Blu-ray Only: BD-LIVE content, including the ability to watch season eight episodes as they air
Has the workday got you down? Why not take a little time to relax from the workday by heading home, then heading to The Office? No, not your office, but the office of Dunder Mifflin, now a subsidiary of Sabre (pronounced "SA-BUR" by the way!) with Dwight, Pam, Jim, Kelly, Ryan, Phyllis, Andy, Gabe, Kevin, Oscar, Darryl, Angela, Meredith, Erin, and of course, the one and only Michael Scott. Oh and there is some other guy who works in human resources, but who cares about him, right?
The seventh season of the NBC series is the beginning of what is, without a doubt, the biggest change in the history of the series. When the series premiered almost seven years ago, it was a simple series about a small group of employees at a paper company in Scranton, Pennsylvania, based upon (and often reusing the same scripts) as the British series of the same name. Many current fans (myself included) didn't even like the series back then. But as the series has evolved, Dunder Mifflin has been taken over by printer company Sabre with Jo Bennett (Kathy Bates) at the very top of the chain. Michael Scott (Steve Carrell) still runs the Scranton branch, but things are about to be shaken up in the seventh season when an old flame reenters his life and the only way to keep the flame lit is to make some major changes in his life, changes that will have many effects (many which remain to be resolved) in the office.
The seventh season, which just ended in May on NBC, brings many great episodes leading up to these big changes. Now, you can relive Season Seven at home, either on the five disc DVD set or the four disc Blu-ray set.
There's a new assistant in the office, and he just so happens to be Michael's nephew in "Nepotism." But what will Michael to do control this "wild child?" Michael sees consequences for his handling of the nephew situation in "Counseling," and it includes spending time with the man he hates more than anybody on the face of the Earth: Toby Flenderson. Andy seeks to impress Erin (and win her back from the arms of Gabe) in "Andy's Play," but in typical Office-style fashion, it is just one major disaster. Michael discovers he has an STD that starts with the letters "H-I" (don't worry, he just doesn't know how to spell and it isn't as serious as it sounds) in "Sex Ed," and makes it his goal to inform all of his former girlfriends. In "The Sting," Michael, Jim, and Dwight set up a sting operation after being stung by a rival salesman who steals a client. It's Halloween in "Costume Contest," but the biggest problem is when Darryl goes over Michael's head to corporate. Pam and Jim are ready to christen baby Cece in "Christening," but don't think that a few unwanted guests will invite themselves (as usual). In "Viewing Party," Gabe is hosting a Glee viewing party (seriously?) where Michael begins to get very jealous of how the other employees admire Gabe.
Ryan has a new internet startup in "WUPHF.com," and Michael is willing to do whatever it takes to get WUPHF! on top. If anybody can stop China from taking over, it has to be Michael Scott (or so he thinks) in "China." Great news: Toby is gone for jury duty in "Classy Christmas," but the even better news is that Michael's old flame Holly (Amy Ryan) is filling in temporarily. Unfortunately, as Michael discovers in "Ultimatium," Holly is dating another man, but it seems that relationship could be coming to an end. Michael is lost and it is up to the entire office to find him in "The Search." Andy hosts a small business seminar (that is nothing short of a small disaster) in "The Seminar." In "PDA," there is a little too much public displaying of affections in the office, but what are you going to do about it when it is the boss?
Michael has been waiting 11 years for the day, but his new movie is ready to be screened (to his fellow office workers) in "Threat Level Midnight." Todd Packer returns to the office to stay in "Todd Packer," but as it turns out, this employee that Michael seems to admire to death is not very much admired by the others in the office. Big changes are on the way that will affect the rest of the series in "Garage Sale," where Holly has to deal with health issues that her parents are having while Michael is ready to pop the question to her. Deangelo Vickers (Will Ferrell) returns to take over for Michael Scott in "Training Day." It's Michael's last chance to do his annual awards ceremony in "Michael's Last Dundies," but it seems that Deangelo may have an even more difficult time getting used to his new role than expected.
