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If I had collected all the times over the years people had told me the US Office can't be better than the UK Office, so they had not bothered watching it - and unleased all those groans at once, I could deafen a herd of cows.
I'm a huge fan of the US Office, surpassing obsessive a few years ago as season at around season 3. I've spent a lot of money pre-ordering the DVDs from the US, on fan stuff from the site - Its set me back a fair few bob over the years.
So, when choosing a season to review, it was hard. Season 4 and 6 are my favorite, but 6 has my favorite story line and episode, so I've gone with that. I could have reviewed all the seasons but I doubt my finger tips or keyboard could handle the endless digital ramblings I'd put them through to do a satisfactory write up.
So, I've limited myself to season 6.
------US VS UK------
I'll get this out of the way now. Being a big fan of both series and a proud fan of English comedy, I can say I think the US Office is much better than the UK version. There I said it.
I was, and still am huge fan of the UK Office. In my opinion, Gervais played a blinder with this. It was funny, sharp and moving. It was land mark TV.
However, when the show was remade over the pond (despite a shaky start) it was funnier, sharper and even more moving. The seasons are longer and accommodate for bigger story lines and the characters are richer - but more importantly its funner. With bigger seasons and a bigger cast, rather than glimpse into the lives of the UK Office staff, in the US Office we not only live their office lives with them but we follow them home. I think all in all, the US Office and The UK Office are totally different beasts - as much as I say I like the US version more than the UK, I'm not comparing them as two versions of the same show, but as two different shows.
------A BIT OF BACK GROUND-------
Both the show and the story told in seasons 1-5 of the US Office came on a long way, and when we get to season 6 we get the see the writers and actors really hit their stride. The jokes are non-stop, every episode is pretty much a series high and the big, main story line bubbling right from the begining finally reaches its climax with the wonderful, and my favorite double episode 'Niagara'. I must have watched the episode 50 times and its still makes me laugh and (almost, I'm a man) cry, and I doubt I'll ever get bored watching it. Everything they do in this episode, 3 episodes into the season is a perfect mix of everything they are good at; funny, moving and has a dance routine.
Those unfamiliar - the Office is about an office. Its the day to day lives of the people, the cameras sometimes follow them outside of the office, sometimes all the way home. Its an odd office as although they work, most spend more time not working or messing about. This is one big difference between UK and US. The UK felt like a real office, the US is a comic impression of an office. Its filmed in a 'mockumentary' style and although the office workers acknowledge the camera, its never explained why the cameras follow them round.
Before all this though, they had a great 5 seasons (and are still going as I type, midway through season 8) so here is a bit of a recap.
-----SEASON 1 (2005)-----
Considered by most of the human race to be poorest season of the US Office. Its a very obvious clone of the UK show but not near as funny or clever. Does well to estabish the charachter but does little in terms of telling any story or making clear the sense of humor that would carry the show.
-----SEASON 2 (2005-06)-----
Now, this is more like it. After a slow start the jokes start coming. Steve Carrell playing office boss Micheal Scott starts making his name, both in the show and worldwide - as the Office starts to become a run away hit for network NBC. John Kransinski as Jim Halpert and Raain Wilson as Dwight Shrute, along side Carrell would form the trio that for the first few seasons hold the show together. For UK fans, Jim is Tim, Micheal is David, and Dwight is Gareth - but all American characters have broken away from the UK versions of themselves. The only similarity at this stage seems to be Jims 'look' to the camera as Micheal says something he shouldn't, a look still owned by Martin Freeman. Jenna Fisher, playing Pam is still quite set in the background in season 2 - playing the receptionist, or in the UK, Dawn.
Story wise this bubbles and gets going mid-way through as the obvious Pam and Jim relationship gets going, but it doesn't really take off with too much of an assent.
------SEASON 3 (2006-07)------
Season 3 was make or break for the Office. Despite success among the critics and with ratings they needed to interject something that would let everyone know there was a lot of life in it yet. This came in the form of Ed Helms as Andy Bernard and Rashida Jones as Karen Fillipi. Both were small names in US comedy, but would serve to help take the Office from 'hit' to 'huge hit'. It was in this season, as a fan, I couldn't imagine the show ending. It super strong during this season, with jokes and story - much more so than the already strong season 2, but now they are taking more chances and those chances are taking the show forward leaps and bounds. Some hour long episodes, some guest directors (such as JJ Abrhams of Lost and Joss Welson from Buffy and Firefly, but don't worry - their respective episodes don't feature islands of Reavers, in fact their presence is barely felt), some guest stars and some of the big, memorable episodes of the entire series.
