Blu-ray
Recommended
3.5 stars
Amazon
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Overall Grade
3.5 stars

(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)

The Movie Itself
4 Stars
HD Video Quality
4 Stars
HD Audio Quality
2.5 Stars
Supplements
4 Stars
High-Def Extras
0.5 Stars
Bottom Line
Recommended

The Office: Season 5

Street Date:
September 8th, 2009
Reviewed by:
Nate Boss
Review Date: 1
September 8th, 2009
Movie Release Year:
2008
Studio:
Universal Studios
Length:
0 Minutes
Release Country
United States

The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

After three near perfect seasons, 'The Office' hit a snag in the fourth run, with characters acting nothing like they had before, with a few in particular becoming excessively unlikable. With that season's finale opening a new door full of possibilities and storylines, utilizing background characters in brilliant ways, I had great expectations for the fifth season.

I've never been a slave to television, to sit down on a certain day at a certain time every week to see a new installment of a program. I had only ever seen 'The Office' when the show would hit the home video market, gobble up a season in two to three days, and then hunger for nearly a year, every year. Would Michael (Steve Carrell) change from his own nastiness and self loathing that reached a head in the previous season? Would the "special" Kevin (Brian Baumgartner) story continue? Would Ryan (B.J. Novak) return to the show? What about Jim (John Krasinski) and Pam's (Jenna Fischer) engagement plans? Would Phyllis (Phyllis Smith) rat on Dwight (Rainn Wilson) and Angela (Angela Martin) after learning of their affair? With so many unresolved/teased ideas, this year's wait for home video was a killer.

Praise whatever deity you wish, as the wait was well worth it this time.

Andy (Ed Helms) and Dwight battle for the love of Angela, only Andy doesn't realize it. Pam finds art school tougher than she had imagined. While Michael and Holly (Amy Ryan) learn what corporate finds acceptable or not. After years of tension, pivotal employees will leave the company to seek out the respect they felt they never received, and every other employee will find things less secure than before. Relationships both blossom and wither, inter-office allegiances form and break, unacceptable/dysfunctional behavior abounds from every corner, and paper is sold. Just another year at the Scranton branch of Dunder-Mifflin.

I've always found 'The Office' to be a show whose seasons can be run through in a day or two without any difficulty, and this season doesn't break that pattern. The 26 episodes (one of which was double length) fly right by, flowing perfectly together, yet as with past seasons, missing an episode won't render the rest of the season's plot incomprehensible or ruin the fun.

While Michael was the obvious negative Nancy in the previous season, with his former flame Jan (Melora Hardin) attempting to usurp his throne, this season Michael is back to being the warm, lovelorn, sweet puppy dog that made him so realistic in all his flaws, much like Carrell's role in 'The 40-Year-Old Virgin.' Jan is still an evil, evil woman, with her only appearances this season being utterly vile and disgusting. Ryan has obviously not learned his lesson, continuing his slimy ways, while Stanley's rage, Meredith's (Kate Flannery) addiction issues, Kelly's (Mindy Kaling) co-dependancy, and Creed's (Creed Bratton) creepiness are all more of what we've seen in the past from these supporting characters. Charles Miner (Idris Elba, 'Obsessed') comes in as a character that is near impossible to love, the polar opposite of Michael in terms of leadership and personality.

Never before has Michael's ineptitude reached such heights, with the opening episode of this season obviously acting as the high point in his complete inanity. Relating the Stay Puft Marshmellow Man, Elvis, Jabba the Hutt, and Martin Lawrence from 'Big Mama's House' to overweight employees, calling each example beautiful, was just a roll on the floor kind of moment, possibly far too early a peak for this season, but a welcome gut buster nonetheless. Dwight has a fun confrontation with a stroller ("Watch out, barbed wire!!!"), and an even better battle of the wits with Andy, calling the unknowing cuckold a cuckold to his face, begging to be caught with his excessive bravado. Hell, Dwight is the star of the show this season, with countless hilarious bits, including the dismemberment of a resuscitation dummy ("This is why we have training. We start with the dummy and learn from our mistakes. And now, Dwight knows not to cut the face off of a real person."). Of course, Dwight is worthless without the constant psychological warfare from Jim, and while it is much lower key than usual, it still pops up from time to time, thankfully.

