The US remake of "The Office" did understandably come under a bit of fire before it even aired. The British version is so widely loved that many were understandably anixous about whether a remake could do any sort of justice to the original. The first season (which was a short mid-season run) was better than most expected, but it was a little inconsistent, maybe a little too dry at times and didn't put some of the characters to much use.
The series takes place in the Dunder Mifflin paper company offices in Scranton, PA., with boss Michael Scott (Steve Carell, of "The Daily Show" and "Anchorman") looking over the handful of employees that work under him in the office, all of whom appear as if they've been locked into a workplace loop, and have quietly given up on getting free of it years ago. They've reached that point where they've stopped worrying more about getting deadlines done and focused more about figuring out how (one character's belongings are put in the vending machine) to make 5pm come around quicker. Scott is joined by downtrodden receptionist Pam (Jenna Fischer), salesman Jim (John Krasinski), Dwight (Rainn Wilson), Ryan the temp (B.J. Novak) and a series of other supporting characters.
The second season of the series is about as big a leap forward in quality as I can remember seeing in network TV in a while. The first season of the show was perfectly funny, but a few tweaks to the series for the second season has turned the series into what I think is now the funniest show on network TV. The first change is bringing Fischer's character forward and making the potential romance between Pam & Jim one of TV's most enjoyable "Will they or won't they?" romances.
Wilson is the other highlight of the series, playing a character who considers himself the Robin to Michael's Batman, remaining completely unaware that he's simply a suck-up that is barely tolerated by Carrell's character (not to mention the rest of the office.) It's a very funny performance, as Wilson's delivery is priceless. One of the funniest scenes has the character's place in the office being threatened by another employee who actually went to business school. His feelings hurt, he kicks the wall like a little kid and runs to his car to blast R.E.M.'s "Everybody Hurts". When the office staff go to visit the staff at the attached warehouse, Dwight turns to the camera and deadpans, "Remember on 'Lost', when they met 'The Others'?" Not the funniest line, but the timing is brilliant.
Dwight's a train wreck that the rest of the office hates, but Wilson makes him unpredictable, twisted (demented, even) and very funny. He and Carrell also share great chemistry. Carell's performance as Scott is terrific, mixing the character's self-importance (which covers up for utter and complete incompetence) with just a twist of lunacy and the fact that he's totally unaware of how completely socially awkward he is. It's a delicate performance that could go too far into cluelessness or being unlikable, but Carrell's genius delivery (a mini-tour of New York City in one episode is one Carrell highlight of many from this season), complete immersion in the character (as with all the characters on the show, Michael is unapologetically who he is) and delightful reactions make his Michael Scott one of the best TV characters in ages.
Fischer is also a highlight, as she manages to make us care about the character and balance comedy and emotional moments superbly. There's a moment when she breaks down in tears after her fiance won't let her join a corporate program that'll mean she'll spend time in New York. Fischer makes it an absolutely touching scene. Every time she gets treated poorly by her fiance or Jim doesn't realize how much she actually likes him, Fischer makes the moment heartbreaking.
"The Office" clicks because the show manages to mine relatable situations for all they're worth. The humor is dry (although not as dry as the first season) and even the most minor characters make a big impression in little scenes. The characters are unique, well-developed, flawed and have heart. "The Office" was funny the first time around, but the second season of the series is simply priceless.
7. 2- 1 20 Sep 05 The Dundies
8. 2- 2 27 Sep 05 Sexual Harassment
9. 2- 3 4 Oct 05 Office Olympics
10. 2- 4 11 Oct 05 The Fire
11. 2- 5 18 Oct 05 Halloween
12. 2- 6 1 Nov 05 The Fight
13. 2- 7 8 Nov 05 The Client
14. 2- 8 15 Nov 05 Performance Review
15. 2- 9 22 Nov 05 Email Surveillance
16. 2-10 6 Dec 05 Christmas Party
17. 2-11 5 Jan 06 Booze Cruise
18. 2-12 12 Jan 06 The Injury
19. 2-13 19 Jan 06 The Secret
20. 2-14 26 Jan 06 The Carpet
21. 2-15 2 Feb 06 Boys and Girls
22. 2-16 9 Feb 06 Valentine's Day
23. 2-17 2 Mar 06 Dwight's Speech
24. 2-18 16 Mar 06 Take Your Daughter to Work Day
25. 2-19 30 Mar 06 Michael's Birthday
26. 2-20 27 Apr 06 Drug Testing
27. 2-21 4 May 06 Conflict Resolution
28. 2-22 11 May 06 Casino Night
VIDEO: Universal presents "The Office" in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. The presentation is generally excellent, as the image remains crisp and well-defined throughout much of the running time, with only a couple of moments of slight softness here-and-there.
