The Office: Season Nine [Blu-Ray]

The Office: Season Nine [Blu-Ray]
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For its final season, the show that made awkward comedy palatable for mainstream North Americans was put in the unenviable position of carrying on without principle star Steve Carell. Luckily, as integral to the show as Michael Scott was, the relationships between Jim (John Krasinski) and Pam (Jenna Fischer), as well as Jim and Dwight (Rainn Wilson), long ago became as much a part of why audiences tuned in as the selfish antics of an emotionally stunted man-child occupying a position of nominal authority. Having a ready-made, self-absorbed, delusional jerk like Andy Bernard (Ed Helms) waiting in the wings to fill the void didn't hurt. With the search for a new manager resolved, increasing the room for subplots, the show runners introduced a few fresh faces: Clark Duke (Kick-Ass) and relative newbie Jake Lacy. The former fits into the group dynamic like a glove — an episode where he pretends to be Dwight's son in order to score a sale makes particularly good use of his natural comedic abilities. On the other hand, Lacy, as Pete, isn't given a great deal to do other than be an affable, generically cute romantic rub in the relationship between "the Nard Dog" and Erin (the relentlessly hilarious Ellie Kemper). Actually, romantic entanglement is the final order of business for most of the employees of Scranton's top independent paper provider. As the season progresses, nearly every major character is paired off or tempted to pursue the comforts of affection. Even the idyllic storybook romance of Jim and Pam is put to the test when work drives a wedge between them. The explanation of why these office workers have been filmed for the past nine years is more than a little underwhelming, while attempts to integrate the behind-the-scenes camera crew into the story feel a bit forced and underdeveloped, especially considering how ostensibly integral they are to the plot trajectory of the season. But, really, no matter how sympathetic some of this assemblage of screwball regular Joes can be, at times, it's their zany antics that kept them on the air for so long. In that regard, the last hurrah of these goofy pranksters and socially maladjusted outsiders ranks in the mid- to upper-tier of the series. Since most people know if they like a show by its ninth season, whether or not the bonus features deliver is of greater concern to fans than if a post-Scott office is worth watching. Being the end of such a long-running program, it's no surprise that things get pretty darn sentimental. "A Look Back" is a tearful goodbye and a thorough overview of the entire series, packed with interviews (including thoughts from creator Ricky Gervais) and candid footage. "Behind the Scenes Panel Discussion" follows in a similar vein, with the cast, key writers and producers fielding questions at the wrap party and getting a little misty eyed, when not cracking each other up with intimate banter. Likewise, "Final Table Read" is a sentimental and ceremonial affair sure to entertain some and bore the crap out of others. Casual fans of the show will find greater amusement in the extensive deleted scenes included on each disc, often featuring entire subplots that were omitted, a lengthy batch of quite funny bloopers and a bunch of auditions from 2003, with the likes of Seth Rogan, Bob Odenkirk, Adam Scott and Kathryn Hahn trying out for principle roles. Because there's no reason not to, the full version of Andy Bernard's embarrassing viral video is filed under "Autotune Andy." Enjoy, because with The Farm (wisely) not being picked up for a spin-off series, Ed Helms's digitized blubbering serves as the proverbial fat lady for this tale. (Universal)