Pam's costume (Charlie Chaplin, or Hitler with the hat removed) at the Corporate branch is the embodiment of the borderline delusional crew at Scranton, as she didn't think twice about dressing up for the holiday, unaware of the consequences of her own costume choices. Whether they're making a knife with another knife, racing each other with a radar display, or aging like Benjamin Button in reverse, they're still having fun after all these years.

'Season Five' isn't the best of 'The Office,' but it's far from the worst. What it is, for sure, is a bad starting point for those new to the series. Despite even the introduction of ceiling cat ("Save Bandit!"), this set of episodes just falls a bit short of the perfection that the second and third runs brought.

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

The fifth season of 'The Office' just so happens to be the first to arrive on Blu-ray, with all 26 episodes being treated to a 1080p transfer in the VC-1 encode. The video qualities are good enough to make me even more anxious as to any word of the first four seasons hitting the format.

Skin tones are superb throughout, with a fantastic amount of detail and quirks present in every cast member's face. Details on sets, like walls or door frames are great, with smears, clumps, and wood patterns all popping right off the surface. Stray hairs for every actor (especially Fischer) leap away from the rest of their manes. Contrast is sharp, while blacks are solid, and whites are sometimes a bit too bright.

Edges are clean and natural, and there doesn't appear to be any significant post-production tweaking like DNR evident. Grain levels are virtually non-existent. There are some light color banding issues occasionally, while some colors seemingly glow from time to time. Jim's stubble looks blurry occasionally, as well, but this is possibly due to being too light to be convincing. My biggest complaint would be the random fuzzy shots thrown in, especially in shots involving vehicles, that stand out like sore thumbs, jumping back and forth in quality. Season Five of 'The Office' is still a great upgrade from the previous four home video releases, and one hell of a tease for fans of the show.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

Season Five of 'The Office' sports a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix on each of the 26 episodes as the only audio option whatsoever. English SDH and Spanish subs are also available.

'The Office' isn't exactly a show one could expect jaw dropping audio from, being that it's a show about working....in an office...with paper. Needless to say, I went in with little to no expectations, and I still left a bit disappointed.

Dialogue, the obvious driving point of the show, is always prioritized, clean over little bits of ambiance or soundtrack, but it's often not clear. There are a few muddled lines, and many that have a fuzzy or feedback laden undertone to them that can be quite distracting.

There is a massive amount of background noise in the office, with body movement, footsteps, clothes shuffling, clanging of office supplies and moving copy machines, but these effects often feel amazingly forced and unnatural, as most of the workers are wasting time rather than getting that busy. This isn't a crew of overachievers, yet these noises would lead us to believe otherwise. Strangely enough, when the camera jumps to different angles (mostly for reaction shots), the noises all stay from the direction they were originating from in the previous shot.

Rears are often quiet, or bustling with activity, with little distinction between the two extremes. They come alive for an outdoor rain sequence, in crowded restaurants, or a few party sequences, but are for the most part just accents. Bass is, for the most part, as non-existant as the grain in the video. Every episode teases the LFE with a bit of thump in the theme song, then it seems the bass just goes to work like it were Toby or Kevin, just staying out of the way, out of sight. In the next to last episode, with the cafe disco sequences, the bass goes absolutely nuts, but it's quite a bit too little, too late. A troubling issue in this release that cannot go without mention is the constant humming/buzzing that underlies sequences in nearly every episode, cutting in and out at random, creating a very uneven feel.

It's been a year since I've sat down to 'The Office' in any way, shape, or form, so I'd be hard pressed to say how active or clean previous seasons sounded in standard Dolby Digital, but this lossless mix is far from awe-inspiring.

