Some television shows gets too comfortable with their success. If you can get pass the first couple of seasons with a large fanbase, more times than not the writers and cast members decide to sit back and cruise, and just continue to do what they have been doing. Sometimes fans can figure that out, and complain loud enough that the writers have to change things. But it takes a lot of guts to switch things up, even when they don’t need to. Season four of The Office is largely considered the weakest season of the series so far, but there wasn’t a whole lot of fans who thought it still wasn’t funny. So would the writers this season decide to switch things up or continue to do what they do best? Perhaps a little bit of both? If you don’t know yet, you can find out now on DVD.
Adapted from Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant’s British series of the same name, the American version of The Office follows the staff of a paper company, Dunder Mifflin, in Scranton, Pennsylania, in a “mockumentary style”. A camera crew has decided to film Dunder Mifflin and its employee around the clock. The presence of the camera is acknowledged by most of the characters. Some like talking to the cameras, while others seemed annoyed by their presence. In addition, “confessional” interviews with the characters speaking one on one with the camera crew about the day’s events are often used in each episode as well. But having the cameras around often lets the viewers in on behind-doors conversations that are often filmed through a window or crack in the door. Dunder Mifflin is led by ineffective regional manager Michael Scott (Steve Carrell). None of the employees are particularly good at their jobs, but watching them cope with the oddities and obstacles of everyday life is entertaining to say the least.
In season five, things are mostly the same around the Dunder Mifflin office. Jim (John Krasinski) Pam (Jenna Fischer) are progressing in their relationship with them getting engaged, despite Pam being in Manhattan trying to become a graphic designer for the first half of the season. There are even hints towards the end of the season that their family might soon grow by one. Michael has moved on from Jan to find a new love of his life in Holly (Amy Ryan, . Michael and Holly are so similar that it’s hard to believe they make a great couple, but they do. The Angela-Andy-Dwight (Rainn Wilson) love triangle continues as well. But the big storyline this season involves some changes around the office that last for about half the season. A new boss for Michael named Charles (Idris Elba) gets hired, and that immediately causes tension between the two. Michael decides to quit as a result of this, and starts “The Michael Scott Paper Company”. He is only able to take Pam with him, who earlier had returned to Dunder Mifflin, and even rehires Ryan (B.J. Novak), who started out the season as being back to only being a temp again. But what will the executives at Dunder Mifflin do when Michael’s new company, which operates out of a closer inside the office, begins to take sales away from them by offering lower prices and more personalized attention?
While the writers took some creative risks this season, the cast just keeps doing what they do best, and that’s playing their respective characters to perfection. Amy Ryan and Idris Elba were even welcome additions to the cast. Amy Ryan and Steve Carrell have great on-screen comedic chemistry together, and they make their relationship believable and one viewers can root for. But the big surprise was how well of a “straight man” Idris Elba was to Steve Carrell’s crazy antics. The emphasis this season was less on the personal love relationships among the characters and more on the crazy stuff that goes on in the office. Still none of the characters or relationships suffered from this.
The writers of The Office took a big risk halfway through the fifth season by switching things up with the Michael Scott Paper Company story arc towards the end of the season. But those temporary storylines allowed the season to remain fresh and funny. It seemed like season four tried too hard to be funny with the strike shortening that season. This season was more reminiscent of season two and season three, which is definitely a good thing. Maybe not as funny, but it’s solidly funny and entertaining throughout. Just when you think you have seen it all on The Office, the writers and cast just keep throwing jabs your way. There is no reason to think that we won’t see a few more uppercuts in season six.
Episode 1 – Weight Loss
The summer activities of the Dunder Mifflin staff are highlighted, including an interbranch weight loss competition and following Pam at the Pratt Art School.
Episode 2 – Business Ethics
When Holly leads a seminar on ethics, she realizes how unethical the Scranton branch really is. Jim tallies Dwight’s ‘time theft’.
Episode 3 – Baby Shower
Dwight helps Michael prepare for the birth of Jan’s baby. Michael vows to feign dislike for Holly to appease Jan. Pam and Jim have trouble communicating while she’s at art school.
Episode 4 – Crime Aid
Following a burglary at Dunder Mifflin on the night of his third date with Holly, Michael organizes an auction to replace what was stolen. Pam has a job at corporate to help with finances. Dwight seeks Phyllis’ help to win Angela back.
Episode 5 – Employee Transfer
Michael helps Holly move following her transfer to Nashua, NH. Meanwhile, Pam discovers people at corporate are less enthused about Halloween than she, and Dwight agitates Andrew by applying to Cornell.
Episode 6 – Customer Survey
The annual customer survey holds shocking news for Dwight and Jim, and Jim and Pam make the most of their Bluetooth-enabled phones. Angela and Andy make an unusual choice for a wedding location.
Episode 7 – Business Trip
Michael is sent on a business trip to Canada and brings Oscar and Andy along with him. Meanwhile, Jim counts down the days until Pam is done with art school.
