Season Seven of The Office will be known as the season Michael Scott left Dunder-Mifflin and moved to Colorado with his soul mate, Holly. It really should be known as the series’ final year. Forget Michael leaving, this show, one of my all-time favorites, is declining, despite flashes of brilliance. They should have gone out on a relatively high note instead of milking it for a few more years with James Spader. Season Seven is not their best season, but humor and emotion are still available in quantity.
Spoiler Alert! Michael Scott (Steve Carell) leaves The Office about three-quarters of the way into Season Seven. If you didn’t know that, it’s not likely you’ll be picking up the Blu-ray of the most recent season of what used to be the funniest show on television, but which has been slowly reduced to a pretty good comedy with some real missteps. Michael’s departure, along with the amazing guest star Holly (Amy Ryan), brings a huge change to the world of paper supply company Dunder-Mifflin, but probably not enough of one to stop the slide. It’s not clear exactly when this show jumped the shark, but it clearly has.
The relationship between Michael and Holly is obviously the key story arc of the season, and it works for the most part. It does bring in some “laughs for the sake of laughs” inventions, but there is a real chemistry between the two and their idiot activities are often very funny. Other relationships don’t fare so well. Pam (Jenna Fischer) and Jim (John Krasinski) motor along, but it’s true that they’ve had their Sam and Diane from Cheers moment and their relationship as Cece’s parents is nothing compared to the “will they or won’t they” tension of the first few seasons. Of course, they are a giant step up from the debacle that is the Andy (Ed Helms) and Erin (Ellie Kemper) relationship. It’s sad, because Helms and Kemper are the best things going on the show at this point, but the writers/producers have made their relationship a veritable idiot parade. After bringing them together in Season Six and then immediately realizing that would take the “Jim and Pam-ness” out of it, they break them up and put Erin with Gabe (Zach Woods). Woods is a funny guy too, but the whole threesome is just painful to watch. I hated almost every second of it.
There is still a lot of funny stuff in the show, and while the secondary characters (Stanley, Meredith, Creed, Daryl, Toby, Oscar, and the always annoying Phyllis) bring what they have always brought, it’s just wearing a bit. Not as many good ideas, not as many new situations that seem to evolve naturally, just more stunts and ridiculousness passing as humor. For every “Dwight K. Schrute, (Acting) Manager,” “Andy’s Play,” and “Threat Level Midnight” episodes that bring to mind classic seasons, there are too many “Michael’s Last Dundies,” “The Sting,” and, ugh ”Christening” to wade through. Even the worst episodes have a little treat somewhere, but not enough. Still, I’d watch this season over any episode of dreck like Two and a Half Men, and Michael’s ultimate episode, “Goodbye Michael” is a warm, touching, but not maudlin exit.
Before wrapping up with a passable but disappointing Season Seven, there has to be a little something about Deangelo Vickers (Will Ferrell), Michael’s initial replacement. He has two pretty funny scenes, his first scene in the bar with Michael and his last when he tries to talk with a head injury. Everything else, four long episodes, is watching a guy search for a funny character by doing some very unfunny bits. He’s the whole season in a nutshell, a good idea on the surface, but probably an indication that everyone is out of great ideas.
The most beneficial, wonderful, entertaining thing that The Office has ever done in any season is the deleted scenes they attach to nearly every episode. The scenes can make the episode almost half again as long as any of the 24 episodes and are of basically the same quality. That has obviously deteriorated over the years, much like the episodes themselves, but they are still funny and worth checking out immediately after watching the episode itself. In some cases the deleted scenes give you interesting plot points that change your view of a character. A good example is new assistant Jordan (Cody Horn), who makes clear she has the hots for Jim in a deleted scene but doesn’t seem to show any interest in the regular episode. In addition to the deleted scenes, there is also a good 15-minute blooper reel that shows the cast members breaking or the occasional technical glitch bringing a scene to a halt.
Not as impressive as the deleted scenes are the cast commentaries. There are five episodes in all: “Nepotism,” “PDA,” “Threat Level Midnight,” “Goodbye Michael,” and “Dwight K. Schrute, (Acting) Manager.” While series creator Greg Daniels and B.J. Novak are heavily involved, along with various actors and crew, none of the main people are involved, as usual. Steve Carell has never participated, but even John Krasinski, Jenna Fischer, and Rainn Wilson are not used this year. I assume it was because they weren’t interested/available, but when your “Goodbye Michael” commenters are Erin and Kevin, that says a lot.
Never big on providing any sort of featurette, this season's Blu-ray again has nothing of that nature. There is the Webisodes related to a fake horror movie that some of the characters made and posted online, but not Kelly and Erin’s much more interesting new song from their singing group, Subtle Sexuality. I can’t remember if that was last year, but it seems like a new song from these two (with help from Ryan and Andy) would be much more entertaining. There is also the full 25-minute version of the Threat Level Midnight movie which is shown in pieces in the episode of the same name but gets the full treatment here.
Due to the quality of the HD, the bevy of deleted scenes that significantly lengthen the material (that’s what she said!), and the full Threat Level Midnight this is a decent package (that’s what she said!). The show is declining, and unless James Spader is some sort of miracle worker, it’s likely to continue, but the entertainment value in Season Seven is good and fans will be pleased with this set.
Length: 610 min.
Distributor: Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Release Date: 9/06/11
Starring: Steve Carell, Rainn Wilson, Jenna Fischer, John Krasinski, Angela Kinsey, Amy Ryan, Will Ferrell
Directed by: Greg Daniels, Jeffrey Blitz, John Stuart Scott, Paul Lieberstein, Randall Einhorn, Dean Holland, Alex Hardcastle, Ken Whittingham, Danny Leiner, Charles McDougall, Rainn Wilson, David Rogers, B.J. Novak, Michael Spiller, Tucker Gates, Steve Carell, Mindy Kaling, Paul Feig
Produced by: Greg Daniels
Written by: Greg Daniels, Mindy Kaling, Daniel Chun, Charlie Grandy, Paul Lieberstein, Justin Spitzer, Peter Ocko, Jon Vitti, Aaron Shure, Halsted Sullivan, Warren Lieberstein, Carrie Kemper, Steve Hely, Brent Forrester, Robert Padnick, B.J. Novak, Amelie Gillette