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    The Office Season 9 Blu-ray Review

    Blu-ray Universal

    Sep 08 2013 06:58 PM | Kevin EK in DVD & Blu-ray Reviews
    The Office: Season 9 files the final season of the NBC comedy on Blu-ray for fans of the show, which calls it a day arguably about two years after it should have ended its run. The 4-disc collection presents all 23 episodes in pleasing high definition picture and sound, along with a decent assortment of extras, including deleted scenes from the episodes, with the final disc also including a retrospective featurette, a a gag reel, a quick Autotune clip and a few real gems.

    Title Info:

    • Studio: Universal
    • Distributed By: N/A
    • Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC, 1080P/VC-1
    • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
    • Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA
    • Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
    • Rating: Not Rated
    • Run Time: 9 Hrs. 55 Mins.
    • Package Includes: Blu-ray, UltraViolet
    • Case Type:
    • Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
    • Region: ABC
    • Release Date: 09/03/2013
    • MSRP: $49.98

    The Production Rating: 2.5/5

    The Office: Season 9 offers yet another opportunity to examine the phenomena of a television series facing its final season and/or its series finale. And after 9 years and 201 episodes, this show takes its final curtain call with a wrap-up that ends things on more of a wistful note with perhaps a wink and a nudge than the more pungent approach one would have expected from the Ricky Gervais original series. I should note that the Gervais show in the UK only ran two years for six episodes apiece – roughly the same amount as the great Fawlty Towers. (I’ll leave out the reunion Christmas specials and the more recent revisitation by Gervais for purposes of that comparison…) Within that limited number of episodes, Gervais and Stephen Merchant created a vividly uncomfortable (and uncomfortably funny) microcosm of a minor paper company and the uncomfortable people who work there every day. And somehow this concept has wound up translating into multiple countries including Germany (where their version is still in production), France, Sweden and the United States. The longest-running version of the concept, of course, is the American one, set in a Scranton version of the original UK paper company. Initially hitting US airwaves as a mid-season replacement in 2005, the show slowly but surely became a mainstay on NBC, picking up higher ratings and some awards over time. Several members of the cast and staff of the show have gone on to much greater fame, including John Krasinski and Mindy Kaling, among others. Along the way, Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant stopped in from time to time, with the former making a couple of cameo appearances in the 7th season, the latter directing the best episode of the 5th season, and both men contributing to a script in the 3rd season.

    But after 9 years and 200 episodes, any television series is going to begin looking long in the tooth. Characters that were fresh at the start of the ride may become stale with time if they don’t evolve. And at the same time, if they evolve in the way real people do, the show runs the risk of losing the chemistry and the elements that made it interesting in the first place. Television is, after all, a medium that normally embraces long-term stability. (One of the most ironic issues with the TV adaptation of M*A*S*H was that it ran about 8 years longer than the actual Korean War…) With a series that runs this long, there simply is no believable way that the lead characters would be able to stay unchanged. Accordingly, The Office has seen its main characters slowly but surely grow up a little over time. The original office manager, Michael Scott (Steve Carell), eventually moved on completely from this setting and started a new life in Colorado. The young leads of the series, Pam (Jenna Fischer) and Jim (John Krasinski) have gone from being friends to dating to marrying to winding up as the parents of two kids. Even Dwight (Rainn Wilson), the most obnoxious guy in the office, has wound up several degrees more approachable and even sociable by the final episode. (I’m being generous with the definition of “sociable” there…) All of these changes were necessary and appropriate, and yet in the final season, there’s a definite sense that the show has stayed on quite a bit past its sell-by date. There’s an obvious attempt to inject some new life by throwing in a pair of young new employees (Clark Duke and Jake Lacy) to fill the vacuum left by departing characters Kelly (Mindy Kaling) and Ryan (B.J. Novak). Like many attempts to suddenly toss in new characters, this one doesn’t do much other than contrast the established characters’ older ages with the youth of the new guys. After a relatively undistinguished final season, The Office wraps things up with a final bow that will probably satisfy fans of the series to some extent but which is probably two parts more wistful than one would have expected from the best of the show that went before it.

    SPOILERS HERE. DO NOT READ IF YOU DO NOT WISH TO BE SPOILED ABOUT THE FINAL EPISODE: The series winds up with a finale that features a public Q&A about the documentary featuring the hero office, the logical departures of several characters, the returns of several other characters and a wedding for Dwight. Much of this is fairly predictable stuff. Dwight, now the manager of the office, makes a spectacular show of firing various people, including Kevin. The wedding sequence provides an opportunity for Kelly and Ryan to make a return appearance. (We should keep in mind that both left to work on Mindy Kaling’s new series, so their appearances here and in the first episode of the season are quick ones that needed to be worked around their new regular jobs.) The Q&A features one surprisingly moving bit where Erin (Ellie Kemper) is reunited with her birth parents (Joan Cusack and Ed Begley Jr.). But the biggest moment of the finale winds up being a much smaller idea. For months, the notion was discussed of having Steve Carell’s Michael return at the end, and this idea was publicly denied by Carell and people on the series. As they revealed afterwards, that public denial was a deliberate mislead – they always intended to surprise fans with an appearance by Michael. Except that Michael’s sudden emergence as Dwight’s Best Man at the central wedding is an oddly quiet moment with a visibly older and subdued Michael. He says one or two lines of dialogue, dances at the wedding, shows some kid photos to Pam and offers one observation to the follow-up documentarians: “I feel like my kids have all grown up and married each other.” And that’s pretty much it. If anything, the series ends not with a bang but a bit of a whimper. Not that a whimper is a bad thing for a series like The Office, but there’s a feeling that it might have been an idea to try something with a little more teeth in it. Pam’s closing thought is a nice one in terms of its humanity, but one can’t help but wonder what Ricky Gervais’ David Brent would have said under the same circumstances.