Episode 8 – Frame Toby
Michael tries to frame Toby after he discovers he’s back working in the office. Someone makes a big mess in the microwave at the office and won’t clean it up. Jim buys his parents’ house.
Episode 9 – The Surplus
With a $4,300 surplus to spend, the workers fight amongst themselves in order to get what they want. Andy and Angela go to Schrute Farms to work on wedding plans.
Episode 10 – Moroccan Christmas
As head of the Party Planning Committee, Phyllis decides to throw a Moroccan-themed holiday party. Trouble starts when Meredith’s hair catches on fire, and Michael tries to help. Dwight gets a stranglehold on the hottest Christmas toy.
Episode 11 – The Duel
After Michael spills the beans about Angela’s affair with Dwight, Andy and Dwight deal with the matter on their own. Michael is nervous about meeting at corporate with David Wallace.
Episode 12 –
Prince Family Paper
Michael and Dwight spy on a rival paper company. The rest of the office debates whether or not Hilary Swank is hot.
Episode 13 – Stress Relief
When Dwight’s unannounced fire-safety drill gives Stanley a heart attack, Michael decides the office needs help with stress relief. While watching a bootleg movie, Andy believes Jim and Pam are film gurus from hearing them discuss her parents’ faltering marriage.
Episode 14 – Lecture Circuit (Part 1)
With Pam in tow, Michael gets sent around to other Dunder Mifflin branches to explain Scranton’s success. Meanwhile, Dwight and Jim, the new heads of the party planning committee, forget Kelly’s birthday, and Andy falls for one of Stanley’s account contacts.
Episode 15 – Lecture Circuit (Part 2)
Michael and Pam take a trip to Nashua, hoping to get closure from Holly. Dwight and Jim try to make up for forgetting Kelly’s birthday. Angela deals with her cats in a feline manner herself.
Episode 16 – Blood Drive
A mystery woman at the office blood drive catches Michael’s eye. Dwight and Kevin both find women at the “Lonely Hearts Party,” while Jim and Pam are forced to leave because of PDAs—so they have lunch with Phyllis and Bob.
Episode 17 – Golden Ticket
Michael’s idea to use Willy Wonka-style “Golden Tickets” for paper discounts for clients backfires. Kevin gets advice about dating from Andy, Jim, and Pam.
Episode 18 – New Boss
Michael plans to celebrate his 15th anniversary at Dunder Mifflin with a party, but the new Vice President interferes. Jim’s most recent prank on Dwight backfires.
Episode 19 – Two Weeks
As his new boss becomes even more watchful, Michael’s behavior becomes increasingly careless, Pam deals with a difficult copier, and Kelly has a new crush.
Episode 20 – Dream Team
Michael tries to recruit a dream team to work for his new paper company. Jim quickly regrets fibbing to Charles that he plays soccer.
Episode 21 – The Michael Scott Paper Company
Michael hosts a pancake luncheon to promote his new company. Dwight and Andy find themselves in competition for a girl yet again, while Jim is confused when a “rundown” is requested by Charles.
Episode 22 – Heavy Competition
Dwight finds his loyalties split between Michael and Charles. With Pam out of the office, Andy tries to become Jim’s new confidant.
Episode 23 – Broke
The Michael Scott Paper Company’s low prices continue to bleed business from Dunder Mifflin, but are so low the company can’t attain profitability.
Episode 24 – Casual Friday
The Dunder Mifflin staff start taking too many liberties with their casual Friday dress. The rest of the sales team resents Pam and Ryan keeping clients they stole from them while at The Michael Scott Paper Company.
Episode 25 – Cafe Disco
Michael repurposes his old office space into a cafe-disco lounge for the Dunder Miffin staff. Pam and Jim plan a secret trip to elope. Phyllis is taken aback by Bob’s new secretary.
Episode 26 – Company Picnic
At the Dunder Mifflin company picnic, Michael and Holly are reunited for the first time since their split and put on a show the attendees won’t soon forget. The branches compete in a volleyball tournament.
The video is given in anamorphic widescreen color with an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The transfer is great with colors generally looking bright and vivid details everywhere.
The audio included is available in either English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround sound or Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo sound. There are subtitles available in English as well.
