On Friday mornings, after a new episode of "The Office" airs the night before, we talk about it around our office. This past year, I've heard a lot of, "It's not as good as it used to be."
While I agree to some degree, it's still funnier than all other comedies on network TV, minus one (and more on that later). Revisiting season six in Universal's healthy five-disc set reveals the two dozen eps had more high points than one may remember.
This year was another in which the economic downturn continued to affect the Scranton, Pa., branch of paper supplier Dunder Mifflin, most notably with the axing of corporate execs, rumors of bankruptcy and, in the season's second half, being acquired by Sabre, whose ballsy, no-BS CEO is played by Kathy Bates.
As for the leads, Michael (Steve Carell) still seeks significant female companionship, and finds it "? well, for a time "? with a bar manager (Amy Pietz), but only after a brief affair with Pam's mom (Linda Purl). Speaking of Pam (Jenna Fischer) and Jim (John Krasinski), they finally get hitched in an early extended episode, and then have their baby in a later one.
Highlights? There are plenty, all wonderful in their awkwardness:
" Andy's (Ed Helms) choirboy courting of receptionist Erin (Ellie Kemper);
" Michael being asked to make good on a decade-old pledge to send a foot the bill for an entire class' college tuition (their appreciative song-and-dance number, "Hey, Mr. Scott," will be in your head for days); and
" Pam accidentally breastfeeding someone else's baby in the hospital.
Lowlights? The season did contain possibly the two worst episodes in the series thus far: "Mafia," which involves a conspiracy too unrealistic even by the show's standards; and "The Banker," merely a clip show "? the laziest of all sitcom concepts.
As with previous "Office" sets, this one is well-stocked with extras, including enough deleted scenes to cobble together more shows; nearly a half hour of bloopers (this set looks fun; I want to work there); three cute Olympic promos; and, most notable, a digital short in which Sabre lackey Gabe (Zach Woods, who deserves more time in season seven) attempts to mount a company podcast. It's a testament to how valuable the supporting cast is to the series' ongoing success "? not that you didn't know that already.
Oh, and there's also a full episode of Amy Poehler's "Parks & Recreation," once planned as an "Office" spin-off. It really came into its own (that's what she said) this past season "? its sophomore outing "? so much so that it surpassed "Office" in terms of gleefully uncomfortable laughs. "?Rod Lott