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Sunday, June 23, 2024
The Observer

The Office Season Four comes to DVD

The SeasonInterrupted and ultimately shortened by last fall's writer's strike, "The Office" nonetheless delivered a rich fourth season. Starting with the premiere, "Fun Run," and Michael Scott's Dunder Mifflin Scranton Meredith Palmer Memorial Celebrity Rabies Awareness Pro-Am Fun Run For The Cure, the show's writers hardly let up in the quest for more character-driven comedy, with a surprising amount of drama thrown in. The performances this season were still spot-on as they evolved. The saga of "Dwangela" gave Rainn Wilson a chance to flex some acting muscle, and his mournful, pining Dwight is weirdly endearing. Steve Carell keeps Michael's infuriating and hilarious tactlessness, but injects quite a bit of pathos with Michael's romantic relationships, as seen in "The Deposition," "The Dinner Party" and with a new character, Holly, played by Oscar-nominated Amy Ryan in the season finale.Jim and Pam's relationship, after three seasons of anticipation, is finally official. Thankfully, it avoids the curse that plagued so many other eagerly awaited TV couples - that of instant boredom. Die-hard "Jam" fans may have seethed with frustration after Jim's botched marriage proposal in the season finale, but it will be interesting to see what happens next season.Starting with the "Dinner Party," the season hit a rocky stretch, the product of the long months of the writer's strike that forced storylines to change and entire episodes to be scrapped. This may account for the abrupt feeling of the latter half of the season, where a few elements seemed rather tacked on, or at least underdeveloped. Events such as Jan's pregnancy, Toby's resignation, and Ryan's arrest, while still in line with the characters, feel like half the story was left out - which is probably true, as the strike cut about ten episodes from the regular season run.The DVDWith only fourteen episodes, the $49.99 price tag for the boxed set seems steep, but a wealth of bonus materials helps fill the void. In three episode commentaries, directors, writers and cast members weigh in on the making of the show from script to final edit, and the 20-minute blooper reel reveals just how much fun the cast and crew are really having on set. Perhaps the most intriguing of the behind-the-scenes features is an hour-long writer's panel from "The Office" Convention, although the video quality leaves much to be desired.Another nice touch is "Michael Scott's Dunder Mifflin Ad" on the second disk as a stand-alone, separate from the episode in which it originally aired. Some clever NBC promos fill out the first and third disks.The deleted scenes for every episode often rival the material that made it on television, so the included table draft of the script for "Dinner Party" is a great addition for fans wanting to compare it to the televised episode. The paper reproduction fits neatly into the cardboard sleeve.With this much material in the bonus features and 14 pretty darn funny episodes with great performances, any fan of "The Office" would appreciate the season four boxed set.