The US remake of "The Office" did understandably come under a bit of fire before it even aired. The British version is so widely loved that many were understandably anixous about whether a remake could do any sort of justice to the original. The first season (which was a short mid-season run) was better than most expected, but it was a little inconsistent, maybe a little too dry at times and didn't put some of the characters to much use.
The series takes place in the Dunder Mifflin paper company offices in Scranton, PA., with boss Michael Scott (Steve Carell, of "The Daily Show" and "Anchorman") looking over the handful of employees that work under him in the office, all of whom appear as if they've been locked into a workplace loop, and have quietly given up on getting free of it years ago. They've reached that point where they've stopped worrying more about getting deadlines done and focused more about figuring out how (one character's belongings are put in the vending machine) to make 5pm come around quicker. Scott is joined by downtrodden receptionist Pam (Jenna Fischer), salesman Jim (John Krasinski), Dwight (Rainn Wilson), Ryan the temp (B.J. Novak) and a series of other supporting characters.
The second season of the series is about as big a leap forward in quality as I can remember seeing in network TV in a while. The first season of the show was perfectly funny, but a few tweaks to the series for the second season has turned the series into what I think is now the funniest show on network TV. The first change is bringing Fischer's character forward and making the potential romance between Pam & Jim one of TV's most enjoyable "Will they or won't they?" romances.
Incredibly, "The Office" continues to see improvements in Season 3, which is even funnier than the marvelous second season. After leaving off season 2 with what happened between Jim and Pam, the third season sees Jim leaving for the company's Stamford offices, where he meets a new love interest in Karen (Rashida Jones). However, despite being away from Scranton, Jim still occasionally finds ways to torment Dwight, although one of the funniest Jim/Dwight situations sees Jim pretending to turn into a vampire after faking being bitten by a stray bat that had found its way into the office.
When Stamford is to merge with the Scranton office, Jim returns along with a few new characters, including the demented Andy (Ed Helms, who's very funny, but the character starts off being rather annoying and too real, then slowly turns into a nutcase), who quickly sets his sights on unseating Dwight's reign as Michael's sidekick. Michael tries to hold his office and personal life together, and the latter becomes more entertaining when romantic interest Jan (the terrific Melora Walters) gradually starts to come apart at the seams, bringing herself, much to her dismay (similar to that episode of "Seinfeld" where Elaine becomes unlucky and, near the end of the episode, says, "Don't you know what's going on here? Can't you see what's happened? I've become George!"), to Michael's level.
Wilson is the other highlight of the series, playing a character who considers himself the Robin to Michael's Batman, remaining completely unaware that he's simply a suck-up that is barely tolerated by Carrell's character (not to mention the rest of the office.) It's a very funny performance, as Wilson's delivery is priceless. Dwight's a train wreck that the rest of the office hates, but Wilson makes him unpredictable, twisted (demented, even) and very funny. He and Carrell also share great chemistry.
Carell's performance as Scott is terrific, mixing the character's self-importance (which covers up for utter and complete incompetence and immaturity) with just a twist of lunacy and the fact that he's totally unaware of how completely socially awkward he is. It's a delicate performance that could go too far into cluelessness or being unlikable, but Carrell's ace delivery, complete immersion in the character (as with all the characters on the show, Michael is unapologetically who he is) and delightful reactions make his Michael Scott one of the most entertaining TV characters in ages.
Fischer is also a highlight, as she manages to make us care about the character and balance comedy and emotional moments superbly. Fischer shines even more in this third season, as the character grows more confident, first during her first art show and then during her "walk of fire" in the episode, "Beach Games". However, the classic moment comes towards the end of the final episode, where Pam gets an offer she's been waiting for, and the look on her face is so joyful that it's heartbreaking.
"The Office" clicks because the show manages to mine relatable situations for all they're worth. The humor is dry (although not as dry as the first season) and even the most minor characters make a big impression in little scenes. The characters are unique, well-developed, flawed and have heart. The third season sees the show develop into something unexpected: a series that has the ability to be devastatingly funny and occasionally, very sweet and even emotional. "The Office" started off as "just another remake", but has quickly become one of the best shows on network TV.
30. 3- 1 21 Sep 06 Gay Witch Hunt
31. 3- 2 28 Sep 06 The Convention
32. 3- 3 5 Oct 06 The Coup
33. 3- 4 12 Oct 06 Grief Counseling
34. 3- 5 19 Oct 06 Initiation
35. 3- 6 2 Nov 06 Diwali
36. 3- 7 9 Nov 06 Branch Closing
37. 3- 8 16 Nov 06 The Merger
38. 3- 9 30 Nov 06 The Convict
39. 3-10 14 Dec 06 A Benihana Christmas (1)
40. 3-11 14 Dec 06 A Benihana Christmas (2)
41. 3-12 4 Jan 07 Back from Vacation
42. 3-13 11 Jan 07 Traveling Salesmen
43. 3-14 18 Jan 07 The Return
44. 3-15 1 Feb 07 Ben Franklin
45. 3-16 8 Feb 07 Phyllis' Wedding
46. 3-17 15 Feb 07 Business School
47. 3-18 22 Feb 07 Cocktails
48. 3-19 5 Apr 07 The Negotiation
49. 3-20 12 Apr 07 Safety Training
50. 3-21 26 Apr 07 Product Recall
51. 3-22 3 May 07 Women's Appreciation
52. 3-23 10 May 07 Beach Games
53. 3-24 17 May 07 The Job
VIDEO: Universal presents "The Office" in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. The presentation is generally excellent, as the image remains crisp and well-defined throughout much of the running time, with only a couple of moments of slight softness here-and-there.
Some minor shimmering and slight edge enhancement appears at times, but both are visible only briefly, and aren't much of a distraction at all. Colors are bright and vivid, with no smearing or other faults.
SOUND: The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack remains perfectly fine throughout, with clear dialogue.
EXTRAS: "Business School" Commentary with BJ Novak, Rainn Wilson and Writer Brent Forrester; "Traveling Salesman" and "The Return" Commentary with John Krasinski, Rainn Wilson, Rashida Jones, Ed Helms, Leslie David Baker and Editor Dave Roger; "Beach Game" Commentary with Ed Helms, Brian Baumgartner, Writer Jennifer Celotta and Director Harold Ramis; "Women's Appreciation" Commentary with Jenna Fisher, Angela Kinsey, Kate Flannery and Writers Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitisky; "Safety Training" Commentary with BJ Novak, Mindy Kaling and Director Harold Ramis; "The Job" Commentary wtih John Krasinski, Jenna Fischer, Rashida Jones, Melora Hardin, Editor David Rogers and Director Ken Kwapis; "Initiation" Commentary with BJ Novak, Rainn Wilson and Leslie David Baker and finally, "The Coup" Commentary with John Krasinski, Rainn Wilson, Rashida Jones and Angela Kinsey.
The DVD set also includes a ton of deleted scenes, "Lazy Scranton" music video, Dwight Schrute music video, a short interview with "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" creator Joss Whedon who, like "Lost" creator JJ Abrams, was a guest director on an episode this season; "Kevin Cooks Stuff in the Office" featurette, "Toby Wraparounds", A group of "Make Your Own Promo" contest entries and an "Office" clip from the Emmys.
Final Thoughts:"The Office" started off as "just another remake", but has quickly become one of the best shows on network TV. As much as I enjoyed the terrific second season, the third season is even funnier, sweeter (and occasionally, more twisted.) The DVD set boasts fine audio/video quality and a ton of extras. Highly recommended.