The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff

  • Audio Commentary - Weight Loss - With Randy Cordray, Ben Patrick, Michael Gallenburg, Brian Wittle, Nick Carbone, Kelly Cantley, Alysia Raycraft, and Jake Aust. This track has about five minutes of introduction, but since it is a double length episode, this isn't that big a deal, save for the whole "being interesting" factor. For as many contributors there are on this mix, there is no excuse for any gaps, let alone prolonged ones.
  • Audio Commentary - Business Ethics - With B.J. Novak, Peter & Vartan (Craft Services) and Sergio & Alan (Catering). A behind the scenes commentary related to the show in general, not just this episode, which sucks, as this episode has a few great storylines. There is nothing worth mentioning here, as I doubt anyone really gives a rat's ass about the food served to the crew. They can be cannibals for all I care, so long as the show stays as good as it has been up to now.
  • Audio Commentary - Employee Transfer - With Dave Rogers, Anthony Farrell, Veda Semarne, Chuck Canzoneri, Kyle Alexander, and Phil Shea. Halloween costumes and the process involved in creating them are discussed, as are the fun combination of filming and extreme heat, and quite a few production/behind the scenes notes are analyzed, in rapid succession. Not a bad commentary at all.
  • Audio Commentary- Customer Survey - With Stephen Merchant, Paul Lieberstein, and Mindy Kaling. The improv in the show is discussed, the real life cost of what the super small Bluetooth headsets is analyzed (Pam and Jim would spend thousands on a prank, though), and the Buttlicker story is compared to an anecdote with the crew. "We got the Buttlicker account!" would have been a great addition to this episode.
  • Audio Commentary - Moroccan Christmas - With Kate Flannery, Angela Kinsey, and Brian Baumgartner. It is quite weird to hear Baumgartner talk as anyone but Kevin, after five seasons of incredibly slow speech. There are many lapses in coverage for this track to be of any worth, and it is the opposite of the actor tracks from 'Heroes: Season Three:' flat uninteresting.
  • Audio Commentary - The Duel - With Rainn Wilson, Rusty Mahmood, Jennifer Celotta, and Dean Holland. The inspiration for the amazing radar race intro is explained, while the contributors mention their favorite scenes, some behind the scenes elements and anecdotes, and generally have a rapid fire back and forth, free from falling into any of the commentary pratfalls that the previous track did. A good listen.
  • Audio Commentary - Dream Team - With B.J. Novak, Aaron Shure, Charlie Grandy, and Matt Sohn. Bo-ring. Lots of back patting, though some good character analysis can be found. One of my least favorite tracks on this set. br>
  • Audio Commentary - Sorry, not revealing the episode name, as it is a massive spoiler. With Jenna Fischer, Gene Stupnitsky, Lee Eisenberg, and Justin Spitzer. Thoughts on the faux new opening sequence, geographical backgrounds, the ever changing fish in the bowl, and random production ideas. Not a bad track.
  • Audio Commentary - Casual Friday - With Creed Bratton, Mindy Kaling, Ellie Kemper, Brent Forrester, and Claire Scanlon. Not one mention of the disgusting chili opening with Kevin. Fail. Analyzation of character relationships (of the non-romantic assortment), a hint at an upcoming webisode, and the ability to mention particular deities on camera. This track is more of a conversation between the participants than a commentary for the episode.
  • Audio Commentary - Company Picnic - With Paul Lieberstein, Ken Kwapis, and Jennifer Celotta. The 100th episode! The awful, awful volleyball action is dissed (it is true: these actors absolutely suck at the sport), while random crew are pointed out that are called "important" that one could obviously not care less about.
  • Deleted Scenes: Disc One (HD, 62 min) - Holy..this is a lot of deleted scenes! Plenty more inappropriate office situations abound. This collection of scenes contains an explanation of Meredith's facial burns in the first episode (a big WTF from the broadcast), a heartless Jan email, Ryan showing emotion, a rant straight out of 'What the Bleep?' concerning perception vs reality, a comparison between Meredith and a child in their sleeping patterns, more Dwight vs stroller, and Dwight's (flawed) retirement plan.
  • Deleted Scenes: Disc Two (HD, 67 min) - We get to see Andy trying to get Oscar (Oscar Nunez) laid more, so that story in Canada makes more sense. There's tons more decision making between the new copier or new chairs, more Andy stepping in manure, Angela's thoughts on the 'Sex and the City' girls (a must see), the entire office avoiding Andy, who seems oblivious to the situation, Dwight explains more of his varied family history, the crew's thoughts on the new president, and some more harsh roasting.
  • Deleted Scenes: Disc Three (HD, 24 min) - More Angela and the cats, Dwight's definition of irony and his mad lady killing skills, what Michael does when he's pretending to be pooping (seriously), a mention of 'A League of Their Own' on Laserdisc, and some looting.
  • Deleted Scenes: Disc Four (HD, 40 min) - More soccer, water delivery, bacterial diarrhea, reimbursement rejections, secret meetings, urine soaked messages, island gifts, Meredith punishing her son, and the finale of the volleyball tournament. Added up, there's about nine episodes worth of footage deleted through these scenes!
  • Gag Reel (HD, 14 min) - Standard flubs and laughter outbursts. It is kind of interesting watching some of the more serious performers busting out in laughter, totally the opposite of their character.
  • 100 Episodes, 100 Moments (HD, 8 min) - As if we needed any more teasing. 100 short clips from the show play, reminding us of some of the fun scenes from earlier seasons, in high def (and they look quite nice), making the first four seasons of the show all that more necessary to release on Blu-ray.
  • Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Present 'The Office (SD, 30 min) - An extremely low quality interview (in video, audio, moderation, and content) with the cast and crew of the show. Such important information is presented in a matter that can turn off even a hardcore fan. Do yourself a favor and skip this extra.
  • 'The Office' Promos (HD, 4 min) - A few short promotional spots that aired over the last year, including Michael with a protective cup, and ass grabbing for the Super Bowl, while the Beijing Olympics got a few sports related promos, with random sports/events that could be in an Olympics named off (hamster hiding?!?), trademarking a new Olympic sport, and a pencil/javelin hybrid. Some funny spots, but for the most part, passable.
  • Webisodes (HD, 20 min) - A few short episodic side-tales from 'The Office.' In Kevin's Loan, a silly short series that covers Kevin and his gambling habits and debts, ice cream related projects, and a constant barrage of Kevin related failure. In The Outburst, centered on the under-utilized Oscar character after he flips out on the phone on a personal call, and the other workers hovering around him trying to figure it out.

HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?

  • One-Liner Soundboard - This feature is a hell of a lot of fun, loaded with short sound clips from nearly every character on the show to play 'till one's heart is content. Or for ten minutes or so.
  • My Scenes - Bookmark your favorite scenes!
  • BD-Live - Accessible on Disc One only, under the "What's New" tab. There are no 'The Office' exclusive extras here, just the generic Universal portal.

Final Thoughts

"The KGB will wait for no one!" You shouldn't wait either. Buy this set, and let Universal know that 'The Office' will sell well on Blu-ray, so as to get them moving on bringing us the first four seasons. The video upgrade is worth the minimal price difference vs the DVD, while sadly the pack-ins from Best Buy and Target are not available with this version of the set. But once you see 'The Office' in high def, it's hard to go back.

All disc reviews at High-Def DVD Digest are completed using the best consumer HD home theater products currently on the market. More about our gear.

Technical Specs

  • Blu-ray
  • BD-50 Dual-Layer Discs
  • Five Disc Set

Video Resolution/Codec

  • 1080p/VC-1

Aspect Ratio(s)

  • 1.78:1

Audio Formats

  • English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Surround Sound

Subtitles/Captions

  • English SDH
  • Spanish

Supplements

  • Audio Commentaries
  • Deleted scenes
  • Featurettes
  • Soundboard

Exclusive HD Content

  • BD-Live
  • Bookmarks
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