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Reviewed by Will Harris
nother DVD set of NBC’s “The Office,” another opportunity to A) claim that it’s always going to be inferior to the original British version of the series, B) reaffirm that it’s long since expanded beyond its original source material and continues to be a brilliant sitcom in its own right, or C) mutter disdainfully about how the show has jumped the shark and should be put out of its misery.
Oh, sure, there are more options than just these three, but the majority of the angles are going to more or less spring forth from this trio. Given that Steve Carell has confirmed that Season Seven of the series will be his last, we’re going to save our “jump the shark” card in case we need to play it after his final episode, but as it happens, it was never in serious contention for use during Season Six, anyway.
The reason that “The Office” continues to be one of the best shows on television is because we have come to know its characters so well over the course of the last six years, thereby allowing the producers the opportunity to explore deeper facets of their lives and personalities. Or, in the case of Michael Scott, to plumb the depths of his naïveté and cluelessness.
Season Five saw Jim and Pam spend a year as an engaged couple, only to end the season with the realization that they were expecting a child. Their attempts to keep the news of their blessed event under wraps didn’t even make it through the Season Six premiere, however, and as a result, plans for the couple’s nuptials are suddenly put on the fast track – like, to the point where they take place only four episodes into the season. Still, it’s enough time to sneak in a few jokes about the struggle to secure RSVPs from their co-workers, and the wedding itself proves quite memorable, though the highlight is certainly when Jim and Pam decide to make their own marital memories prior to the public ceremony. It’s well into the season before the li’l Halpert enters the world, but when she does, it’s another funny episode, particularly for parents.
There’s a change in the office power structure at the beginning of the season, with Michael and Jim becoming co-managers, a move which thoroughly pisses off Dwight and Ryan. In addition, Dunder-Mifflin struggled through some serious economic woes during the course of the season, leading to a hysterical shareholders meeting and, ultimately, a change of ownership. The firm is purchased by Sabre, led by a rich Southern spitfire named Jo Bennett (Kathy Bates), who – like so many others throughout the history of the show – quickly discovers a soft spot in her heart for Michael’s enthusiasm despite the incompetence which invariably accompanies it.
Speaking of Michael, he finds himself smitten twice within the season, first with Pam’s mom (and you can imagine how well that goes over with Pam), then with Donna (Amy Pietz), the manager of a nearby bar who’s married but falls for him nonetheless. Neither relationship lasts very long, but although Pietz is great, the Donna storyline is one of the season’s few bum notes, putting Michael in the position of being “the other man.” Michael Scott might be desperate for love, but he’s ultimately too sweet at heart to be the bad guy, and since you know there’s no way he’s ever going to be able to maintain such a position for long, it mostly feels like an excuse to limp to the end of the season and prepare for the return of Michael’s true love, Holly, in Season Seven.
A romance that doesn’t feel forced, however, is the one between Andy and Kelly, which is consistently sweet – it works because they’re equally clueless – and feels real even when it jumps the rails over Andy’s poor decision to hold back on telling Kelly that he was once engaged to Angela.
Lastly, if you’re someone who appreciates “the comedy of cringing” (i.e. when you’re cringing while you’re laughing because you’re imagining how painful the situation would be if it was actually happening in the real world), then the episode entitled “Scott’s Tots” is a must-see. The premise revolves around how Michael Scott promised a group of students ten years ago that he would pay for their college education and, now that a decade has come and gone, he has to reveal to them that he doesn’t have the money to do it. “I've made some empty promises in my life,” he says, “but hands down, that was the most generous." It is arguably the most painful half-hour in the entire run of “The Office,” but if you can appreciate that kind of comedy, it’s also one of the most hilarious.
Special Features: Prepare yourselves for another solid collection of bonus material for the fans. Based on the back of the box, the big sell is ostensibly supposed to be “The Podcast,” an original digital short included within the set, but there’s much more than that to make your purchase worthwhile. The 25-minute blooper reel is a stitch through and through, but there are also audio commentaries, two hours of deleted scenes, the “Welcome to Sabre” company video (hey, it’s Christian Slater!), a trio of Olympic-themed promos, and to make things nice and incestual, the “Hunting Trip” episode from the second season of “Parks and Recreation.”