Season Four DVD Review
by Kevin Crossman

Coming to stores on September 2nd is the DVD release of Season 4 of The Office. The four-disc set contains all 14 episodes and a host of extras. The entire set comprises over 400 minutes of content.

The Episodes

Each episode is presented in pristine widescreen format and looks sharp on DVD. Season 4 saw many of the office relationships take on new roles and challenges and once again a season collection like this is a great way to revisit the story arcs and go back to earlier episodes for hints of what is to come later. In particular, the character of Ryan (B.J. Novak) is a completely new role and by season's end is in a very, very different place than when the season starts. His "transformation" is fun to watch over the course of a season.

The packaging of episodes is pretty much what you'd expect. The episodes are shown in entirety, with Deleted Scenes for each episode easy to get to after playing the episode. Unfortunately, the Deleted Scenes are presented as one large clip, unlike the Deleted Scenes on The Office website where you can pick and choose which scene to watch. But it is hard to complain about the amount of deleted scenes, which run from over five minutes for the regular 21 minute episodes to over twelve minutes for some of the "hour long" episodes like "Fun Run" and "Dunder Mifflin Infinity."

One of the interesting and unusual episodes this season was "Did I Stutter?" In addition to taking the episode name from a line of dialogue, the episode was unusual in that it featured the character of Stanley (Leslie David Baker) in a major role. Thankfully, Baker's performance is one of the strongest from any actor in any episode in the entire set. "Did I Stutter?" also features a interesting and informative commentary from Rainn Wilson, Jenna Fischer, Leslie David Baker, Kate Flannery, Justin Spitzer, Brent Forrester, Gene Stupnitsky, and Randall Einhorn.

Fans of Jim and Pam are not left out in Season 4, as our favorite TV couple actually get to be a couple. This puts the characters in new situations, such as their overnight stay at Schrute Farm in "Money" and their cringe-worthy visit to Michael and Jan's condo in "Dinner Party." The engagement storyline is another season-long story arc, though as fans of the show know it did not quite conclude in the season finale, "Goodbye Toby."

Speaking of the season finale, "Goobye Toby" features one of the best performances in the entire series by Steve Carell. Carell masterfully communicates his joy at saying goodbye to his HR nemesis, and the excitement of meeting a new "love of his life" in the character of Holly (Amy Ryan).

The Bonus Materials

A complete list of bonus features is shown below. "Unique to the DVD" items include the hilarious 22-minute blooper reel that every fan of The Office should watch again and again. The complete Michael Scott Dunder Mifflin Ad is the kind of extra that makes sense for the DVD and is a welcome addition. Similarly, the Summer Vacation Promo features some unique content and is a good piece to play prior to watching the season opener, "Fun Run." Unfortunately, the Summer Vacation Promo is available on Disc 4, rather than on Disc 1 where it would have fit chronologically.

Last season, I complained about episode commentaries with too many participants. This year, the number of participants has not been reduced, but the overall effectiveness has improved as there is less "talking over" and everyone trying to get a word in edgewise (this is also attributed to a couple "quiet" writers on some of the commentaries). Only Rainn Wilson and Jenna Fischer participate of the "Big Four" but their presence is most welcome on three of the four commentaries, even if we do miss Steve Carell and John Krasinski. B.J. Novak, Leslie David Baker, and Paul Liberstein all provide insights to their characters and the process of creating the show. The commentaries are very entertaining, though some fans may wish for a more-mellow Melora Hardin in next-year's collection.

Available in some packages and probably the best overall extra is the table draft script of "Dinner Party." For those who are unfamiliar with script formats, this is a great way to see what the writers produce prior to filming an episode (in a year that featured the writers' strike, this is even more appropriate). It's lots of fun to read the script and watch the episode at the same time. For example, the video camera in the bedroom and the scene with Angela and Andy eating ice cream were not in the original script. The script also features of scene where Michael prank-calls Toby, sitting alone at home watching Las Vegas by himself.

Finally, The Office Convention Writers' Block is another good "behind the scenes" piece that provides real insight to the show (unlike the recent writer panel at Comic-Con). The camera work is a little shaky, but at least we get to see the writers answer their questions in a way that does make this piece a little more engaging compared to a pure audio version featured on podcasts like That's What She Said. (If you missed our coverage of the OTHER panels at last year's Office convention, follow the links tn the sidebar to your right -Matt).

The Packaging

The "office" theme is presented well in the packaging. The photos and post-it notes once again make references to events of the season. In addition, the inside fold of the DVD pakage features Dwight's org chart from "Did I Stutter?"

The DVD menus are animated and well-done. There are visuals and audio that are pertinent to the episodes on each disc, and they provide a wonderfully immersive experience.

Overall

Due to the writer's strike, the season was shortened to only 14 episodes spanning 19 half-hour segments. Unfortunately, the reduction in number of episodes did not translate into a lower retail price for the collection, compared to previous seasons. As with Season 3, the extras are reduced again this year. Worse, many of the extras are already available on the NBC.com website. Still, it's nice to have all the content in one place.

If you're a hardcore fan of The Office, there's no question this is a must-own item. Casual fans will be well-served by this set as well, since the immersive experience can help you understand and appreciate the show's humor and sensibility. However, the middling bonus features and lesser overall value do present flaws to be aware of.

Bonus Materials

Bloopers, photos, and more at the official The Office DVD site.

Disc 1

  1. Deleted Scenes
  2. Rabies: The More You Know

Disc 2

  1. Deleted Scenes
  2. Michael Scott's Dunder Mifflin Ad
  3. "Money" Commentary - Rainn Wilson, Jenna Fischer, Melora Hardin, Brian Baumgartner, Paul Lieberstein, Michael Schur, and Jennifer Celotta.
  4. "Local Ad" Commentary - B.J. Novak, Ed Helms, Leslie David Baker, Creed Bratton, Craig Robinson, Jason Reitman, and Anthony Ferrell.

Disc 3

Deleted Scenes
  1. "The Deposition" Commentary - Rainn Wilson, Jenna Fischer, Melora Hardin, Brian Baumgartner, Ed Helms, Lee Eisenberg, Lester Lewis, and Ryan Koh.

Disc 4
  1. Deleted Scenes
  2. Blooper Reel
  3. The Office Convention Writers' Block
  4. Summer Vacation Promo
  5. "Did I Stutter?" Commentary - Rainn Wilson, Jenna Fischer, Leslie David Baker, Kate Flannery, Justin Spitzer, Brent Forrester, Gene Stupnitsky, and Randall Einhorn.

Category:general -- posted at: 3:58pm EDT
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That's What She Said is a weekly podcast dedicated to NBC's Emmy Award winning show The Office. Every episode of TWSS includes TV episode clips and commentary, news, reports on upcoming media appearances of the cast, a selection of podsafe music, and much more. If you have a news item, piece of gossip, comment, constructive compliment, or are interested in promotional cooperation, please contact us:

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