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The Office: Season Eight(TV) (2011-2012)
Based on the popular British series of the same name, this faster-paced American version follows the daily interactions of a group of idiosyncratic office employees at paper company Dunder Mifflin's Scranton branch via a documentary film crew's cameras. Regional manager Michael (Steve Carell) thinks he's the coolest, funniest, best boss ever - which, of course, makes him the uncoolest, most obnoxious and annoying boss as far as his staff are concerned. Salesman Jim Halpert (John Krasinski) has always loved receptionist Pam Beesly (Jenna Fischer) and loves sabotaging his cube-mate, the know-it-all Dwight Schrute (Rainn Wilson). Ryan Howard (B.J. Novak) started as a young, smart, self-possessed temp, but quickly figured out the real office politics despite Michael's attempts to instill the official point-of-view, and gets himself a job at corporate HQ in New York. The staff is rounded out by quiet Phyllis Lapin Vance (Phyllis Smith), beaten down by the working life Stanley Hudson (Leslie David Baker), office alcoholic Meredith Palmer (Kate Flannery), up-tight Angela Martin (Angela Kinsey), formerly closeted homosexual Oscar Martinez (Oscar Nunez), stocky and uncouth Kevin Malone (Brian Baumgartner), ambivalent kleptomaniac Creed Bratton (Creed Bratton), Sad Sack HR rep Toby Flenderson (Paul Lieberstein), persistently love-struck Kelly Kapoor (Mindy Kaling), icy corporate manager turned Michael's girlfriend Jan Levinson (Melora Hardin), former Stamford branch denizen and Cornell graduate Andy Bernard (Ed Helms), warehouse foreman Darryl Philbin (Craig Robinson), and Pam's ex-fiancé Roy Anderson (David Denman)
For more about The Office: Season Eight and the The Office: Season Eight Blu-ray release, see the The Office: Season Eight Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on August 31, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Starring: Steve Carell, John Krasinski, Jenna Fischer, Rainn Wilson, Ed Helms, Leslie David Baker
Directors: Randall Einhorn, Victor Nelli Jr., Jeffrey Blitz, Claire Scanlon
» See full cast & crew
The Office: Season Eight Blu-ray Review
Stop! Turn back! You're going the wrong way...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, August 31, 2012
I know now that I spent last September and even much of October living in blinding denial. In my 2011 review of The Office: Season Seven, posted three weeks before the series' eighth season began, I penned the following wildly optimistic opening: "Can The Office thrive without Michael Scott? Can it even survive? The short answer: absolutely. Had Steve Carell resigned from Dunder Mifflin at some point in the series' first three seasons, chances are The Office would have faded into the Scranton night. But now? Seven, soon eight seasons in? Michael Scott, proud purveyor of one-liners, misunderstandings and awkward pauses, is just another cog in a well-oiled ensemble; a beloved cog, sure, but a cog all the same. Jim, Pam, Dwight, Andy, Stanley, Angela, Kevin, Oscar, Kelly, Daryl, Phyllis, Ryan, Meredith, Erin, Creed, Toby... how is that a single show has given us so many unforgettable characters? Who would have thought the Little American Adaptation That Could would grow beyond its leading man, to the point that his departure would bring laughter, tears and, perhaps most surprisingly, a sense of exciting new possibilities? For all the doubt hanging over Michael's empty desk, for all the questions about who will fill his chair, does it really matter? Should anyone really be worried?"
I was wrong, dear readers. Soooo wrong. In retrospect, the answer to the last two questions in my Season Seven intro should have been: yes, it really does matter, and yes, everyone, particularly the successful NBC comedy's biggest fans, should be very, very worried. Season Eight turned out to be a disaster of post-Carellian proportions. The writers' room spent twenty-four episodes scrambling for material, desperate to justify the series' continuation. The cast soldiered on, rudderless and to increasingly uncomfortable ends. And the show, once a wry commentary on office life and awkward workplace relationships, became little more than a pale imitation of what it once was not so long ago. Season Eight proved just one thing: The Office really was doomed the moment Steve Carell bid his castmates a sweet, fond farewell and walked out the door.
