TITLE: THE OFFICE - SPECIAL EDITION: 10TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION
Release Date: November 22, 2011 (BBC Worldwide/2 entertain Video)
Number of Discs: 4
Number of Episodes: 14
Running Time: 450 minutes
Running Time of Features: approx. 220 minutes
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English
Subtitles and Captioning: English Subtitles
Special Features: Episode Introductions for Series One Episodes; Comedy Connections Documentary; Original Pilot; How I Made the Office Documentary; Deleted Scenes; Video Diary; Outtakes; Commentary ("Christmas Special, Part 2"); Golden Globes Featurette; Music Video; Making of "Freelove Freeway"
Most of us in America know of the current NBC series The Office, but before that, there was The Office. Yes, it is the same title, but The Office is the British series from the BBC that the American sitcom was very closely based upon. The series only lasted twelve episodes (plus two additional Christmas episodes that were made after the conclusion of the series), which is common for a British series, but that small handful of episodes were an international hit and served as the springboard for the very popular American series. The British series premiered on July 9, 2001, and now, ten years later, BBC Worldwide, along with 2 entertain Video brings us that entire series to DVD (once again), along with plenty of bonus features.
Of course, before we go any further, it is only appropriate to give a brief introduction to the series. There is no Michael, Dwight, Jim, Pam, or any of the other characters from the American series here, nor will you see any of the actors from the American series. Instead, we have the almost identical characters, with David Brent (Ricky Gervais) as the boss of Slough branch of the Wernham Hogg paper company, Gareth Keenan (Mackenzie Crook) as the clueless and aloof "assistant to the regional manager," Tim Canterbury (Martin Freeman) as the witty salesman, and Dawn Tinsley (Lucy Davis) as the office receptionist. It should be very obvious who each of these characters inspired for the American version of the series. However, despite the similarities, the show is a much different series with the way the actors portray their characters. Also, the series contains a significant level of profanity and sexual references that could never be palatable for the American broadcast television audience. All in all, it's a whole other office for viewers to take a look inside of!
The series begins with "Downsize," where we get to meet all of the characters at a time when the Slough branch of Wernham Hogg may just be closing. David lies about firing an employee in "Work Experience." David and outside sales manager Chris Finch always win the company quiz bowl, at least up until now, in "The Quiz." An outside facilitator makes a training day painful for David in "Training." In "New Girl," David decides to hire a new secretary, despite having too many employees in the office to begin with. In the first series finale, "Judgment," David must make a choice: save his branch or take a promotion.
The Swindon employees move in to the Slough branch in "Merger," but the first day is not quite what the new employees had in mind. Everybody is about to have themselves evaluated in "Appraisals." In "Party," David manages to ruin a party thanks to his social ineptitude. Tim has a new girlfriend in "Motivation," and it isn't going over too well with Dawn. In "Charity," David decides to turn a charitable day into an office holiday to celebrate. The second series ends with "Interview," where secretary Dawn resigns and moves to the United States. After the second series, we get to see the final episodes of the series, "Christmas Special," where everybody has gone on to much different places in life, but they are all back together for Christmas (even if it means flying Dawn back into the UK all the way from Miami, Florida).
Before I get into the runtimes of the episodes, it is important to note that the episodes do appear to be unedited, but there is one major flaw that could have VERY EASILY been avoided on the Series 1 episodes. The producers of the DVD set decided to add in some introductions and comments from various people (see the Special Features section for details), which is great, or at least it should be. They've added introductions to the beginning of the episodes, given a commentary during the opening credits of the first episode where the comments cut in and out from the opening credits, and added a video split screen to the closing credits with comments. This would be fine, except that they didn't provide any option to watch the episodes WITHOUT the closing credit addition! I almost can't believe that they would even do that, but they did. These were not added to the Series 2 episodes at all. Runtimes for the episodes (with the introductions included) are as follows:
Disc 1 (Series 1 Episodes):
1. "Downsize" (36:03)
2. "Work Experience" (32:54)
3. "The Quiz" (34:12)
4. "Training" (34:36)
5. "New Girl" (34:10)
6. "Judgement" (34:15)
Disc 2 (Special Features)
Disc 3 (Series 2 Episodes):
7. "Merger" (29:16)
8. "Appraisals" (29:24)
9. "Party" (29:08)
10. "Motivation" (29:16)
11. "Charity" (29:00)
12. "Interview" (29:07)
Disc 4 (Christmas Special):
13. "Christmas Special, Part 1" (43:42)
14. "Christmas Special, Part 2" (51:28)
The set comes packaged in a standard digipak, with a photo of Gervais on the cover and a quote from Matt Groening about the series as well. On the back of the box, there is a description of the set, along with a listing of special features (separating the new extras and original extras), and a cast photo. Inside, there is a two panel digipak, with the same artwork as seen on the outer box on the front, and the same cast photo seen on the back of the outer box on the back. Inside, you'll find the four discs. Disc 1 overlaps Disc 2, and Disc 3 overlaps Disc 4. The disc itself includes the series logo, and indicates what you'll find on each disc. The disc organization can be a bit confusing. Disc 1 contains all six episodes of Series 1, but Disc 2 takes a little break for some special features (most of these relate to the Series 1 episodes). Disc 3 has all six of the Series 2 episodes (along with related special features), then Disc 4 contains the "Christmas Special" two-part episode, as well as more special features.