Audio Commentaries –
There are 10 full-length commentaries for 10 different episodes. Randy Cordray (producer), Michael Gallenberg (production designer), Brain Wittle (boom operator), Nick Carbone (sound utility), Ben Patrick (sound mixer), Alysia Raycraft (costume designer), Kelly Cantley (first assistant director), and Jake Aust (producer) comment on the “Weight Loss” episode. BJ Novak (actor), along with Peter & Vartan (Craft Services) and Sergio & Alan (Catering) comment on the “Business Ethics” episode. Dave Rogers (art department), Anthony Farrell (story editor), Veda Semarne (script supervisor), Chuck Conzoneri (production assistant), Kyle Alexander (location manager), and Phil Shea (art design) comment on the “Employee Transfer” episode. Stephen Merchant (director), Paul Lieberstein (writer/producer), and Mindy Kaling (writer/producer) comment on the “Customer Survey” episode. Kate Flannery (actress), Angela Kinsey (actress), and Brian Baumgartner (actor) comment on the “Moroccan Christmas” episode. Rainn Wilson (actor), Rusty Mahmood (first assistant director), Jennifer Celotta (executive producer), and Dean Holland (editor) comment on the “The Duel” episode. BJ Novak (actor), Aaron Shure (writer), Charlie Grandy (writer), and Matt Sohn (DP/camera operator) comment on the “Dream Team” episode. Jenna Fischer (actress), Gene Stupnitsky (producer), Lee Eisenberg (writer), and Justin Spitzer (director) comment on the “Michael Scott Paper Company” episode. Creed Bratton (actor), Mindy Kaling (actress), Ellie Kemper (actress), Brent Forrester (consulting producer), and Claire Scanion (editor) comment on the “Casual Friday” episode. Paul Lieberstein (actor), Ken Kwapis (director), and Jennifer Celotta (consulting producer) comment on the “Company Picnic” episode. There is a good mix of commentaries this season, especially since we get to hear from a variety of “behind-the-scenes” people including assistant producers, sound mixers and technicians, the costume and production designer, craft services and catering, the location manager, among others. Usually cast commentaries are more interesting, but after this many seasons we need to hear from some new people, and commentaries on the fifth season DVD set of The Office certainly gives you that.
Deleted Scenes –
There is literally one to 27 minutes of deleted scenes for each and every episode this season. That means you get over 3 hours of scenes that have never been seen before. Here is the breakdown of extra material in minutes:
“Weight Loss” – 16:15
“Business Ethics” – 12:45
“Baby Shower” – 11:22
“Crime Aid” – 7:33
“Employee Transfer” – 7:57
“Customer Survey” – 6:14
“Business Trip” – 8:08
“Frame Toby” – 1:28
“The Surplus” – 7:03
“Moroccan Christmas” – 6:53
“The Duel” – 10:14
“Prince Family Paper” – 6:47
“Stress Relief” – 26:54
“Lecture Circuit Part 1” – 2:39
“Lecture Circuit Part 2” – 1:34
“Blood Drive” – 5:30
“Golden Ticket” – 6:06
“New Boss” – 3:49
“Two Weeks” – 4:26
“Dream Team” – 5:09
“Michael Scott Paper Company” – 10:26
“Heavy Competition” – 3:16
“Broke” – 9:32
“Casual Friday” – 3:55
“Cafe Disco” – 3:36
“Company Picnic” – 4:27
There are lots of hilarious minor subplots and side stories that are in here, so these are definitely worth checking out for sure.
Gag Reel –
There is another 15 minutes worth of the usual gags and mistakes while filming this season.
“100 Episodes, 100 “Moments” Featurette –
This runs 9 minutes and it counts off some of the most memorable lines and moments from The Office‘s first five seasons. Might not always be the most laugh-out-loud lines, but this is a solid collection that fans will enjoy for sure.
Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Q&A –
This runs 30 minutes and it’s what the title suggests. The question & answer session at the Academy of Television Arts & Scienes is moderated by Andy Richter and features creator Greg Daniels and most of the main cast and crew members. It looks like as if this was shot from the perspective of an audience member with a video camera, so not the best quality. But it moves along fast and it’s fairly interesting.
The Office Promos –
There are 6 Office-style promos here for the Super Bowl XLIII and the 2008 Olympics that total 5 minutes. These originally aired on NBC before those events.
There are two 20 minute webisodes included here as well. The first one is called “Kevin’s Loan” and it stars Kevin, of course. Viewers know that Kevin has a gambling problem, and this webisode shows what happens when he has an outstanding loan that he needs to pay back. The second one is called “The Outburst” and it stars Oscar. Oscar is normally calm, cool and collected, but in this webisode he loses his temper at things happening in the office. They are both funny and give secondary time to shine, but they aren’t the funniest “episodes” ever. Still worth checking out, if you didn’t on NBC.com originally.
Season five of The Office reassured most fans that this show still has many more seasons to go. This DVD set is LOADED with extras. There is enough deleted scenes here for about seven extra episodes. Plus, everything else like commentaries and a couple of great featurettes. The extras alone will keep any hardcore fan of the show busy for days.
Universal Studios Home Entertainment presents The Office: Season 5. Created by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant. Developed by Greg Daniels. Starring Steve Carell, Rainn Wilson, John Krasinski, Jenna Fischer, and B.J. Novak. Running time: 608 minutes. Rated: NOT RATED. Released on DVD: September 8, 2009. Available at Amazon.com