Release Date: September 2, 2008
Starring: Steve Carell, John Krasinski, Jenna Fischer, B.J. Novak and Rainn Wilson
Adapted and Executive Produced by: Greg Daniels
From the British TV Series by: Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant
The Office: Season 4 is a 4-disc DVD collection of the fourth season of the hit NBC adaptation of the British comedy series about the goings-on in an insufferably ordinary Scranton branch office of a paper company. The series is filmed in the manner of a documentary, complete with inset interviews of the characters, suggesting that the mayhem onscreen might really be happening. The humor of the show is the same sort of viscerally uncomfortable kind that Ricky Gervais also used to effect on the HBO series Extras. The series will certainly impress and entertain people that enjoy that brand of humor – and there’s a big audience that will go for this, based on the ratings and the prior sales. For me, I was unable to make the leap into this world – too many scenes of discomfort and too little for me to hold on during the ride. But I have a feeling I’m in the minority in that opinion, given that even Ricky Gervais has joined in by contributing a script to the third season of this version. The fourth season set of the show includes all 14 episodes from the strike-shortened year, some of which are super-sized, and six of which were produced after the WGA strike ended.
The DVD set comes with a fair amount of extras, including four commentaries, deleted scenes, internet extracts, a video of the writers at a show convention, and in the package sent to me for review, even a copy of the table draft of the last episode written before the WGA Strike began. (I should note that much of the additional material is already available on the NBC website, and the convention video has been available online as well.) Subtitles are available in English and Spanish for the episodes, and for the special features.
As with my earlier series reviews, I will take the discs in order, detailing what episodes and features can be found on each. THERE ARE SPOILERS HERE, in the interest of letting fans of the series know where they can see key developments.
This disc contains the first three episodes of the season:
“Fun Run” – The premiere episode deals with the simple problem of Michael (Steve Carell) hitting Meredith with his car and then somehow converting the situation into a disastrous fundraiser for rabies awareness.
“Dunder Mifflin Infinity” – Ryan (BJ Novak) returns to the branch office to implement changes toward bringing the paper company into the digital world.
“Launch Party” – Parties mark the launch of the Dunder Mifflin Infinity website, both in New York and home in Scranton.
The special features on the first disc include:
-Deleted Scenes for every episode, presented in non-anamorphic format. (And many deleted scenes are available on the NBC website)
Rabies: The More You Know - (0:22, Non-Anamorphic) – This is a really quick gag PSA from NBC, with Steve Carell dramatically intoning about the dangers of rabies, which kills “4000 people every 1000 years”.
-When this disc is initially put in the player, you can see non-anamorphic trailers for DVDs of 30 Rock, Leatherheads, The Big Lebowski: 10th Anniversary Edition, Burn After Reading, along with a promo for The Office on NBC.
This disc contains the fourth thru the seventh episodes of the season:
“Money” – Michael leans on the office staff to give him a loan. (This episode has a commentary with Rainn Wilson, Jenna Fischer, Melora Hardin, Brian Baumgartener, Paul Lieberstein, Michael Shur and Jennifer Celotta)
“Local Ad” – Michael refuses to cooperate with the company-hired ad people in creating a commercial for the Scranton branch of Dunder Mifflin. Instead, he has the office staff help him make his own commercial. This episode was directed by Jason Reitman, fresh from his success with Juno. (This episode has a commentary by B.J. Novak, Ed Helms, Leslie David Baker, Creed Bratton, Craig Robinson, Jason Reitman, and Anthony Ferrell.)
“Branch Wars” – Michael and Karen fight over the loyalty of the staffers, as Karen tries to get people to transfer to her branch.
“Survivor Man” – Michael creates his own corporate wilderness retreat. This episode was written by Steve Carell.
This disc contains the following special features:
-Deleted scenes for every episode, presented in non-anamorphic format
Michael Scott’s Dunder Mifflin Ad - (1:22, Non-Anamorphic) – Michael’s disastrous commercial from “Local Ad” is included here, in all its glory.
