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The Office: Season Two

After a brief, six-episode first season on NBC and an unexpected renewal, The Office really came into its own during Season Two, establishing itself as its own unique entity, rather than just "the American version of that British show." Not to dismiss Ricky Gervais' masterpiece of awkward humor, of course, but Michael Scott (Steve Carell) and the rest of Scranton, Penn.'s Dunder-Mifflin crew have more than earned the right to be appreciated on their own merits at this point. The cast is uniformly excellent, fleshing out the painfully uncomfortable moments that The Office is famous for with some impressively subtle humor and brilliant character work. John Krasinski and Jenna Fischer turn the fits and starts of Jim and Pam's tension-and-camaraderie-filled relationship into some of TV's most relatably poignant and romantic moments, and both Carell and Rainn Wilson (as resident enforcer/ass-kisser Dwight) continue to find ways to make their characters as sympathetic as they are cringe-worthy. (Having Dwight hook up with uptight accountant Angela, played by Angela Kinsey, was brilliant — their relationship is both bizarrely fascinating and surprisingly sweet.) But it's not just the stars who shine in this series; the supporting players (many of whom are also writers and producers for the show) are just as impressive. Mindy Kaling is excruciatingly vapid as chatterbox Kelly — her relentlessly optimistic crush on stoic, commitment-shy temp Ryan (B.J. Novak) is priceless. Paul Lieberstein is perfect as Michael's "nemesis," sensible HR guy Toby; Brian Baumgartner never fails to get a laugh with Kevin's impish smirk; and Creed Bratton contributes some of the show's craziest one-liners as wildcard kleptomaniac Creed (his off-handed comment about mung beans smelling like death was a season highlight). The rest of the group contributes just as much — it's impossible to imagine The Office without any of them. Which is probably why the show's downsizing plot faded into the background a little bit in Season Two, making way for the ongoing arcs involving Jim and Pam's relationship and Michael's crush on his boss, Jan (Melora Hardin). The course of both relationships ebbed and flowed throughout memorable episodes like "The Dundies," "Christmas Party," "The Client," "Booze Cruise," "Valentine's Day," and "Casino Night"; other instant-classics include "Office Olympics" and "Dwight's Speech."

Obsessive fans can re-live their favorite Season Two moments over and over thanks to Universal's satisfying four-disc set. All 22 episodes are presented in clean anamorphic transfers (1.78:1) with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio (English closed captioning and Spanish subtitles are also available). Each is accompanied by absolutely-worth-watching deleted scenes that add up to a grand total of 141 minutes of additional footage (it's like getting six extra episodes!). Ten episodes also have commentary tracks featuring a rotating roster of cast and crew members; the only notable absence is Carell, but he shows up in a separate feature on Disc Four, "Steve on Steve" (a brief NBC promo that ran during an Officemarathon right before The 40-Year-Old Virgin was released). Other extras include Michael's "Faces of Scranton" short film from the "Valentine's Day" episode, a 17-minute blooper reel, all 17 fake "The More You Know" PSAs recorded by the cast, the 10 Office Webisodes that were posted on NBC.com during the summer of 2006, and a few promos that aired in conjunction with the 2006 Winter Olympics. Four-disc fold-out digipak (two discs per panel) with paperboard slipcase.
—Betsy Bozdech

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