To be fair, The Office has always had its ups and downs. Even its early seasons were host to an awful episode or two in which little happened and even less earned a laugh. Season Seven bobbled too but, through the good and the bad, seemed to suggest Jim (John Krasinski), Pam (Jenna Fischer), Dwight (Rainn Wilson) and the Scranton, PA gang would be just fine when Michael rode off into the sunset with Holly. Season Eight isn't a season of ups and downs, though. It's a mess from start to finish; an unfunny, unrelenting and, above all, unnecessary mess. The naive but lovable Andy Bernard (Ed Helms) is reduced to a three-joke pushover. His bumbling would-be true love Erin (Ellie Kemper) is the center of a love triangle with in-office Sabre presence Gabe (Zach Woods) who... wait, why is Gabe still around? It's never addressed. But Woods owns one of the best gags of the season -- his inadvertent stint as an Abraham Lincoln impersonator -- and actually manages to steal scenes from longtime mainstays who should be stealing scenes from him. Jim and Pam are put out to pasture in new-parent storylines that go nowhere fast. (Or really nowhere at all.)
Dwight, meanwhile, pulls out all the infuriating stops, working to tank Jim's career and stage managerial coups as usual But his efforts aren't paired with the sort of memorable misadventures in uptight geekdom that might make the prospect of a standalone Schrute sitcom ("The Farm," currently in development at NBC) as exciting as it would have been three years ago. Angela (Angela Kinsey), pregnant and married to a gay state senator (Jack Coleman), spends the season fending off requests from Dwight for paternity tests and subtle hints from Oscar (Oscar Nuñez) as to the senator's sexual orientation. Darryl (Craig Robinson), having been bumped up the corporate ladder two seasons ago, is wasted in a subplot involving a dull romance with a woman working in the warehouse. And Stanley (Leslie David Baker), Kelly (Mindy Kaling), Ryan (B.J. Novak), Meridith (Kate Flannery), Kevin (Brian Baumgartner), Phyllis (Phyllis Smith) and Creed (Creed Bratton) do what they've always done: wait patiently on the third-stringer bench. The chemistry is still there, the beloved character beats are intact, glimpses into the office workers' personal lives continue to expand the scope of the show... so why does it all drift south? And, for that matter, so quickly? How does the removal of a single actor in a finely tuned ensemble -- even a crucial component like Carell -- cause the long-running series' proven formula to break down and, worse, fall apart?
Answer: an almost complete departure from everything that made the show great when it first helped NBC's reorganized Thursday night comedy block become a viable primetime entity. New characters enter the fray in Season Eight, most of them far more obnoxious than anyone the series' writers have given us before, forcing familiar favorites to ratchet up their own obnoxious quirks just to compete. And not "obnoxious" in typical Office fashion. Obnoxious as in obnoxious people doing obnoxious things that are so obnoxious the results can't possibly be funny. New characters like Cathy Simms (Lindsey Broad), who spends the season sitting in the background until suddenly, inexplicably setting her mind to seducing Jim. Or irrational, extraordinarily inept President of Sabre Special Projects Nellie Bertram (Catherine Tate), who drags the show, kicking and screaming, to abysmal lows. Or Robert California (James Spader), who somehow wrestles his way into power off-screen and then mills about, initially intimidating his employees but soon showing himself to be as woefully equipped to lead as Bertram. California will be even more disappointing to Boston Legal junkies. Spader oozed self-confidence and self-love on David Kelly's legal dramedy. Here he's perfectly cast but shockingly underutilized, hired for his cutting gaze and biting wit but employed as yet another corporate dimwit; this one struggling with a failing marriage and a penchant for sexual deviance. It's no wonder Spader declined to return for another season. No one enjoys showing up to work when their bosses don't know how to take advantage of what they bring to the table.
And that's exactly what happens elsewhere. As The Office has moved further and further away from the comedy of everyday office life, it's become a show adrift at sea. Jim, Pam, even Dwight; they made us laugh because they're either like us or we work with someone exactly like them. But the series has changed so radically, so fundamentally -- just in the last season alone -- that its writers and cast have lost a handle on how best to handle its characters. Some might mistake it for being out of ideas, but that isn't the case. The showrunners aren't out of ideas, they're out of sorts, trying to cram once-ordinary people into more and more outlandish circumstances complicated by more and more detestable eccentrics. Watching Sabre reps and managers abuse Andy, episode after episode, isn't amusing; it's agonizing. Watching a woman try to worm her way between Jim and Pam, episode after episode, isn't entertaining; it's aggravating. Watching half the Scranton branch launch a line of retail stores isn't Must See TV; it's an excuse to see what's on another channel. Watching the Who's Going to Be Branch Manager? mystery, once a season-ending gimmick, infect the entire eighth season isn't clever; it's distracting. Watching the cast run through the motions, looking anywhere and everywhere for inspiration and good material, isn't at all what Season Eight had the potential to be; something sharper, funnier and more inventive than what we get here.