Steve Carrell makes his exit from the office (and the series) in "Goodbye Michael," but he hates goodbyes so much that he tries to leave without saying goodbye. New office boss Deangelo Vickers isn't a hit in the office and he is pretty closed to being on his way out (well, technically he is out) in "The Inner Circle." In "Dwight K. Schrute, (Acting) Manager," there's another new boss at Dunder Mifflin, and without a doubt, he is making the office miserable for everybody. The season ends with "Search Committee," where a search committee tries their hardest to find a new boss for the office, but no matter what, they can't seem to find somebody who isn't, well, crazy. Actors and actresses playing candidates for the job (none of which make the cut, might I add) are Jim Carrey, Will Arnett, Ray Romano, James Spader, Catherine Tate, and more.
As far as I know, the episodes on the set appear to be unedited. There was a little incident on the previous season where a scene was cut because it was deemed to be "disturbing," but the scene was also cut in subsequent broadcasts on NBC as well. I have no knowledge of there being any issues like that for any of these episodes. Runtimes for the episodes are as follows (note: since the episode breakdown is different for the DVD and Blu-ray sets, we have not broken this list down by disc as we normally do):
1. "Nepotism" (22:06)
2. "Counseling" (22:05)
3. "Andy's Play" (22:09)
4. "Sex Ed" (22:07)
5. "The Sting"(22:07)
6. "Costume Contest" (22:05)
7. "Christening" (22:06)
8. "Viewing Party" (22:06)
9. "WUPFH.com" (22:08)
10. "China" (22:13)
11. "Classy Christmas" (43:03)
12. "Ultimatum" (22:07)
13. "The Seminar" (22:07)
14. "The Search" (22:06)
15. "PDA" (22:06)
16. "Threat Level Midnight" (22:08)
17. "Todd Packer" (22:08)
18. "Garage Sale" (22:07)
19. "Training Day" (22:07) - Extended Version (34:09)
20. "Michael's Last Dundies" (22:08)
21. "Goodbye Michael" (36:13)
22. "The Inner Circle" (22:06)
23. "Dwight K. Schrute, (Acting) Manager" (22:05)
24. "Search Committee" (43:00) - Extended Version (55:54)
The outer cardboard box has a photo of Craig Robinson, John Krasinski, Rainn Wilson, Steve Carell, Jenna Fischer and Ed Helms. A summary of the set, a listing of the bonus features and various photos from the episodes are on the back. Steve Carell is featured on the spine of the box. The inner digipack has the poster for Threat Level Midnight on the front. Various items from WUPHF.com are on the back. More photos of the cast, The Adventures of Jimmy Halpert poster and a Sweeney Todd playbill are found inside the digipack. There are three panels, with two holding two discs and the third holding the fifth disc. Episode summaries are given by disc and the special features for each disc are listed. The discs are the standard DVD silver and feature The Office logo in blue. Disc 1 contains episodes 1-6, Disc 2 has 7-12, Disc 3 has 13-18, Disc 4 has 19-21, and Disc 5 has 22-24. A limited edition poster of the cast (several holding umbrellas) sitting or standing on grass at a park is included in both the standard DVD and Blu-ray releases.
The packaging for the Blu-ray set is very similar to the DVD packaging, so similar that I'll mostly just point out the few changes that have been made for the Blu-ray set. The digipack only contains two panels, with each holding two discs. The hubs holding the disc in are somewhat improved from the previous season, but you still have to be careful because of the way that the discs are overlay. Basically, the hubs for Discs 1 and 3 are above the area that holds Discs 2 and 4, so you have to make sure to slide the discs underneath the hub. It's an unfortunate design that probably could have been avoided. The disc artwork has changed a bit this time, with the transparent discs (which actually looked kind of cool in my opinion) being replaced with standard white colored discs with the series logo imprinted in blue. And of course, the Blu-ray contains all of the content on just four discs instead of five, with Disc 1 containing episodes 1-8, Disc 2 containing episodes 9-15, Disc 3 containing episodes 16-20, and Disc 4 containing episodes 21-24.