    SPOILERS NOW FINISHED. SAFE TO RESUME READING. I have discussed in the past that a series finale offers a chance to make a concluding statement for a TV show. In the case of The Office, the concluding statement, both from the last episode and the final season, is a bit more sentimental than I would have expected, and also has a feeling of being a bit longer than unnecessary in the end. Perhaps this is due to the characters having long since explored their various arcs to the nth degree. Perhaps it’s due to the monotony of office life in the first place. But if the basic notion of the series is that career office employees can be funny, crazy, self-important, tragic, and/or all of the above at the same time, that point has been made many times over before this season even began. In the end, the series can’t help but wind up exactly where it started – with a group of people doing their best to cope with their jobs while dealing with the most absurd situations possible. And maybe that’s a better point that the series is making overall – an office environment tends to be a stable one over the long term. Things don’t tend to change much over time in most offices and monotony rules the day. But I get the feeling that this point isn’t what writer Greg Daniels had in mind here. A shame, as this might have made for a stronger conclusion.

    The Blu-ray set includes all 23 episodes of the 9th season in 1080p HD picture and DTS-HD MA 5.1 sound, along with a good selection of extras, almost all of which can be found on the set’s final disc


    DISC ONE:


    New Guys, with deleted scenes (5:12)

    Roy’s Wedding, with deleted scenes (9:14)

    Andy’s Ancestry, with deleted scenes (8:29)

    Work Bus, with deleted scenes (6:01)

    Here Comes Treble, with deleted scenes (8:07)

    The Boat, with deleted scenes (5:03)

    The Whale, with deleted scenes (5:14)



    DISC TWO:


    The Target, with deleted scenes (6:12)

    Dwight Christmas, with deleted scenes (4:10)

    Lice, with deleted scenes (3:31)

    Suit Warehouse, with deleted scenes (4:33)

    Customer Loyalty, with deleted scenes (5:21)

    Junior Salesman, with deleted scenes (5:46)

    Vandalism, with deleted scenes (7:45)



    DISC THREE:


    Couples Discount, with deleted scenes (5:03)

    Moving On, with a deleted scene (0:54)

    The Farm

    Promos, with deleted scenes (2:43)

    Stairmageddon, with a deleted scene (1:50)

    Paper Airplane, with deleted scenes (4:56)



    DISC FOUR:


    Livin’ the Dream

    A.A.R.M., with deleted scenes (8:06)

    Finale with deleted scenes (12:42).

    Video Rating: 3.5/5 3D Rating: NA

    The Office: Season 9 is presented in a 1080p transfer that shows off a clear picture and accurate flesh tones. As I have discussed in my reviews of the prior seasons, I don’t know that there’s much to this series that carries the kind of detail that a high definition picture can reveal. One oddity here is that the picture has AVC encoding for the first three discs, but VC-1 for the final disc, likely due to the amount of extra content jammed onto that disc.

    Audio Rating: 3.5/5

    The Office: Season 9 is presented in an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that focuses on the front channels but does bring the surrounds to good effect in various situations where atmospheric sound can enhance the scene. As with the prior seasons, this isn’t that immersive of a mix, and most of the sound comes from the front channels for the dialogue, but it certainly is clear and the dialogue is easy to understand.

    Special Features: 3/5

    On Disc 4, we find the following Special Features:

    Blooper Reel (14:14, 1080p) – Nearly 15 minutes of blown takes and gags are included here, as part of the regular assembly included on the season sets.

    The Office: A Look Back (29:24, 1080p) – This retrospective featurette includes interviews with many of the cast members, including Jenna Fischer and John Krasinski. Ricky Gervais offers his thoughts on the longevity of the series, particularly as relates to the original UK show he created. Steve Carell is not part of the interviews.

    Finale Table Read (1:17:19, 1080p) – This is a nice thought to have on the final disc of the series. What we have here is the final table read of the series, with the cast gathered to read the script for the final episode and the writers playing the roles of any of the regular or guest cast unable to be present. There are differences between this script and what was actually presented in the episode – some of the scenes read here show up as deleted material, and conversely, there are moments in the final episode that are not in the script being read here. It should be noted that Pilot director Ken Kwapis is present here, as he guided both the first and last episodes of the series to completion. The read-thru ends on an extremely emotional note as Jenna Fischer tears up on her final lines as the series comes to a close.

