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BBC Home Video presents
The Office: The Complete Collection (2004)

"Those of you who think you know everything are annoying to those of us who do."
- David Brent (Ricky Gervais)

Review By: Dan Heaton  
Published: November 19, 2004

Stars: Ricky Gervais, Martin Freeman, Mackenzie Crook, Lucy Davis
Other Stars: Patrick Baladi, Joel Beckett, Oliver Chris, Ben Bradshaw, Julie Fernandez, Raplh Ineson, Rachel Isaac, Stacey Roca
Director: Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (language and adult situations)
Run Time: 07h:35m:37s
Release Date: November 16, 2004
UPC: 794051208521
Genre: television


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A AB+B+ B+

DVD Review

I must have been living under a rock to miss viewing any episodes of The Office until this past summer. The hot British series was receiving plenty of awards and critical acclaim, but the typical shows that receive countless awards (Will & Grace, CSI, The West Wing's later years) do very little to interest me. When a friend realized in shock that several of us had never seen this show, he mandated a viewing session. Watching the entire first season (titled "series"), I was hooked by its clever dialogue and dead-on depiction of the corporate office setting. The show's equally hilarious and cringe-worthy moments led me quickly to locate the second series and anxiously await the release of the final Christmas special.

Released in convenient, attractive packaging, this highly recommended set includes the entire series run of 12 half-hour episodes and the two-part, 90-minute special. The classic group of characters are led by crazed boss David Brent (co-creator Ricky Gervais)—a self-titled "entertainer" who believes he's the funniest and most popular guy in the office. Unfortunately, most people find his antics less-than-amusing, but he rarely has any clue that his employee-friendly attitude doesn't charm everyone. His loyal ally is the weasel-faced Gareth (Mackenzie Crook), the "team leader" who speaks incessantly about his days with the Territorial Army. His nemesis is the everyman Tim (Martin Keenan)—a likeable guy who enjoys tormenting his annoyed desk neighbor. Tim also longs for a relationship with the receptionist Dawn (Lucy Davis), who somehow remains with her dull and unfriendly fiancé, Lee (Joel Beckett). Will this cute work couple actually become a real one, or will Dawn continue to snub the good guy for the idiot? The ultimate answers will not be revealed here.

The Office succeeds due to several key factors: realistic and hilarious writing, the perfect office setting, actors directly attuned to the quirks of the characters, and the unique British tone that draws us into the story. The show's premise has a fictional BBC documentary crew shooting everything, so the characters sometimes play to the cameras. Most of the shows take place in the basic office setting, which includes crammed desks, computers, printers, and bored employees. I know this type of place all too well. We also follow the employees to local bars and other typical after-work hangouts for some drinking, dancing, and silly partying. The final result is an unforgettable, remarkable achievement that will remain entertaining for many years into the future. The following sections describe the basic plot and some highlights of each season and the concluding special:

Series One
These six episodes introduce us to all the major characters and showcase their oddball actions during an array of entertaining situations. David Brent spends his time trying to make things fun for the mostly unexcited employees of Wernham Hogg's Slough branch, and the result is nearly comic perfection. The bickering between Tim and Gareth is also classic, especially when it involves Gareth's stapler. The main plot revolves around the possibility of layoffs or even the closing of the entire branch. While David tells everyone there will be no layoffs, problems still could arise by the season's end.

Easily the best episode (possibly of the entire show) is the fourth entry, Training, which involves one of those terrible seminars popular at many corporations. In typical fashion, David takes over the proceedings and even brings out a guitar to sing some songs. The performance of his original creation, Freelove Freeway, is one of the series' funniest and most defining moments. Another classic episode is The Quiz, which perfectly documents the trivia-night sensation and gives Tim some great birthday presents. Season One is my preferred choice due to its ebullient tone and an overall sense that perhaps things aren't as glum as they become in the next year.

Series Two
Following the climactic events of the previous finale, six employees from the Swindon branch arrive at the Slough offices and have a difficult time adjusting to David's often demeaning sense of humor. The sad fact is that the guy has no idea that his comments are politically incorrect, which makes the situation even more bewildering. He grows especially frustrated when he realizes that the employees like his boss Neil (Patrick Baladi) more than him. Thus begins a crazy series of humiliating attempts by David to inject humor into situations, with silly but troubling effects. The Tim-Dawn friendship also faces difficulties when he begins a steamy relationship with Rachel (Stacey Roca), the new attractive girl at the office.

Certain moments in this season are very difficult to take and made me want to curl up in a ball due to their uncomfortable nature. But that reaction is exactly the point for Gervais and his co-creator Stephen Merchant. Neil and his staff quickly grow to hate David, and yet he continues to strive to regain his initial feelings of being a popular boss. One especially rough scene involves David speaking at a motivational seminar and providing a ridiculous experience for its attendants. Even given the darker tone, this season remains top-notch television and includes numerous silly moments.

