The Office: Season Four (2007)
|Universal || NR - 405 minutes - $49.98 || September 2, 2008|
|Reviewer: Brian Oliver || Posted On: 2008-09-12|
Writer(s): Ricky Gervais & Stephen Merchant (BBC Series creators); Greg Daniels (developed by)
Cast: Steven Carell, Rainn Wilson, John Krasinski, Jenna Fischer, Leslie David Baker, Brian Baumgartner, Angela Kinsey, Phyllis Smith, Kate Flannery, Mindy Kaling, Paul Lieberstein, Creed Bratton, Oscar Nuńez
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“I am serious. We are all serious. You are fired like a heart attack.” – Michael Scott
“The Office” is a gem of a comedy. A very rare gem. It is also an acquired taste for some in its comedy style, many times subtle in the character mannerisms rather than any type of physical comedy. I remember sitting down and watching this with a friend who, outside of a couple genuine laughs, only watched in dead silence while I laughed my ass off. Nothing wrong with anybody who doesn’t like this kind of comedy (I still prefer the old sitcoms like “The Cosby Show” or “Seinfeld”), but it is a reason why the series will not appeal to the majority of American audiences. Then there’s the debate about which is better, the British or American versions (having never seen it, I can’t answer that one)...
In any case, Season Four continues and introduces several character storylines throughout. You, of course, still have Jim’s (Krasinski; Leatherheads) frat-like pranks against Michael’s wannabe #2, Dwight (Wilson; The Rocker) plus the basic shenanigans of Dunder Mifflin Scranton manager, Michael (Carell; Get Smart), a man who somehow is able to stay employed. But a couple romances also blossom: first the whole Jim and Pam (Fischer; Blades of Glory) relationship continues from the third season (keeping it a secret from the others); Michael and his former boss, Jan (Melora Hardin), have a contentious liaison especially after she tries to sue the company for age discrimination; while Dwight and Angela are on shaky ground as Andy (Helms) may also be interested in the ice queen of accounting.
Meanwhile, the old temp Ryan (Novak) is a corporate boss who oversees the Scranton branch and, with a newly formed half-assed beard, turns into a complete douche, but I mean that in a good “villainess” kind of way.
“The Office: Season Four”, story-wise, isn’t a whole lot different from the other seasons. Sure, Jim and Pam or finally together (though the writers do seem to plan on shaking things up), but shifting away from that relationship, we get a dose of Dwight/Angela and Andy/Angela along with Michael Scott’s own personal and professional woes. The storylines aren’t exactly compelling, but that’s not entirely why we watch.
What makes the show great aren’t just the stories but every one of these characters from the main to the supporting cast members and how each interacts with one another. The Dwight/Jim dynamic is probably one of my favorites throughout the series between Jim’s practical jokes to Dwight’s unusual style of speech and thought patterns/reasoning.
You also have in Michael Scott one of the worst managers you’ll ever see on television — how he still has his job, I don’t know —, but underneath the silly, idiotic persona, is actually someone who cares about his employees and on some level they (Stanley excluded) might actually “care” about him. Point is, while Michael Scott is the ultimate doofus, I think the writer’s take caution not to take him over the top to a point where the audience just gets annoyed. And a big reason why the character is so likeable is because of the comedic timing and mannerisms of Steve Carell.
“The Office: Season Four” is one of the better comedies I’ve seen in a long time. Although it may not be the greatest, the cast makes it memorable along with the talented writers that it’s no wonder why the series has such a strong following.
Episodes are spread across four discs in a digipak using 2 overlapping trays (meaning to get to the disc behind, you have to remove the one in front... pretty big pain the rear). Packed throughout the set are several lengthy special features:
Episode Commentaries – Four commentary tracks have been provided with various members of the cast and crew. Noticeably absent are Steve Carell and John Krasinski, though given each was probably filming a movie (Get Smart and Leatherheads respectively), it’s not a big surprise they’re not present (and if remember right, Carell didn’t participate in the season three commentaries either).
The previous season had 8 tracks and while there are only 4 here, I remembered that the first two were the hour long shows, so technically this is the equivalent of 6 commentary tracks. The tracks are a lot of fun, though at times it does seem a little tough figuring out who is talking. Here is who participated on those commentaries:
“Money” – Rainn Wilson (Dwight), Jenna Fischer (Pam), Melora Hardin (Jan), Brian Baumgartner (Kevin), Paul Lieberstein (Toby/writer), Michael Schur (Mose/writer), Jennifer Celotta (writer)
“Local Ad” – B.J. Novak (Ryan/writer), Ed Helms (Andy), Leslie David Baker (Stanley), Creed Bratton (Creed), Craig Robinson (Darryl), Jason Reitman (director), Anthony Ferrell (writer)
“The Deposition” – Wilson, Fischer, Hardin, Baumgartner, Helms, Lee Eisenberg (writer), Lester Lewis (producer), Ryan Koh (staff writer)
“Did I Stutter” – Wilson, Fischer, Baker, Kate Flannery (Meredith), Justin Spitzer (writer), Brent Forrester (writer), Gene Stupnitzky (writer), Randall Einhorn (writer)
Deleted Scenes (137:35) – You read that right, over two hours worth of deleted footage have been included for 14 episodes and most of this stuff is actually really funny. Too bad ABC is the only one doing these “expanded” or “extended” episodes because some of this could have been put in.
Blooper Reel (22:39) – Not to be outdone, NBC/Universal also gives us 20+ minutes worth of bloopers (one of the longest I can remember). Most of it is flubbed lines but you get to see the on-set chemistry with the cast and they make each other laugh.
The Office Convention: Writers’ Block (52:50) – This is a massive Q&A with what I assume is every writer on “The Office”. I won’t bother naming each one, but it does include developer Greg Daniels, Mindy Kaling (aka Kelly) and B.J. Novak amongst 11 others (13 total). Probably more interesting for the fans, it’s a semi-interesting session where the panel takes questions from fans on the Net and in the audience on everything from favorite episodes to the characters. Honestly, I did grow a little tired of it by the 30-minute mark.
Finally there’s a hodgepodge of little features: Rabies: The More You Know (0:24), Michael Scott’s Dunder Mifflin Ad (1:23) and Summer Vacation Promo (3:01) round out the season set.
.::AUDIO & VIDEO::.
The video is presented in anamorphic widescreen with a 1.78 OAR. My standards for comedies don’t meet those for other genres, but this one looks pretty good. The series is fairly bright and, from what I could tell, matches the HD airing.
A Dolby Digital 5.1 is offered and, like the picture, it’s good but what else should one expect? It’s a dialogue-driven show with very little ambient noise for the other speakers to use and outside of the opening titles, there’s not that much music.
“The Office” isn’t a comedy for everyone. Obviously this can be said of most things in life, but this brand of humor may not appeal to all. There are plenty of sight jokes for sure, but the reason this is one of the best comedies on television today is because of the quirks and subtleties of the characters and their expressions rather than what they say.