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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » The Office - The Complete Second Series
The Office - The Complete Second Series
BBC Worldwide // Unrated // April 20, 2004
List Price: $24.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Holly E. Ordway | posted April 16, 2004 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
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A U D I O
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The movie

Here's a tip: Don't watch The Office when you're depressed about the pointlessness of your work life, or when you're fed up with your boss' idiotic policies. After watching a few episodes, you may find yourself telling off your boss and packing up to move to a commune in the middle of nowhere, just to get away from the banal horror of it all. Why? Because The Office is so spot-on with its depiction of the worst aspects of the work world, where dreams are suffocated and idiots reign supreme.

The second season of The Office picks up exactly where the first season left off. Tim has been promoted to a lead sales position, leading him to abandon his fragile dream of quitting and going back to college, and the Slough office of Wernham Hogg has incorporated the Swindon office, so a bunch of new faces have appeared at the office. Meanwhile, David is having a hard time dealing with the fact that he has a new boss... who is much better-liked than he is.

The Office continues with its quasi-documentary feel; the camera wanders around the office, sometimes peering through windows or focusing on side details as well as capturing the central point of action in a scene, and the characters show with occasional sidelong glances that they're aware of the camera's presence in the room. Intercut with the episodes are short interviews with the various characters as well, offering a chance to see characters like David "talk the talk" before we see all too clearly that they have no clue how to actually "walk the walk." It's a quite interesting approach to filming the series, and it certainly gives the show a great deal of believability.

The same characters take center stage as in the first season: Tim, Gareth, David, and Dawn. Tim is, in a sense, the least dysfunctional one of the group, in the sense that he's aware of his own shortcomings (for instance, he's 30 years old and still lives with his parents) and views them with a kind of self-deprecating humor. Yet part of the bitter irony of The Office is that even though Tim clearly loathes some parts of his job, like dealing with Gareth, he's still too insecure to step away from the stultifying, often-disagreeable, but undeniably safe environment of the office and strike out for fresh pastures. That's a common thread in these episodes, in fact; we learn that Dawn once had higher aspirations than being a receptionist, and still clings to them in a vague way, and even David begins to realize that his mental image of what his job is like doesn't stand up to reality now that the reorganization brings his bosses into "his" territory more often.

The Office defies conventional notions of what "comedy" is. There are no jokes, per se, other than the practical jokes that the characters play on each other; there's no laugh track; there are no funny one-liners. The humor comes from the all-too-realistic absurdities of people behaving the way people do, and from the way we see the hypocrisy and distorted self-image of characters like David and Gareth revealed in their behavior, without the characters themselves realizing it. But most of all, the humor, if we can call it that, comes from recognizing what we see in The Office as representing, in one way or another, the maddening idiocies of our own work lives.

How much you'll appreciate The Office really depends on how much of the work world you've experienced. It's like the comic strip Dilbert: I read it in college and found it pointless and not funny... but years later, after several different jobs, the humor hits home and it's one of my favorite strips of all time. So too with The Office, except that the more that you relate to what's going on, the more you'll cringe rather than laugh. Perhaps even more so than the first season, The Office cuts close to the bone, with episodes that verge on the unwatchable, simply because they're so well done, capturing the pathetic and embarrassing aspects of people's behavior with such fidelity. You might say you'd rather have your teeth pulled without anesthesia than work in a real-life place like The Office... but the horrible thing is, you probably already do, to one extent or another.

The DVD

The second season DVD of The Office contains all six half-hour episodes plus special features on one disc. I only received a "check disc" for this review, so I can't comment on the packaging.

Video

The Office appears in a clear, natural-looking anamorphic widescreen transfer at the show's original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The image is very crisp in close-up shots, but a bit softer at further distances. The print is nicely clean and free of flaws or noise.

Audio

The Dolby 2.0 soundtrack offers a clean and satisfactory listening experience. The dialogue is nicely clear and easy to understand, with no muffled parts; background sounds are well balanced with other aspects of the track. English subtitles are also available.

Extras

Probably the most notable thing about the special features for The Office: The Complete Second Series is that they reveal that Ricky Gervais is just as annoying in real life as he is on-camera in his role as David Brent; just watching his introductions to the deleted scenes and outtakes will probably make you want to reach through the screen and smack him upside the head.

In any case, the deleted scenes run about 13 minutes, and consist of footage that looks like it was cut late in the process, as the image quality is just as good as the final episodes. This is the section that will be of the most interest to fans of the show, though they run without any explanations or commentary. The outtakes, running seven minutes, are not very interesting; rather than really funny bloopers, they're mainly just shots in which the actors burst out laughing in the middle of the scene. Lastly, we get a 20-minute "video diary" from co-creators/writers Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant; this sounds a lot better than it really is, since all it amounts to is random behind-the-scenes footage of them (mostly Gervais) fooling around.

Final thoughts

If you liked The Office: The Complete First Series, then the Complete Second Series is an obvious choice for a purchase. Painfully funny, true to the absurdities of real life, and very creative, The Office is well worth picking up. Highly recommended.

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