Menu Design and Navigation:
There is some variance on the menus throughout the set due to the nature of how the set is organized. On Discs 1 and 3, which contain only episodes, you have options of Play in Order, Select an Episode, Select a Scene, and Subtitles (On/Off). You'll also see some office furniture, with some office background noises in the background. One complaint that I have about the menus, though, is that when you go to Select an Episode, you don't get a list of episode titles, but instead, you merely get a list that gives you the episode numbers. Would it have truly been that difficult to include the titles of the episodes? It is especially bad because episode titles are indicated nowhere in this set (though this was also the case when the individual series were released). Select a Scene gives you a choice of seven different scenes to start each episode from. Chapters are placed throughout each episode.
Of course, Discs 2 and 4 have slightly different menus, but not much different. On these discs, you get a listing of special
Video and Audio Quality:
The video and audio quality on the set is mostly pretty good, but not QUITE as good as the quality of more recent domestic comedies. I don't have any major complaints about the video quality, though. The episodes are all in their original 16:9 original aspect ratio. The stereo audio track is pretty loud and clear too, and there are English subtitles for all of the episodes.
As previously mentioned, all of the Series 1 episodes contain introductions for every episode, along with comments that run during the closing credits. These are very nice to watch, but would be even nicer if there was an option to turn them off. You'll see some of the usual suspects here, such as the stars of the series (Ricky Gervais, Martin Freeman, and Mackenzie Crook), but you'll also see some special guests here as well, including Matthew Perry, Ben Stiller, Richard Curtis, and Hugh Jackman.
Disc 2 contains special features relating to the series, particularly Series 1. This begins with "Original Pilot" (19:23). Basically, this is just an alternate version of the pilot, but with some slight changes. For the most part, though, this episode is very similar.
"Comedy Connections: The Office" (38:43) is a 2007 episode of a BBC documentary series called Comedy Connections, that essential did a documentary about the mockumentary series (if that makes sense). Here, we get to see Ricky Gervais and others talk about the "comedy connections" of The Office, and how the series was inspired and how it inspired other series (as if that isn't very obvious to American fans!)
"Web Videos" (42:22) is a series of five videos that aired online, which pretty much give some of the same views seen in the Comedy Connections episode. These videos, though, have a bit more depth, and include all of the cast members, along with Matthew Perry, Richard Curtis, and others, similar to the introductions for the episodes.
"How I Made The Office" (39:16) is, well, yet again, more looking back at the series! Here, we get to see more reflections on the series from Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant, and many of the cast members of the series. This one was a bit more humorous to watch than the others and much more candid.
Finally, on Disc 2, we have Deleted Scenes, where you begin with a list of six deleted scenes. But once you select a scene, it doesn't play right away. You get a screen of text that sets up where the scene should have been in the episode, and what led up to the deleted scene. It is nice to have this here, but the screen stays up for exactly 30 seconds. If you need more time, too bad, the scene is going to start playing anyway. And if you just want to skip to the scene before the 30 seconds is up, too bad, you have to wait. Each scene is about two minutes long.
Disc 3 is mostly episodes, but there are some Series 2 related features here. First, we have Deleted Scenes (13:07), which is setup MUCH differently from the Series 1 Deleted Scenes. On these Deleted Scenes, all of the scenes play once you select the Deleted Scenes option from the menu, without any indication of which episode they relate to or what the setup was for the scene. Outtakes (7:43) is a series of outtakes from the Series 2 episodes. These are pretty funny to watch, because the British actors have a much different reaction to messing up than the American actors often do. The final special feature on Disc 3 is "Video Diaries" (20:10), where we get a more personal behind-the-scenes look at the series.
Finally, Disc 4 begins with a commentary for the second half of the "Christmas Special" episode, featuring Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant. "The Office: Closed for Business Documentary" (22:34) is yet another documentary about the series, but this looks exclusively at the end of the series, and the creation of the final episode of the series. "Golden Globes Featurette" (5:46) has the cast talking about their experience of going to the United States for the Golden Globe Awards. It sounds like they were very much a bunch of fish out of water during this experience. "If You Don't Know Me By Now Music Video" (3:35) is David Brent's version of the classic R&B song. It's enjoyable to watch. Finally, we have "Making of Freelove Freeway" (4:41), where we get to see the making of another performance of a Ricky Gervais song, in character as David Brent, of course.
For the most part, this is a very solid set, but it also has some annoying flaws. More specifically, those flaws are the inability to watch the Series 1 episodes without the added interviews, and the lack of episode titles on the menus. Still, neither of these issues are deal-breakers. Fans of the series are certain to love this set, and for fans of the American series, this is a prime opportunity to see the British series. If you already own all of the episodes, whether it be from the individual sets or the previous Complete Series release, it may not necessarily be worth upgrading to this new set, but this set does bring quite a few new interviews, as well as the original pilot (which was not seen on previous releases).
Final Numbers (out of 5 stars - How our point system works)
Video Quality: 4/5
Audio Quality: 4/5
Special Features: 4/5
Menu Design/Navigation: 4/5
-- Reviewed by skees53 on 11/25/11
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