Christmas Special
Three years have passed and the BBC documentary has aired, making David a partial celebrity, at least in his own mind. He has hired an agent and makes awful personal appearances at random clubs that generally reveal everyone's indifference to him. The documentary crew also returns to Wernham Hogg to discover what's happened to all the key figures. Tim remains in pretty much the same place where we left him—pining for Dawn and working in a similar job. Gareth is now in charge, and attempts to run the office with more discipline. Dawn and Lee are living in a dull situation in Florida, but the BBC filmmakers pay for them to return. The first part basically serves as a set-up for the big employee Christmas party, which includes both current and past workers.

Part two begins with a visit by Dawn to the offices, which again causes Tim to think optimistically about their future. He refuses to ask her out again, however. David endures more humiliation while using the internet to find a date for the party. Will his eventual choice quickly hate him? This unpredictable conclusion nicely ties the loose ends together and includes plenty of crowd-pleasing moments. It falls a bit short of the series' best episodes, but still deserves a very high recommendation.

This special is also available separately if you already own the previous DVD releases.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: The Office utilizes a solid 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that presents the events with a minimal amount of defects. However, the series' documentary tone makes the need for impressive visuals to be less important. The basic environments of the workplace and bars require less-attractive colors than the outdoor vistas of epic films. Also, the slightly grainy picture contributes to the atmosphere intended by the creators.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno


Audio Transfer Review: This type of television series does not require an extremely powerful transfer, as its success hinges on the dialogue and interaction between the characters. This 2.0-channel Dolby Surround audio track presents the conversations in a clear manner throughout each episode. Certain viewers may have a difficult time initially understanding the accents, so English subtitles have been provided. After a few episodes, the dialogue should become more understandable.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu
Scene Access with 87 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring BBC America, Kids in the Hall DVD, Coupling, A Mighty Wind
0 Deleted Scenes
3 Documentaries
1 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant on Part 2 of the Special
Packaging: Box Set
Picture Disc
4 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Videos for If You Don't Know Me By Now and Freelove Freeway
  2. Outtakes
Extras Review: Both series and the special include some worthwhile extras that provide additional details about the production. They also provide a few silly features that fit with the show's overall tone. The supplements are described in separate sections below:

Series One

How I Made The Office
This 39-minute documentary provides extensive interviews with Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant concerning the origins and development of The Office. This interesting feature also offers clips from the demo versions, original BBC pilot, and additional footage. There's also a FAQ section near the end where the creators discuss some of the most common questions.

Deleted Scenes
Each of these six deleted scenes begins with short text quotes from Gervais and Merchant about the reasons for the cuts. Unfortunately, the disc won't let you go to the scenes until a short time has passed, which is an annoying inclusion. These clips run for about 10 minutes and provide amusing moments, but nothing groundbreaking.

Series Two

Deleted Scenes
This disc includes 13 minutes of deleted scenes that are mostly similar to the final cuts. A majority of the footage involves Gareth, which are always welcome moments.

Outtakes
This section offers seven minutes of the actors cracking up before they can finish their lines. It's mildly amusing, but we probably didn't need this much footage. Ricky Gervais and Martin Freeman have several extended scenes where they cannot keep a straight face for countless takes.

Video Diary
All of the extras on this DVD confirm the idea that Ricky Gervais is even crazier than David Brent. His silliness is almost constant, which is fun but can become a bit tiresome at times. This 20-minute video diary of Gervais and Merchant is decent, but it fails to provide any compelling information. We follow them from pre-production through the awards, filming, and editing process.

Christmas Special

The Office: Closed for Business
This 22-minute retrospective includes interviews with most of the series' key participants about their experiences and the final special. It includes some entertaining moments, especially Ricky Gervais' constant attempts to make Martin Freeman laugh. It also includes some highlights clips and nicely summarizes the show.

Audio Commentary (Part 2)
Co-creators Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant provide a commentary on the second part of the special, and it is refreshing to finally hear their opinions while the episode is playing. They both speak with an enjoyable tone, which makes this track run smoothly. Some of the information is also included in the documentary.

Golden Globes Featurette
This six-minute piece follows the cast as they prepare and surprisingly win at the Golden Globe Awards. It's a brief feature, but it does provide an interesting look at their genuine surprise about the awards.

Music videos
This disc also includes the very silly video for David Brent's cover of If You Don't Know Me By Now, which showcases his amusing attempts at being romantic. The other video shows Ricky Gervais recording a full-band version of Freelove Freeway that is surprisingly...good. A major British music star also appears to help with backing vocals.

Extras Grade: B+

 

Final Comments

Creators Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant deserve tremendous credit for stopping The Office before it lost its steam and became just another sit-com. With only 14 stories produced, there are no bad episodes of this show. Long-running hit series like Friends, Everybody Loves Raymond, and even a personal favorite like Seinfeld can't make that claim.

 


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