. Pilot runs about 23 minutes, while the other episodes run around the normal 22.


Special Features:

Deleted Scenes (55:48) - Season one had six episodes. In Deleted Scenes alone, you have enough material for another two full episodes, with one still left on the cutting room floor. A lot of the stuff was cut to make room for - you guessed it - increased commercial time. Also, some scenes might not have "worked" with the show (No comments about "You mean what was left in was the BEST stuff?” please). If you add together the runtime of each episode with the duration of its deleted scenes, each episode - as originally filmed - lasted in the neighborhood of thirty minutes. Most of the stuff is rather obvious why it was cut out, as you'll see.

Commentaries: An interesting thing occurs with the Commentary for the pilot - two different tracks. In Track A, Steve Carell, John Krasinski, Rainn Wilson, and BJ Novak commentate. In Track B, Steve goes away, and in his place are Greg Daniels, Ken Kwapis, and Jenna Fischer. For the episode Diversity Day, Steve Carell, John Krasinski, Rainn Wilson, BJ Novak, and Greg Daniels do that thing...you know...where they commentate on the episodes....oh yeah, commentary - that's the ticket! Anyway, the fourth episode, "The Alliance", sees half the population of metro New York commenating. Exaggerations aside, John Krasinski, Rainn Wilson, Jenna Fischer, BJ Novak, Exec Producer Greg Daniels, plus Consulting Producer Larry Wilmore, and episode writers Paul Lieberstein, Mindy Laking, and Michael Schur. If you've ever wanted to see an episode of a show where the commentary practically does not stop at all for even a second - this is it. Basketball sees the commentary crew cut back down to the same team that did Diversity Day. What was said during the commentary tracks? Was it more interesting that the episodes themselves? Buy or rent (preferably rent) the DVD and find out. The commentary tracks are easily more entertaining than the episodes themselves (one person actually hums the Universal music at the start of one of the episodes).


Final Comments:

It shows you how bad off NBC Primetime is when this show gets a renewal - AND gets to start in October - while Scrubs gets pushed to midseason. I'm actually a fan of the British version of the show - and the US version DOES have SOME funny moments. However, the awkward "if this is a comedy, shouldn't I be laughing" silences come up FAR too often in the US import. Technically, the set is fairly sound. Video is of a quality that I'd LOVE to see on most other DVD releases, and the audio is good. The menus are mediocre - they actually COULD be worse, but Universal could have done a lot - LOT better. Special Features are the redeeming point of the set. A full hour of deleted scenes for a season that only ran slightly over two - plus several good commentary tracks). For the next set - personally, the features with this set are fine, and the episodes look and sound great...I'd just work on the show itself (Make it funnier), and make the menus look more professional.

If you're a fan of the show, you'll probably buy the set anyway. Other than that group, I can only advise you attempt to rent or borrow a copy of the set before paying $20-$30 for it. The show is - in my opinion - a mediocre version of a far better UK show. You can actually find each UK season (called a "series" over there) for cheaper than the short US season goes for on Amazon - that would be money better spent in my view.


Final Numbers (out of 5 stars - How our point system works)

Video Quality: 5/5
Audio Quality: 4.5/5
Special Features: 3.5/5
Menu Navigation/Design: 2.5/5
Overall: 3/5

--Reviewed by Seth Thrasher on 08/03/05.

To order the DVD click below and help support SitcomsOnline.com:

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B0009VBTP0/ref=nosim/happydaysonline4-20


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