Original Airing: 2011-2012
Length: 24 episodes (8 hours, 50 mins)
Genre: Comic Mockumentary
BD Resolution and Codec: 1080p 1.78:1 Widescreen, VC-1 (@ an average 32 mbps)
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (@ an average 3.7 mbps)
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Rating: Unrated (TV-safe Innuendos and Language)
Release Date: September 4, 2012
Rating: 2 ½
Starring: Ed Helms, John Krasinski, Jenna Fischer, B.J. Novak, Rainn Wilson and James Spader
Adapted and Executive Produced by: Greg Daniels
From the British TV Series by: Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant
If it feels like we just went through a review like this a year ago, you’re not mistaken. My review of the seventh season of this series on disc was actually dated one year ago – September 11, 2011. And now we move on to the current affair. The Office: Season 8 is a 5-disc Blu-ray collection of the eighth season of the NBC adaptation of the British comedy series about the goings-on in the Scranton branch office of an insufferable paper company. As I have noted before, 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 continues to be the same sort of viscerally uncomfortable kind that Ricky Gervais has trademarked throughout his career. But today, now eight years into the run of the show, the whole enterprise is seriously beginning to feel tired. Steve Carell, the original lead of this series, left the show before the end of last season. So this season begins with an attempt to replace him at the center of the circus with one of the long-standing regulars: Ed Helms. And this isn’t a particularly bad idea – Helms is a solid character actor, and he clearly relishes having more time in the spotlight. But he’s not Carell, and the jokes are simply not as funny the eighth year around. James Spader has been added to the mix as the new CEO of the entire company and he does as well as can be expected, but there just isn’t a lot of fire in this engine anymore. Fans of the series will certainly enjoy this latest season, at least for the chance to visit with the characters for another year, but there’s just not much for more casual viewers. If you’ve never watched the series before, I would strongly recommend you try the earlier seasons – particularly the fifth, as the material was stronger and fresher at that point.
The Blu-ray set includes all 24 episodes of the 8th season in 1080p HD picture and DTS-HD MA 5.1 sound, along with a reduced helping of extras, including deleted scenes, extended cuts of the episodes “Angry Andy” and “Fundraiser”, a blooper reel, two webisodes of “The Girl Next Door”, and the short promos that were aired during the 2012 Super Bowl. As I mentioned, this is a “flipper” set, so each disc has the Blu-ray on one side of the disc, and the DVD on the other side. Instructions for accessing Ultraviolet copies of the episodes online are included in the package.
VIDEO QUALITY 3 ½
The Office: Season 8 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. There is one slight anomaly I am now realizing was in prior Blu-ray sets as well – but it’s in the Main Menu, not in the episodes themselves. When the Main Menu is playing, the various clips of interviews are presented center screen, with a strange splitscreen effect as the left and right edges of the frame are filled with repeats of the opposite edge information. I really don’t understand why this choice was made, given that the SD sides of the discs don’t have this problem with their menus. Again, this doesn’t affect the episodes – only the Menu screen.
AUDIO QUALITY 3 ½
The Office: Season 8 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.
DISC BY DISC:
As I regularly do with TV series sets, I will describe what can be found on each disc, in order. The deleted scenes are all presented in high definition picture (VC-1 encoding) and 2.0 sound.
The discs also contain the usual My Scenes bookmarking and BD-Live functionality of all Universal Blu-ray releases. There are chapters to each episode, but they are not in any menu, so you wind up needing to jump through the episode blindly to get back to a specific point.
DVD Flipper Sides – Each disc has a standard definition DVD of the same material on the flipside. The DVD sides present their sound in English Dolby Digital 5.1 at 448 kbps. The bonus materials are identical on the DVD sides to the Blu-ray counterparts.
Ultraviolet – An insert in the packaging offers an authorization code for downloading and streaming Ultraviolet copies of the episodes. The code will expire April 30, 2017.
The List, with deleted scenes (6:02).
The Incentive, with deleted scenes (5:56).
Lotto, with deleted scenes (4:01).
Garden Party, with deleted scenes (4:46).
Spooked, with deleted scenes (1:41)
Doomsday, with deleted scenes (7:52)
Gettysburg, with deleted scenes (5:08)
Mrs. California, with deleted scenes (2:18)
Christmas Wishes, with deleted scenes (5:58).
Trivia, with deleted scenes (3:31).
Pool Party, with deleted scenes (2:17).
Jury Duty, with deleted scenes (5:14)
Special Project, with deleted scenes (4:37)
Tallahassee, with deleted scenes (6:15).
After Hours, with deleted scenes (6:04).
Test the Store, with deleted scenes (6:20)
Last Day in Florida, with deleted scenes (1:04).
Get the Girl, with deleted scenes (7:01).
Welcome Party with deleted scenes (4:03).
Angry Andy, presented in its aired version, and in a Producer’s Extended Cut that restores several minutes of deleted scenes.
Fundraiser, with deleted scenes (2:10). This episode is also presented in a Producer’s Extended Cut that restores several minutes of deleted scenes that I don’t believe overlap with the separated 2 minutes. (From what I can tell, the additional deleted material wasn’t used for the longer cut either.)
Turf War, with deleted scenes (3:11)
Free Family Portrait Studio, with deleted scenes (7:31)
This disc also contains:
Blooper Reel (19:10, 1080p) – Nearly 20 minutes of blown takes and gags are included here, as part of the regular assembly included on the season sets..
Webisodes – The Girl Next Door (6:30 Total, 1080p) – This is a two part webisode series featuring several of the cast from the show. The webisode “The Story of Subtle Sexuality” and the music video “The Girl Next Door”, can be viewed individually or via a “Play All” function.
Super Bowl Promos (3:49 Total, 1080p) – Six brief promos that aired during the 2012 Super Bowl are included here. “Commercial”, “Dip”, “Fans”, “Museums”, “Post Game” and “Bigger Fan” can be viewed individually or via a “Play All” function.
Subtitles are available in English and Spanish for the episodes and for the special features. Standard episode menus are included for quick reference, and there are chapters within each episode but without a menu to guide you through them. The usual Blu-ray pop-up menus work fine. The packaging continues to use the staggered mounting idea, which I am beginning to dislike, as I nearly snapped one of the discs trying to get it out of the holder.
IN THE END...
The Office: Season 8 is a nice collection of episodes for devoted fans of this series, but even they may find their patience thinning at this point. The writers do seem to be trying to find new material and new characters to generate interest, but at this point the series really feels like it’s running out of steam. The Blu-ray collection reflects the shrinking interest in the reduced extras package, which really amounts to a collection of deleted scenes, the usual gag reel and a few minutes of webisodes and promos. Gone are the days when episodic commentaries were offered, and even farther gone are the days when people like Stephen Merchant would come to the party. I’m not sure how to deal with the idea of making this a flipper set – I’m sure some people will like that. Overall, I have to say that casual fans who want to see the best of this series would be better advised to start with the earlier years. It’s not that these are bad episodes – just that we’re well past the point of freshness and the air is starting to get stale.
September 11, 2012
Equipment now in use in this Home Theater:
Panasonic 65” VT30 Plasma 3D HDTV – set at “ISF Night” picture mode
(HDTV professionally calibrated in June 2012 by AVICAL)
Denon AVR-3311Cl Receiver
Oppo BDP-93 Blu-ray Player
PS3 Player (used for calculation of bitrates for picture and sound)
5 Mirage Speakers (Front Left/Center/Right, Surround Back Left/Right)
2 Sony Speakers (Surround Left/Right – middle of room)
Martin Logan Dynamo 700 Subwoofer
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