Blu-Ray Review: Steve Carell’s Final Season of ‘The Office’

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CHICAGO – Very few 2011 programs were as hit-and-miss as NBC’s “The Office.” I don’t think anyone involved with the program would argue that it was this sometimes-great comedy’s best year but there were still great moments throughout and Steve Carell’s departure from the program that turned him into a superstar was handled with incredible humor and grace. The season may not have been the show’s best, but it was still one of the better comedies on TV. See for yourself with the seventh season, recently released on Blu-ray and DVD. Blu-Ray Rating: 4.0/5.0
Blu-Ray Rating: 4.0/5.0

It’s sometimes hard to believe that a show based on such a limited-run series as the original “The Office” with Ricky Gervais has lasted at least eight seasons (the new one starts on Thursday, September 22nd, 2011). One of the reason is through the extension of focus beyond Michael Scott (Carell). When it was announced that Carell would be leaving after the 7th season, there was understandable trepidation but less than there would be with many other series. How many other programs could lose their lead actor and have it turn out that he’s not even really being replaced? (James Spader is joining but more as a replacement for Kathy Bates). When Charlie Sheen notoriously pulled the pin on his personal grenade with “Two and a Half Men,” do you think ANYONE talked about going on with out replacing him? But the supporting cast of “The Office” is strong enough to make Carell’s departure less than catastrophic.

The Office: Season Seven was released on Blu-ray and DVD on September 6th, 2011
The Office: Season Seven was released on Blu-ray and DVD on September 6th, 2011
Photo credit: Universal

Going through the seventh season Blu-ray, one can sense the writers and producers of “The Office” trying to shift focus to that excellent ensemble (highlighted by John Krasinski, Jenna Fischer, Rainn Wilson, and Ed Helms) and away from its departing star. This could have easily been a greatest hits show for Carell — one final victory lap — but that would have been a mistake. The major supporting players did strong work this season and were matched by great turns from Mindy Kaling, Ellie Kemper, and more. This is easily one of the strongest ensembles on television. The writing on season seven was sometimes woefully inconsistent — more so than any other season of the program — and some of the arcs (Will Ferrell especially) just didn’t work. But “The Office” could still be the funniest show of the week.

Universal absolutely destroys when it comes to Blu-ray TV releases. (I truly wish that they would deem more of their programs HD-worthy and find it simply bizarre that fan favorites like “Parks and Recreation,” “Parenthood,” and “Friday Night Lights” aren’t available on Blu-ray.) Seasons of “The Office” don’t just include a few special features — they include multiple commentaries, 100 minutes of deleted scenes, extended episodes, and even the movie “Threat Level Midnight” that Michael Scott notoriously made during the show. Perhaps most forward-thinking is the capability to watch new episodes through your purchase of the last season. If you buy season seven of “The Office” and have an internet-capable player, you can watch every episode from the yet-to-air season eight as they premiere throughout the season. With U-Control on their theatrical hits and features like this on their TV ones, Universal is truly thinking outside of the box when it comes to Blu-ray. They’re not just copying, they’re leading the way. Not unlike “The Office” has for seven years.

Special Features:
o Blooper Reel
o Over 100 Minutes of Deleted Scenes
o Extended Episodes
o Episode Commentaries
o Webisodes
o BD Live Enabled
o Pocket Blu

‘The Office: Season Six’ stars Steve Carell, John Krasinski, Rainn Wilson, Jenna Fischer, Ed Helms, B.J. Novak, Ellie Kemper, Mindy Kaling, and Craig Robinson. The five-disc sixth-season set runs 586 minutes and was released on September 6th, 2011. content director Brian Tallerico

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