Menu Design and Navigation:
The main menus feature various video clips of the cast from this season's episodes. These video clips loop after about 2 1/2 minutes. Options for Play All, Episode Index, Bonus and Setup are found at the bottom of the screen. There's a light blue underline next to the option you highlight that turns yellow upon your selection. When you select Episode Index, it takes you to another menu where there's the poster for Threat Level Midnight. You can play the deleted scenes, commentary and extended cut of 2 episodes from this menu. The Bonus menu has a Sweeney Todd playbill, Mama Sally's Homemade Pesto and The Adventures of Jimmy Halpert poster. The Deleted Scenes, Commentary and Setup menus feature various items referenced in the show. You can choose the English 5.1 and Audio Commentaries from the Set Up menu, as well as choose the English SDH and Spanish subtitles. When you first insert Disc 1, there are trailers (4:14) for The Office, Parks and Recreation and Outsourced on DVD, Friday Night Lights, Bridesmaids, The Big Lebowski Blu-ray, and NBC's new comedies - Whitney, Up All Night and Free Agents.
Oh, Universal... you've done it again with the Blu-ray menus. Universal does make a great attempt to use the features that are available for Blu-ray technology in the menus, and uses the technology well, but unfortunately, they tend to use a very similar, almost bland and generic menu, for anything that they put out on Blu-ray. The main menus do have various clips from the episode playing along with the logo from The Office, but if your Blu-ray player is connected to an internet connection, you can't even SEE all of the menu thanks to all of the non-relevant pop advertisements that Universal streams through the internet connection. Do fans of The Office really care about the arrival of United 93, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, and Dazed and Confused on Blu-ray? Well, the upper quarter of the screen seems to think you do, and you constantly have to stare at these pop ups on the main menu. You can turn these off, but by default, they are on. I have no problem with advertising other releases on the set, but come on, don't ruin the main menu with these! Other than that, the menus are just kind of plain. You have options for Play, Episodes, Setup, Extras, How To, and What's New! (powered by BD-LIVE). Selecting one of the options will bring in a pop-up menu that will get you what you requested, as an overlay over the main menu. There is nothing creative (at all) about the overlaying; it is just text and stills from the episodes when you select episodes. The "What's New! (powered by BD-LIVE)" option is mostly just trailers for other Universal Blu-ray products streamed through the internet. And Disc 1 also has the option for "Watch Season Eight Episodes," which will become active later this month.
Video and Audio Quality:
Video looks excellent. Colors are crisp and clear, there’s absolutely no noise, no grain, no color balance issues. The audio is a Dolby Digital 5.1 track and has no problems. Chapter stops are placed at the appropriate places within the episodes. English and Spanish subtitles are available on all of the episodes. The bonus features are not rated and not all are subtitled.
There is nothing that I can say about the video and audio quality of the Blu-ray set short of spectacular. This is truly flawless video and audio quality, and honestly, the episodes look even better on the Blu-ray set than they do as they are on TV. I really didn't notice any flaws, and this is very much in line with the previous releases. And the audio quality, being presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 is excellent as well. The set contains English and Spanish subtitles for those requiring them.
Both the DVD and Blu-ray releases feature hours of bonus material, including Steve Carell's extended farewell episode "Goodbye Michael Scott," over an hour of never-before-seen deleted scenes, the unaired extended version of Michael Scott's film "Threat Level Midnight," bloopers, 3 webisodes and 5 audio commentaries.
Nepotism - Executive Producer and series star B.J. Novak, Writer and Producer Charlie Grandy, Series Editor and Producer David Rogers, as well as series stars Craig Robinson and Creed Bratton
PDA - Executive Producer Greg Daniels, series stars Ellie Kemper, Angela Kinsey and Brian Baumgartner, editor Claire Scanlon, assistant director Kelly Cantley and Episode Writer Robert Padnick
Threat Level Midnight - Executive Producer and cast members Paul Lieberstein and B.J. Novak, Writer and Producer Daniel Chun, as well as series stars Creed Bratton and Craig Robinson
Goodbye Michael - Writer and Executive Producer Greg Daniels, series stars Ellie Kemper, Angela Kinsey, Brian Baumgartner, as well as Series Editor and Producer David Rogers
Dwight K. Schrute, (Acting Manager) - Co-Executive Producer and series star Mindy Kaling, as well as Ellie Kemper, Angela Kinsey, Producers Steve Hely and Justin Spitzer
Andy's Play (6:04)
Sex Ed (6:10)
The Sting (3:25)
Costume Contest (6:09)
Viewing Party (3:36)
Classy Christmas (2:45)
The Seminar (5:42)
The Search (no deleted scenes)
Threat Level Midnight (no deleted scenes)
Todd Packer (4:12)
Garage Sale (2:25)
Training Day (Producer's Extended Cut has about 12 minutes of additional footage)
Michael's Last Dundies (5:44)
Goodbye Michael (3:37)
The Inner Circle (7:05)
Dwight K. Schrute, (Acting) Manager (8:35)
Search Committee (Producer's Extended Cut has about 13 minutes of additional footage)
"Threat Level Midnight: The Movie (A Michael Scott Joint)" Featurette (26:02): See the never-before-aired, extended version of the film that Michael Scott wrote, directed and starred in. "Threat Level Midnight," Michael stars as Michael Scarn as he and a cast made up
of Dunder Mifflin employees try to prevent Goldenface from blowing up the NHL All-Star Game. Very nice to see the full version.
