THE OFFICE Season 6 DVD Review

     September 12, 2010

For six seasons now, NBC has been delivering some very solid laughs with The Office, a series that needs no further introduction.  But the most recent season– now out on DVD– was also the one that seemed to disappoint long-term fans of the show the most, and there are more than a few people out there who’d have you believe that the show has run its course.  Would the sixth season of one of NBC’s best shows stand up to a second viewing?  Find out after the jump:

I’ve been a fan of The Office since the very beginning, having been a fan of both the original, Ricky Gervais-starring version and Steve Carell before NBC had aired a single episode.  Since the show debuted, I’ve seen every episode at least twice…with the exception of the sixth season.  As last year’s batch of episodes came and went, I found myself less and less amused with what The Office‘s writers were coming up with, and more and more devoted to newcomers like Community and Parks and Rec.  But this is a show that I’ve loved for years, so I stuck with it, and I was very curious to see how many of these episodes might play when given a second chance.

Turns out, I wasn’t overreacting.  Though a bad episode of The Office is equivalent to most good episodes of many other shows, there’s an obvious downward spiral at work in the series’ sixth season.  Rewatching some of the episodes turned out to be not as painful as I’d remembered them to be, but there were also more than a couple that turned out to be just as shitty on second viewing (“Double Date”, the episode wherein Pam punches Michael in the Dunder-Mifflin parking lot, is the worst example I can offer).  The sixth season of The Office is wildly uneven, but if you’re a fan of the series, it’s still worth picking up the recently-released DVD set.

Before we get into the pluses and minuses, let’s recall that the sixth season of The Office covers a few major plot points:  Jim and Pam are married early on in the season, which gave us the shoulda-been-far-more-epic wedding episode titled “Niagara”; Michael begins dating Pam’s mother, which leads to the aforementioned punch to the face in “Double Date”); Dunder-Mifflin is bought out by Sabre, which introduces Sabre CEO Kathy Bates to the mix (and she’s awesome whenever she shows up); Jim and Pam have their baby, leading to another episode that should’ve been a helluva lot funnier in “The Delivery”; and, finally, trouble’s brewing towards the end of the season when it’s revealed that one of the company’s products is, well, bursting into flames in “The Whistleblower”.

By packing the wedding of Pam and Jim– something that, quite frankly, should have been done much farther down the road– and the birth of their child– which seems even more rushed and shoehorned in here than the wedding was– into one season, the writers on The Office seem to have robbed themselves of a whole season’s worth of plot arcs.  The wedding could’ve happened in season six, the baby could’ve arrived in season seven (or, hell, why not: season eight), and they could have filled the time between with more compelling stories.  Jamming them together into one season like this makes me suspicious that the writers know that they’re running out of creative gas.  Perhaps it’s not possible that the baby could’ve arrived in season eight…if they’re not planning on being around that long.

Then again, maybe the writers are just trying to eschew normal sitcom trappings.  Maybe they’ve got something really special planned for season seven, or season eight, and it’s going to turn out that these events– which would seem to be seminal moments in the histories of these characters– will be blips compared to what they’ve got on the horizon.  Who knows?  We’lre going to have to wait and see, of course, but whatever the case may be, I wasn’t amused to see all this happen so fast in season six.  Prove me wrong in the long-run, Office writers.  Please.

Anyway, there’s no need to delve into the plot or characters any further (though it might be pointed out that, despite the deficiencies in the scripts, the actors all do a fine job with the material they’re handed), because if you’re reading this, there’s a 99% chance that you’ve already seen all the episodes and just wanna know whether or not the DVD set’s worth picking up.  If that’s the case, here’s your answer: Yes, of course.  Even though season six might be the weakest of the bunch (since, perhaps, season five), if you’ve been collecting these sets all along there’s no reason to stop now.  Additionally, if you’ve been a collector of every season of The Office thus far, then you already know that NBC really packs these things full of solid bonus material, and season six is no different.

As per usual, there are hours’ worth of deleted scenes, a blooper reel, and a few other goodies that aren’t really all that worth getting excited about.  The star of any Office boxed set is always the collection of deleted scenes– which are always as good as (if not better than) what we’ve seen in each episode– and this set continues that tradition.  There’s also an exclusive digital short on the DVD set (featuring “Gabe”, the character that the writers introduced and then barely used for the rest of the season), and that’s reasonably amusing.  If you happen to pick up the Blu-ray version of the set, you’ll get the option to stream the first three or four new episodes (from season seven) as they’re released in Hi-Def, which is a cool little feature for those that wanna see The Office with the best picture possible.

Watching The Office has become a bit like pulling on a pair of old jeans: you know exactly how it’s going to feel, and there’s a comfort in spending time with something that you’ve grown so close to over the past six seasons (though you shouldn’t be wearing your jeans– or referring to the length of time that you’ve owned them– in “seasons”; that’s just fucking weird).  For fans of the show that already have the previously-released boxed sets, you won’t be disappointed with this addition to your collection.  If, however, you’re just joining the Office party and are looking for a good entry-point to the series, this definitely isn’t it.  Here’s hoping that the show gets better during its seventh season…and that it’ll be able to solider on without Steve Carell, whose contract is up after the next batch of new episodes.  Good luck, The Office: you’re gonna need it to weather that blow.

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