|The Office: Season Three (2006)
Starring: Steve Carell, Rainn Wilson, John Krasinski, Jenna Fischer, B.J. Novak
The men and women of “The Office” have come a long way since their midseason debut in 2005. For starters, Steve Carell has done away with that ridiculous slicked-back hair look for something more appropriate, supporting cast members like B.J. Novak and Angela Kinsey are practically household names, and the will-they-won’t-they relationship between Jim and Pam has truly become must-see TV. Of course, even the most successful television shows have their share of misfires, and though the third season was more hit-and-miss than fans would have liked, it remains a solid entry in what's fast become the best comedy since “Seinfeld.”
A lot has changed since The Kiss at the end of season two. Jim (John Krasinski) has taken a job at the Stamford branch as the new Assistant Regional Manager; Pam (Jenna Fischer) has called off her wedding plans with Roy (David Denman); and Michael (Carell) can’t seem to keep himself out of trouble with corporate. Meanwhile, the Scranton office is put into frenzy when rumors of a merger begin to surface, but after the Stamford boss leaves for a better job at Staples, Michael is reluctantly handed the reigns to the operation. As a result, Jim makes his grand return, bringing with him a new girlfriend (Rashida Jones) and an arch-nemesis (Ed Helms) for Dwight (Rainn Wilson).
Though the third season doesn’t offer nearly as many standalone episodes as last year, the writers have made great strides in the progression of the overall story. The addition of Rashida Jones to the mix has served as the perfect romantic foil to Pam, and while many would arguably still like to see her and Jim end up together, I’d be just as happy if Karen stuck around for a little longer. Obviously taking cues from the second season of the BBC series, Greg Daniels and Co. have not only turned the tables on the Jim-Pam relationship, but they’ve also opted to pay homage to the branch merger that left David Brent without a job. Whether they go so far as to actually fire Michael Scott during the course of the series has yet to be seen, but methinks American audiences wouldn’t be too forgiving.
The Jim-Pam-Karen love triangle isn’t the only major revelation in the third season, either. Dwight’s hush-hush relationship with Angela (Kinsey) is taken to new heights; Phyllis (Phyllis Smith) gets married to Bob Vance (and steals all of Pam’s discarded wedding ideas along the way); Oscar (Oscar Nunez) is forcefully outed as a homosexual (prompting him to leave on a three-month paid vacation courtesy of corporate); and in the big season finale surprise, Ryan the intern (Novak) is handed the promotion as the new district manager when Jan is fired for her inter-office relationship with Michael.
The rest of the cast continue to deliver fine performances (especially Mindy Karling and Paul Lieberstein, both of whom pull double duty as writers), and though Ed Helms is a bit distracting as the office suck-up in desperate need of a little anger management, his character offers a new dynamic that warrants his existence on the show. Along with a few new faces in front of the camera, the third season welcomes a few new ones behind it as well. Harold Ramis returns to direct three more episodes (“A Benihana Christmas,” “Safety Training” and “Beach Games”), while fanboy favorites J.J. Abrams (“Cocktails”) and Joss Whedon (“Business School”) direct one apiece.
Whedon, specifically, delivers one of the best episodes of the season, including a subplot that features Jim convincing Dwight that after being bitten by a bat, he’s slowly transforming into a vampire. It’s exactly what you’d expect from the man who brought us “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” and it doesn’t feel even the slightest bit kitschy. If nothing else, it just goes to prove how brilliant the show really is, because despite its obvious blemishes, “The Office” remains one of the best programs on network TV.
Special Features: No surprise here, folks. After putting out one of the best TV-on-DVD releases of 2006, Universal continues the tradition with another excellent four-disc set highlighted by 188 minutes (!) of deleted scenes, eight cast and crew audio commentaries – including “The Coup” (disc one), “Initiation” (disc one), “Traveling Salesman” (disc three), “Business School” (disc three), “Safety Training” (disc four), “Women’s Appreciation” (disc four), “Beach Games” (disc four) and “The Job” (disc four) – and much, much more. The rest of the set includes a 13-minute blooper reel, excerpts from the 2006 NBC Primetime Preview and 58th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards, a short cooking video with Kevin (Brian Baumgartner), an even shorter interview with Joss Whedon, a music video montage for Dwight Schrute and the “Lazy Scranton” video in its entirety.