------SEASON 4 (2007-08)-----
It was essential for season 4 to keep the momentum going and help establish The Office as one of the all time greats of NBC famous Thursday night line up (others have included Friends, ER, and My Name Is Earl - so no pressure then)
Story wise, Pam and Jim are still going - a couple of seasons away from their high point yet, but inner office relationships and company cut backs keep the story going. As always though, this show is glued together by its now trademark sense of humor. Its at this point the influence of The Office would be felt in US TV, and still is today - with shows such as Modern Family doing their best impression of this brand of humor (although very badly)
Those with a keen eye on the credits, or just an average ear on the DVD commentary will notice during this season the show undergoes another change. Cast members start moving behind the camera and visa -vesa. This keeps the spark of the show burning bright as you feel as if its a team effort with the show being much more of a improvised process than a scripted one, and the way people are working each side of the camera seems responsible for this.
-----SEASON 5 (2008-09)-----
Season 5 is odd. Its got some of the best episodes of the series, and least memorable (I won't say worst, there are no 'worst' episodes of The Office) And the cast gets bigger and bigger. Dare I say it, The Office got cocky?
A winning story-line from the very start, and still to this day is Pam and Jim. They're just magic. You get the feel the writers wanted to recreate this magic so paired most of the staff up, resulting in the overall story line being OK and not that memorable rather than another essential chapter in Office history season 1-4 had been.
------------THE OFFICE SEASON 6 BLURAY (2010-11)------------
I'll tell you some bad news. You can't just jump into this season. Unfortunately you need to spend the time and money on 1-5 to really enjoy season 6. Luckily though, a DVD (the ultimate package) exists for about £35 at the time of writing so one you pick that up all you need is a few week of being anti-social and you're good to go.
So, season 6 is my favorite season. Many great episodes have existed before this, and a few come after but this one has the most and the best two, 'Niagara' and 'Delivery'. Now, a bit of a spoiler - these are both involving Pam and Jim so if you don't want to know what happens skip the next paragraph.
In 'Niagara', Pam and Jim get married. Its no ordinary marriage as the entire office come along and its simply the funniest, most heart warming episode of this fine show you will see, if not of any TV you will see. In my vast and wide TV watching experience, it doesn't get better than this. Its an hour long and its an hour of magic. It has dancing, surprises, and many, many laughs. Its got all the great features of a great episode; Dwight Vs Jim, Micheal being embarrassing and Kevin being an idiot. 'Delivery', also Pam and Jim centric involves their first child - and its wonderful. If this episode doesn't cram you with tears and giggles, its highly unlikely you're human.
(Spoiler pretty much over now) I love these episodes because after 5 years of watching Pam and Jim meet, fall in love we see their lives start happening. As its been over such a long time you really feel for them as you feel part of it. By this point I'd dedicated 5 years to this show and I felt I watch them grow up together in real time and this just made these really important times in their lives mean so much more.
(Spoiler over) Pam and Jim aside, this season has so much to offer 'Koi Pond', and 'Double Date' being two of 26 highlights comprising the season - but the quality through is exceptional. The is no duff in this season, in my mind and that's for a simple reason - they just focused on what they did best, tell great stories and make great jokes.
A feature of pretty much every episode of the Office is a 'cold open'. An opening joke, before the titles start. These have nothing to do with the 22 minute of episode that follow and are just a joke. These are more often than not hilarious and of the funniest things the show has to offer - but in my mind every cold open in season 6 is a winner. Each can be watched separately from the episode and (as I do) over and over again on Youtube.
A few other story-lines tussle for space in this season - Jim as Co-manager and as always, Micheal trying to find a woman. Neither work out, unlike the taking over of the paper company goes through by printer sales company Sabre. This sees a big name drop into the cast list, with Kathy Bates being Sabres CEO. She is great on screen as Jo Bennet, and features a lot in this season.
This season has mixed reviews from fans. Its criticized as too much is going on - but I don't really think that. The stories are bigger, yes - but this feels back to basics for the team behind the Office in terms of jokes and telling stories. During season 5 they were setting a lot up, with season 6 they are giving you lots of the punchlines.
Unfortunately, they have not really gotten over this high with season 7-8 being OK bit missing much of the spark - most noticeably with the lead man Steve Carrell is now gone from the show and although its still good - you feel its in its last few years.
All in all, if you picked up the sets individually, or the box set - seek this out. Check out the best season of the Office right before it came of the boil.
The Bluray has the same extras as the DVD, the only difference is in picture and sound quality and price. I picked this up as a collector, but I wouldn't go out of you're way for the Bluray if the DVD is still available, as it is now - much cheaper.
A permanent feature of Office special features over the years has been deleted scenes and this is no exception with lots and lots (about 2 hours) and whats better, they're good. When you watch them you do realize cutting such great jokes out must have been pretty tough.
You also get selected commentaries, but as with all other season and despite cries from the fans, no Steve Carrell on this which is a bit disappointing. Also, some bloopers and my favorite extra - the 'webisodes'. There are extra mini-episodes that appeared on the NBC site when the season was originally aired and great, but have no really importance to the main season.
All in all, this is a must have season for fans, and major part of a must have series for comedy fans. Going for £22 on DVD or £25 on Bluray on Amazon.