DVD Release Date: September 3, 2013 (Universal Studios Home Entertainment)
MSRP: $59.98 (DVD); $69.98 (Blu-ray/UltraViolet Combo)
Number of Discs: 4
Number of Episodes: 23
Running Time: 595 minutes
Total Runtime of Special Features: 134 minutes
Video resolution: 480i/p [DVD], 1080p [Blu-ray]
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English [BD]
Subtitles: English; Spanish
Special Features: Deleted Scenes; Audition Tapes; Finale Table Reed; Blooper Reel; Cast Farewells; Behind-the-Scenes Panel Discussion
The office as we know it is about to close for good in The Office - Season Nine. The final season of the series is now available on DVD or Blu-ray/UltraViolet. After a series of big changes (including losing the star that the series was built around, marriage of co-workers, babies, new ownership of Dunder Mifflin, and more), the series comes to an end. In the final season, we get to see Pam's ex-fiancee get married (complete with Jim and Pam attending the wedding), Darryl get a promotion, Angela and Oscar being in a relationship with the same man, a head lice epidemic, and much more.
The Office - Season Nine is available both on DVD or in a Blu-ray/UltraViolet version. For this review, we are looking at the Blu-ray/UltraViolet release.
The season kicks off with "New Guys," where we get to meet Jim and Dwight... or at least the new Jim and Dwight Jr. Pam's ex-boyfriend is getting married in "Roy's Wedding," and she is on the guest list along with Jim. Darryl is moving to a new office in "Andy's Ancestry." In "Work Bus," Dwight sets up a new office inside of a bus after Jim convinces him that the building is unsafe. Jim and Pam get into a fight in "Here Comes Treble." In "The Boat," Andy's dad blows the family fortune, but in the meantime, Kevin has found out a big secret about Oscar that would destroy Angela. The females of the office help Dwight interact with women in "The Whale."
In "The Target," we find out that Angela doesn't play when somebody messes with her husband (is it safe for Oscar to even come to work?). The office Christmas party gets a "Schrute touch" in "Dwight Christmas." In "Lice," Pam brings an infectious disease into the office... and lets Meredith take the blame. Dwight and Clark ("Dwight Jr.") pose as father and son to make a sale in "Suit Warehouse." Pam and Jim face more marital difficulties as Jim misses Cece's first recital thanks to his new job in "Customer Loyalty." In "Junior Salesman," Dwight gets an opportunity to hire a new part-time salesman to fill in for Jim... is that even a good idea? Pam creates a mural that is promptly defaced in "Vandalism."
Andy makes his return to the office in "Couples Discount." In "Moving On," Pam interviews for a new job in Philadelphia, but the boss that she might be working with brings back some memories of an old boss (any guesses?). Dwight deals with a death in the family in "The Farm" (as a special note, this episode was written as a backdoor pilot that failed to materialize). The airing of the documentary is getting closer in "Promos." In "Stairmageddon," Roseanne Barr guest stars when the elevator goes out and everybody is forced to use the stairs (can anybody tell that they're running out of ideas by now?). Dwight and Angela compete in a paper airplane contest in "Paper Airplane." In "Living the Dream," Andy quits his job once and for all, leaving the opening that Dwight has been waiting for all of these years (and he finally gets it!). The office hierarchy gets a bit more tangled in "A.A.R.M." when Jim convinces Dwight that he needs an assistant to the assistant regional manager. The series ends with "Finale," which takes place several months the documentary airs on PBS; meanwhile, we get another wedding of co-workers as Dwight and Angela go down the aisle, and we even get to see some old friends return.
The episodes appear to be unedited, with runtimes as follows:
1. "New Guys" (22:10)
2. "Roy's Wedding" (22:06)
3. "Andy's Ancestry" (22:11)
4. "Work Bus" (22:02)
5. "Here Comes Treble" (22:04)
6. "The Boat" (22:04)
7. "The Whale" (22:06)
We only received the Blu-ray version of this set, but again, the packaging is pretty similar regardless of which one you choose. The cover art has a cast photo (with the cast that just kept growing by this season), and on the back, there are a few episode snapshots and a description of the season on the back. Inside, you'll find the digipak (amazingly, this packaging lasted all throughout the run for this series, aside from the first season that was only one disc anyway). You'll find "Andy Bernard's Management Guide" in here, along with descriptions of all of the episodes. The discs all have the Dunder Mifflin building as their artwork.
While I believe that Blu-ray is the "future," I'm a bit confused about Universal's pattern for these releases. Beginning a few seasons ago, they started to release the series on Blu-ray, and in the eighth season, they did a DVD/Blu-ray Combo. Now they've gone back to Blu-ray only. Admittedly, it is only a minor nuisance (and if you're going to buy the Blu-ray set, you probably don't even need the DVDs), but I'm a bit dumbfounded as to why they tried to go the "combo" route for one isolated season. On the other hand, at least they didn't abandon the series on Blu-ray (I'm thinking about Fox in particular here, which gave fans an isolated season of How I Met Your Mother on Blu-ray a few years ago).