This disc contains the eighth thru the eleventh episodes of the season:
“The Deposition” – Michael’s performance in a deposition for Jan’s lawsuit against the company turns out to be quite unfortunate. In the meantime, Jim (John Krasinski) and Darryl engage in a Ping Pong battle. (This episode has a commentary with Rainn Wilson, Jenna Fischer, Melora hardin, Brian Baumgartner, Ed Helms, Lee Eisenberg, Lester Lewis and Ryan Koh)
“Dinner Party” – Michael and Jan host Jim and Pam (Jenna Fischer) for a dinner get-together that goes south in a hurry. (The pre-rehearsal script is included in the limited edition package, but it should be noted that this script does not reflect all the contributions the actors made to the finished project via improvisation and ad-libbing.) I should also note that this script was completed before the WGA strike began, but could not be filmed at that time, due to the refusal of a key cast member to appear for work during the strike. As a consequence, work on the episode was halted at that time, and then begun anew once the strike ended.
“The Chair Model” – Michael’s attention is taken by a woman in a catalogue.
“Night Out” – Michael and Dwight (Rainn Wilson) take Ryan clubbing in New York.
This disc contains deleted scenes for all four episodes, presented in non-anamorphic format.
The fourth disc includes the final three aired episodes for the season:
“Did I Stutter?” – Toby encourages Michael to deal with Stanley’s insubordination. (This episode has a commentary with Rainn Wilson, Jenna Fischer, Leslie David Baker, Kate Flannery, Justin Spitzer, Brent Forrester, Gene Stupnitsky and Randall Einhorn.)
“Job Fair” – Michael looks for a summer intern at a job fair, while others are trying to get a new client on the golf course.
“Goodbye, Toby” – Michael insists on a big party to say goodbye to Toby on his departure from the company, but not everyone is onboard with the idea.
This disc contains the following special features:
-Deleted scenes for all three episodes, in non-anamorphic format.
Blooper Reel - (22:37, Anamorphic) – This is over 22 minutes of blown lines and takes, some of which are increasingly hilarious as they go on. In several cases, you get the initial blown take, and then as the cast attempts to get it together, a cascading series of blown takes as the situation degenerates into giggling and mayhem.
THE OFFICE Convention: Writers’ Block - (52:51, Non-Anamorphic) – This is a video of the writers’ panel at a recent convention for the show.
Summer Vacation Promo - (3:00, Non-anamorphic) – This is a series of quick spots with the various characters discussing what they’ve been doing during the summer between seasons.
VIDEO QUALITY: 3 ½/5 ½
The Office: Season 4 gets a fairly clean anamorphic 1.78:1 transfer that shows off bright colors and pretty accurate skin tones. As much of the material takes place in a brightly lit office, there isn’t a huge amount of variety. But the excursions out – the “Fun Run” of the season premiere, the tony conference room look for “The Deposition” – all look good.
AUDIO QUALITY: 3/5
The Office: Season 4 is presented in an English Dolby Digital 5.1 mix that pretty much lives in the front channels. Given the nature of the show – people working together in an office – there’s not a lot of room to come up with much to put in the surround channels.
As I have mentioned in other season set reviews, the various episodes here each have a few chapter stops, but there are no chapter menus, meaning that the viewer must step through them on their own. Subtitles are available in English and Spanish. Each disc has an entertaining menu screen with a few choice quotes from the characters being heard over a moving graphic.
IN THE END...
The Office: Season 4 will likely already have enough of a following that this season could sell quite well without any encouragement by online reviewers. And it’s a well-made show with a good cast. For myself, the deliberately uncomfortable situations were a bit much to get through. But this show has a lot of fans who relish those scenes. For that group, a quick purchase of this title will likely not even be a question. For the more casual viewer who has never seen it, I recommend renting it first and seeing whether it fits the viewer’s taste.
September 11, 2008