    Autotune Andy (1:05, 1080p) – This quick bit is just an isolation of the embarrassing moment for Andy in his acapella audition on television.

    2003 Casting (5:43, 1080p) – This is another nice thought. Here we have clips from the 2003 auditions for the series’ regular characters. Some of the auditions are those of the actors who landed the roles. Other auditions are from other actors who didn’t make it onto the series but did become well known for other roles. Among the other people included here are Seth Rogen, Bob Odenkirk and John Cho.

    The Office: Behind-the-Scenes Panel Discussion (45:16, 480p) – This is a panel discussion from the “Wrap Party” event held in Scranton this year. Present at the panel are Greg Daniels, Paul Lieberstein (co-exec producer and writer), Steve Burgess (producer), Phil Shea (prop master), Matt Sohn (director of photography), Allison Silverman (co-exec producer and writer), Claire Scanlon (editor) and Carrie Kemper (writer). Several of the panel participants mention right away that they also directed multiple episodes of the series along the way to boot.

    Overall Rating: 3/5

    The Office: Season 9 is a good collection of the final episodes for devoted fans of this series, given that the show has probably a couple of years past the time when it should have ended. As a nice grace note, the final disc on the set includes some very good extras, including a video of the final table read, a BTS panel from the Scranton “Wrap Party” event, and a few minutes of clips of the 2003 auditions for the show. The picture and sound quality of the discs is as good as ever, but I daresay that won’t be the reason fans of the show will pick up this set. I believe the set will best be enjoyed by the most serious fans of the show, simply for completion’s sake. But more casual fans are advised they will likely enjoy some of the earlier seasons a bit more.

    Reviewed by: Kevin EK
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    5 Comments

    The Production Rating: 2.5/5

    Maybe it was just because I knew it was the end of the show but I thought this season was a rebound over the last couple years.

    Photo
    Mike Frezon
    Sep 09 2013 06:15 AM

    Maybe it was just because I knew it was the end of the show but I thought this season was a rebound over the last couple years.

     

    +1  Without a doubt.  The last couple of years were pretty darn bad.  We came thisclose to giving up on it.  The last half of this season, however, made me glad that I didn't.  And I thought the finale was especially well done. 

     

    Again, I suppose a fair amount of sentimentality comes into it...because we had so much invested in these characters for such a long time.   I liked the fact that they:

     

    Spoiler

     

    I think I'll just choose to try and forget the James Spader, Kathy Bates era...

    Late to the party, just got this due to the recent price reduction here. My set starts the VC1 at disc two. Is this a change from those who got the set earlier? Why would Uni do this? Nobody intentionally changes codecs half/part-way through something, do they?

    I can go back and check it again. They've done the back and forth with the codecs in prior seasons without it really affecting anything. Given that this is a tv show shot with Alexas (as I understand it), and given that the look tends to be an intentionally bright "video" look for the documentary, I honestly don't think it compromises the PQ. That said, it can be baffling to see the codecs change from disc to disc.

    I never really noticed the changing codecs from season to season, since I got each season as it came out up to 7. Went back and got S5/6 on BD, not to any (PQ, packaging, content accessibility) benefit really.

     

    I only noticed the changing codecs here within S9 because it went from Office-normal PQ (i.e. blah and barely better than the DVDs) to blown-out/no-detail/worse-than-modern-DVD awful. So I wondered what happened. Luckily the awful went away after 2-3 episodes and was back to Office-normal but at a somewhat higher bitrate, as might be expected for VC1. Still, I find it hard to think changing codecs mid-stream wasn't a mistake, but who knows, Uni still puts out new stuff with VC1. I've never seen this kind of midstream change before...maybe they suddenly got a deal on VC1 rates...or changed interns.

     

    Probably should just be glad they're doing BDs for this at all, P&R and 30 Rock don't get them. P&R looks great on DVD, 30 Rock not so much. I think what goes on in 30 Rock pretty much explains the whole Uni/NBC thing, and pretty much "answers" my questions about any goings on there that don't make sense. :)

     

    Edit: oh yeah, thanks for the review! BTW after finishing S9, I'd have to say it's slightly better than S7, which I thought was actually pretty good (after the much less-good S6). So a solid "4" from me, I could be bribed to a "4.5". But then, I may like this series too much, not like I can relate to it since I've never worked in any environment even remotely similar. I just find it funny.

     

    I also think the deleted scenes are often better than what was kept, going back to S6 at least. It's kind of remarkable what they can get away with on-air now, compared to some things they likely had to cut for content purposes just a few years ago. Also because a lot of the cut stuff names names and mentions products explicitly, and not in a good light...so there's that too. Also, not so long ago it would be unheard of to mention a competitor's products on-air, and in a good light too. A good ride!

     

    Have not seen S8 (no deals on it here yet, it's rather expensive). Gotta say, after seeing S9, there are a few things that are continually referred to throughout that must have happened in S8...and I'm curious now.

     

    And again: I got corrected, we watched in kind of a marathon and I "remembered" the details wrongly. Discs 1 and 3 are AVC, discs 2 and 4 are VC1...why I originally assumed it was a mistake.