Menu Design and Navigation:
The menus here are pretty standard Blu-ray menus (although fortunately, Universal has killed all of the "spam" that they had on the menus before). The main menu has a series of video clips from the season, and options include Play All, Episodes, Setup, and Extras. Of course, the menus are all the standard Blu-ray pop-up menus, which means that you can view the menus on top of the episodes while you are watching them if you hit the menu button. Episodes section brings up a menu that shows the titles of the episodes along with a photo snapshot from the episode. Once you select an episode, it plays immediately, but there are chapters throughout each episode. Finally, Set Up allows you to turn on subtitles, as well as turn off the navigation sounds on the menus.
Video and Audio Quality:
I'm not sure how I can find anything to complain about with regards to video and audio quality. I could try to nitpick, but this looks as great as it originally did when it aired on NBC not too long ago. The episodes are presented on the Blu-ray set in 1080p high definition, with audio presented as a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. In other words, it is almost as good as it gets. Each episode also contains English and Spanish subtitles.
As usual, one of the "biggest" special features on this set is the deleted scenes. In fact, many of these are very useful because they give is a "between the lines" look at the episodes, and you honestly don't know the series completely unless you watch them. Each of these is available to play by episode (most, though not all, episodes include them), and there is a Play All option to watch all of these. Runtimes for deleted scenes, by disc, are as follows: Disc 1 (47:23), Disc 2 (37:23), and Disc 4 (20:51).
All remaining special features can be found on Disc 4, beginning with blooper reel (14:14). As usual, there are plenty of fun bloopers to watch here from episodes throughout the season.
"The Office - A Look Back" (29:24) is the retrospective of the series that aired just before the final episode. In this, we get to hear a lot about the past nine seasons from the cast and crew of the series (including those who had already left the series), as well as a lot of "I can't believe it is ending" type of material.
"Finale Table Read" (1:17:19) is the type of thing that we rarely (if ever?) see on a live-action sitcom release: a table read of the final episode. It is almost like the old-time radio programs, as we get narration (overly detailed at times) of the action happening in the episodes. It almost even gives viewers a feeling of how the series would have been as an animated comedy.
"Autotune Andy" (1:05) is short, but fun to watch. Essentially, it is an auto-tune version of Andy's embarrassing moment in auditioning for the reality show "America's Next Great A Capella Star" from the episode "A.A.R.M." (which probably was one of the better episodes of the season).
One of the really interesting features is "2003 Casting" (5:43), where we get to see some of the original auditions for the series in 2003. But don't look for Steve Carrell or Rainn Wilson in the first part of this feature! At first, you'll find the auditions of those who didn't get the job, including Seth Rogen trying out for the role of Dwight and Adam Scott auditioning for the role of Jim (I believe that one would have worked pretty well). But even the original auditions with the real cast look very old, and some of them look much different here.
Finally, "Behind-the-Scenes Discussion Panel" (45:16) is a truly behind-the-scene discussion panel about the series that occurred after the series wrap party. While Paul Lieberstein is included in this, he is only here in his role as executive producer, and the discussion that takes place is about the series from a writing, directing, and producing point of view, with questions being asked by a panel that includes an actual TV reporter from the Scranton TV market, a writer from the Scranton area newspaper (they probably don't print on Dunder Mifflin paper), and a representative from the website Office Tally. It may be a little too technical for some viewers since some people on the panel are those names that flash for milliseconds on the closing credits, but it is definitely worth watching. As a special note, it appears that this feature is NOT on the DVD version.
While it isn't really a special feature, the Blu-ray release comes with an UltraViolet code to download and stream each episode on the set. No expiration date is given on this, although it does say that it is subject to expiration. I would assume that the offer is valid for at least a few years, and in my experiences, these downloads are often still available beyond the expiration date if the title is popular enough.
I wish that I could say that I was impressed with the final season and that the series went out with a bang. But honestly, that isn't something that I can say. Just like season eight, it felt like the series was just hanging on for the sake of NBC being able to have a sitcom to hang on to. I think my biggest complaint with these last two seasons has to do with the new characters. In the seventh season, we got Robert California and Nellie Bertram, and while we got rid of Robert, Nellie stuck around. Things only got worse with the "new Jim" and "new Dwight." New characters can be OK, but intentionally setting them up to be clones of the ones we've loved (and making that point as clear as this season did) gets obnoxious, fast. Then, of course, we lost Kelly (as Mindy Kaling went on to her own sitcom) and Ryan, two key characters from the earlier seasons, in the first episode of this season.
As a whole, though, this was a great series, and I'll admit that I was way too quick to dismiss it when it first aired as something I'd never like. In fact, I didn't start watching the series until it was in the sixth season, but once I did, I realized that I was missing something great, and since then, I've watched every episode time and time again both in reruns and on DVD/Blu-ray. There is no telling what the future holds for reruns of this series, but I almost feel like it is on borrowed time. It was certainly a popular series back in its heyday and created a lot of new pop-culture buzz, but it isn't talked about nearly as much anymore and the final episode didn't generate nearly as much buzz as other long-running series have for their final episodes. Regardless, I think there will always be a sizable base of devoted fans (i.e. other than those who would tune in for new episodes until it became "not so good") who will want to see this series again and again, and while the end may not be as pleasant as the first seven seasons, it is essential for fans to own all of the seasons anyway. I wouldn't say that I'll never watch these episodes again. They certainly aren't like the "classic" episodes of the series, but they're very much worth watching again and again.