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The Office: Season Four




With partial thanks to a writer's strike that shortened the fourth season of "The Office," this batch of episodes "? 14 on four discs "? seems more uncomfortable and painful than ever before. That, of course, translates into high comedy.

This season found Dunder-Mifflin's incompetent Scranton, Pa., branch manager Michael Scott (Steve Carell) in a funk. Debt forces him into taking a night job as a diet-pill telemarketer. His girlfriend Jan (Melora Hardin) is somewhat of a psycho. And technology threatens to render him a dinosaur.

Nowhere does this come to a more miserable head than the instant classic "Dinner Party" episode, in which Michael and Jan host an evening of food, friends and, naturally, fighting. There's a streak of genuine depression running through it, and yet, you can't help but laugh hysterically at the same time.

Running a close second is "The Deposition," where Michael tries to be helpful in Jan's sexual harassment suit against Dunder-Mifflin, and backfires in the most depressing way possible. But the season closer, "Goodbye, Toby," offers hope for him as he meets a female version of himself (Amy Ryan of "Gone Baby Gone"), which "? along with other wrenches in the story line "? bode well for season five.

As with prior "Office" editions, deleted scenes are plentiful and offer even more laughs. It's a shame how many gems they have to trash for broadcast. For fans of the show, which are rightfully legion, a purchase is a no-brainer.

"?Rod Lott


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