Season Eight has its moments, sure. ("Gettysburg," "Trivia" and "Jury Duty" come to mind.) It just doesn't have nearly enough of them. When Michael Scott said goodbye to Scranton, I was certain -- certain! -- his exit wouldn't spell doom for the series (at least not creatively). I refused to believe Carell's absence could have such far-reaching ramifications or that his departure, both classic and classy, signaled anything other than a changing of the guard. Certainty doesn't amount to good television, though, and The Office: Season Eight isn't good television. At this point, I don't have any hope for the show's ninth and final season, scheduled to premiere on September 20th. Oh, I'll tune in. I can't resist seeing how it all ends. But if this last season is any indication, The Office isn't about to go out on a high note. It's about to be put out of its misery.
The Office: Season Eight Blu-ray, Video Quality
If you have a block of Office seasons sitting on your shelf, you know exactly what to expect from Season Eight's deceptively unremarkable 1080p/AVC-encoded video presentation. The series has never been an out-and-out Blu-ray stunner; it's mockumentary premise, handheld footage and off-location camerawork all but guarantee as much. But spend any amount of quality time with any of the show's high definition releases and you'll almost immediately recognize how faithful-to-a-fault it all actually is. The eighth season encode is no different. Interview segments are more striking than anything else; colors are bright and lively, skintones are lifelike (albeit a touch pink this season), black levels are decidedly decent and detail is commendable. Other shots and scenes vary based on the cameras being used and the aesthetic being pursued, but still look as good as should be expected. Car-mounted cameras, standard definition footage are littered with the most distractions, of course, but it too is designed to bolster the ongoing joke, unwieldy artifacts, unsightly aliasing and all. Even in Season Eight's visually problematic stretches, though, the presentation impresses. Surprising primary punch, unexpected texture clarity and other visual treats await the diligent videophile, and the encode remains proficient throughout. There aren't any bouts of worrisome macroblocking, banding, ringing or other significant anomalies, even if, frankly, it would be next to impossible to know if there was a issue to report. When something odd appears, it's simply dismissed; we assume it's a natural part of the mockumentary presentation and think nothing of it. That said, even when Season Eight disappoints and underwhelms, Universal's encode does not. Fans will once again be pleased.
The Office: Season Eight Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The series' sound design is intentionally low-key and sometimes low-fi as well, traits Universal's solid DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track embraces wholeheartedly. Dialogue is clean, clear and exceedingly well-prioritized -- up-selling the documentary shtick with precision and ease -- and every rustle, bump, beep, crash and office equipment whir sounds as if it's nestled within a realistic business environment. Even acoustics, which are on the surface stuffy and unrefined, are quite convincing on the whole and play their role brilliantly. Everything about the show's audio is in on the joke, in fact. LFE output is restrained but effective, rear speakers are assertive without being overly eager, dynamics deliver despite being less than remarkable, and pans and directionality know when to hold back and when to charge ahead full force. It's a constant balancing act being played, between the energizing and the mundane, and it works wonders. Like previous season releases, Season Eight's lossless audio is everything it should be. No more, no less.
The Office: Season Eight Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
A flimsy DigiPak. Five BD-59 Blu-ray/DVD Flipper discs. Overlapping discs. Fragile, easily cracked hubs. Awkward disc removal. The Office seasons have a history of irritating packaging, but Season Eight's ungainly case and Flipper discs are almost as aggravating as Nellie Bertram herself. The supplemental package isn't nearly as extensive as those of previous seasons. No commentaries, no Q&A's, no featurettes. Just 104-minutes of deleted scenes, two extended episodes, and a few other inconsequential odds and ends. Prepare yourself accordingly.
The Office: Season Eight Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
"What is going on?" A fair question. A good question. What is going on with The Office? Easily the series' worst to date, Season Eight stands as pretty damning evidence that the once-blazing workplace comedy is out of sync, out of touch and out of its mind. Universal's Blu-ray release is better, thanks to another faithful AV presentation, but its lazy, lightweight supplemental package is yet another indicator that the show may as well have ended last year with the exit of Steve Carell. Can The Office go out on a ninth season high? Honestly, I have serious doubts. Nellie Bertram will be back, if that tells you anything. It tells me a lot. I'll be watching, but if it's anything like this season, I don't know how long I'll be willing to stick around.
The Office: Other Seasons
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The Office: Season Eight Blu-ray, News and Updates
• The Office: Season Eight Blu-ray - June 20, 2012
Universal Studios Home Entertainment will bring The Office: Season Eight to Blu-ray this September. This year of the popular NBC television show focuses on Dunder Mifflin's attempts to find leadership after the Season Seven departure of branch manager Michael ...
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