Some minor shimmering and slight edge enhancement appears at times, but both are visible only briefly, and aren't much of a distraction at all. Colors are bright and vivid, with no smearing or other faults.
SOUND: The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack remains perfectly fine throughout, with clear dialogue.
'The Dundies' Commentary with John Krasinkski, Jenna Fischer, B.J. Novak, Mindy Kaling, Paul Lieberstein, David Denman, Editor Dave Rogers and Executive Producer Greg Daniels
'Sexual Harassment' Commentary with Brian Baumgartner, Rainn Wilson, B.J. Novak, Oscar Nunez, Paul Lieberstein, Angela Kinsey, Melora Hardin, and Larry Wilmore
'The Client' Commentary with John Krasinski, Jenna Fischer, Melora Hardin, Brian Baumgartner, B.J. Novak, Paul Lieberstein, Writer Mike Schur, and Executive Producer Greg Daniels
'Performance Review' Commentary with Rainn Wilson, Oscar Nunez, Paul Lieberstein, Angela Kinsey, Melora Hardin, Writer Larry Wilmore, and Director Paul Feig
'Christmas Party' Commentary with Jenna Fischer, B.J. Novak, Kate Flannery, David Denman, Editor Dave Rogers, Writer Mike Schur, and Executive Producer Greg Daniels
'Booze Cruise' Commentary with Jenna Fischer, Rainn Wilson, B.J. Novak, David Denman, Angela Kinsey, Oscar Nunez, Director of Photography Randall Einhorn, and Executive Producer Greg Daniels
'The Secret' Commentary with John Krasinski, Jenna Fischer, Brian Baumgartner, Angela Kinsey, and Writers Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky
'Valentine's Day' Commentary with John Krasinski, Jenna Fischer, Angela Kinsey, Mindy Kaling, Melora Hardin, Writer Mike Schur, Co-Executive Producer Kent Zbornak, and Executive Producer Greg Daniels
'Drug Testing' Commentary with Rainn Wilson, Paul Lieberstein, Jenna Fischer, Oscar Nunez, Brian Baumgartner, B.J. Novak, Angela Kinsey, Director of Photography Randall Einhorn, Writer Jen Celotta, and Executive Producer Greg Daniels
'Casino Night' Commentary with Jenna Fischer, Rainn Wilson, Melora Hardin, Paul Lieberstein, David Denman, Brian Baumgartner, Director of Photography Randall Einhorn, and Executive Producer Greg Daniels
Behind the Scenes of the Commentary Sessions Commentary with Jenna Fischer, B.J. Novak, David Denman, Kate Flannery, Editor Dave Rogers, Writer Mike Schur, Producer Kent Kbornak, and Executive Producer Greg Daniels
The commentaries are a lot of fun, as the cast and crew sit back and joke about some of the behind-the-scenes happenings. The tracks also point out small background details and chat about how some of the scenes came together. All of the commentaries are a great deal of fun and worth checking out. Unfortunately, Carrell isn't included here, although likely due to shooting a movie.
Also included are the absurdly funny "Faces of Scranton" video that was shown in the "Valentine's Day" episode, a ton of deleted scenes, one of the funniest blooper reels I've seen in a while, a series of hilarious fake "The More You Know" PSAs, Olympics promos, clips with Carrell interviewing himself and finally, brief web episodes featuring the accountants.
Final Thoughts: The second season of "The Office" is consistently hilarious, with the show's terrific ensemble cast and stellar writing resulting in a lot of big laughs. The DVD set provides very good audio/video quality and a great set of supplemental features. Highly recommended.