Producer's Extended Cut for "Training Day" (34:02) - The extended version features an additional 12 minutes worth of scenes.
Producer's Extended Cut for "Search Committee" (55:51) - The extended version features an additional 13 minutes worth of scenes.
Blooper Reel (15:12) - Season 7 Bloopers
Webisodes: The 3rd Floor
Moving On (2:47) - Kelly (Mindy Kaling) and Erin (Ellie Kemper) find a new way to get famous.
Lights, Camera, Action! (2:09) - Filming for Ryan's (B.J. Novak) horror film begins.
The Final Product (3:07) - With most of the office pitching in, filming wraps on Ryan's slasher horror film "The 3rd Floor."
The Blu-ray set has a great special feature that isn't active--yet--but will be on September 23. Beginning that day, you can watch episodes from the eighth season after they air through your DVD player. Of course, we can't really test this feature out just yet, but the previous Blu-ray release of the sixth season had this same feature to watch episodes from the seventh season as they aired, and much like in online streaming, you could watch any episodes that aired within the past five weeks. My experience with this was that the episodes were exceptionally high quality HD (just as good as what you see on the Blu-ray sets themselves), and provided a much better experience than watching episodes online. However, it is important to note that this won't work very well with slower (and by slower, I mean even lower end cable/DSL) connections.
The Blu-ray set also works with the pocket BLU app that is available for iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, Android, PC, and Mac to allow these devices to work seamlessly with your Blu-ray player. Sadly, I've never been able to get this to work too well (and trying again with this review only gave me limited success), but here you can access your Blu-ray player when you are watching this set through these devices to select scenes and use an "advanced remote control." This feature is also supposed to allow you to unlock the special features that are included in the DVD set to download onto your portable device, but I constantly got error messages. This seems to be a good program, but it has bugs that undoubtedly need to be worked out.
All in all, this is a pretty good season of a series that (in my opinion) still has some steam left in it. Many may disagree with that assessment, but I really do like the series in spite of all of the changes that have occurred over the years. Admittedly, the series may very well go into decline in the eighth season with the departure of Carrell, but then again, the episodes in this season after his departure (most notably "Dwight K. Schrute, (Acting) Manager," an episodes that many fans have declared one of the best episodes in years) have demonstrated that the series can make it based upon the ensemble of characters. In other words, Steve Carrell did the make the series what it is, but he is far from the only great thing about the series. I look forward to see what changes the upcoming season have in store (and I hope that the series does find creative ways to make things work).
As for the home media releases, as always, they are great sets. What exactly can anybody complain about with The Office on DVD and Blu-ray? Universal has consistently put out excellent sets (although the menus could stand some improvement on Blu-ray), and this is one of the biggest sellers out there.
Final Numbers (out of 5 stars - How our point system works)
Video Quality: 4.5/5 [DVD], 5/5 [Blu-ray]
Audio Quality: 5/5 [DVD], 5/5 [Blu-ray]
Special Features: 4/5 [DVD], 4.5/5 [Blu-ray]
Menu Navigation/Design: 4.5/5 [DVD], 4/5 [Blu-ray]
Final Score: 4.5/5
-- Reviewed by Todd Fuller (DVD) and
skees53 (Blu-ray) on 09/02/11
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