So much is being said about the death of the sitcom. It seems as though the death knell of the sitcom has been sounded repeatedly for the past three or four years as some older show airs its last episode and the networks fail to develop interesting new ones. Or so we are told. Do not believe a word of it, it is simply not true.
Sure, there may be fewer sitcoms on television today than there were five years ago, but that does not mean the form is dying out. I have in my hand right now proof of that; I have The Office: Season Three on DVD. It may not follow the traditional notion of a sitcom (multiple cameras and a laugh track), but it is hysterically funny and a sitcom.
Just released at the beginning of September, a few short weeks before The Office begins its fourth season, the show highlights all that is right with the situation comedy genre. The workplace comedy follows the team at Dunder Mifflin’s Scranton branch, as they do their best to sell paper. It is a mundane field to be sure and the vast majority of the workers know it. But, presumably because they need to eat, they do it anyway.
Making life all the more difficult for the employees is Michael Scott (Steve Carell) who is the manager of the Scranton branch and usually completely out of touch with reality. Scott, who views himself as the life of the party, tells the most insensitive and inane jokes that could ever be allowed on network television, much to the shock and chagrin of his underlings. He has absolutely no sense of what is appropriate. However clueless he seems though, he is still always able to come through for his employees when necessary. Played to perfection by Carell, Scott, we are often reminded, is the best salesman in the history of Dunder Mifflin, and somehow every time it looks as though he has finally gone too far or done something too stupid, he manages to save the day.
Surrounding him are characters that may be less offensive but are no less interesting. There’s Pam the receptionist (Jenna Fischer) who has to try and keep Michael in check all the while pining after Jim (John Krasinski) who has transferred to the Stamford branch. Jim left because Pam was engaged to someone else and Jim could not handle it. Happily for him though, in Stamford he meets Karen (Rashida Jones), with whom he begins a relationship despite not being over Pam.
Though the show starts the season with two very different locations, Stamford and Scranton, everything quickly folds back into one, but not before the differences between the two Dunder Mifflin branches are fully explored (it mainly comes down to leadership).
The show manages to hit pitch perfect notes of humor and heart; anytime they seem to go overboard in one direction, things quickly swing back the other way. The addition in the third season of Ed Helms as Andy Bernard and Rashida Jones to the cast helps bring new blood and comedy to Dunder Mifflin.
The third season also more fully explores the lives of and careers of the smaller players in the cast, including (but not limited to) Toby (Paul Lieberstein) the put-upon HR representative, Kelly (Mindy Kaling) the ditsy customer service representative and her relationship with Ryan (B.J. Novak), the rookie salesman, and Oscar (Oscar Nuñez) an accountant who happens to be gay.
Plus, there’s Dwight Schrute (Rainn Wilson), who defies any and all categories except that of “weirdo.” Happily, one of the extras on the season three DVD is a Dwight Schrute music video which features clips of some of Dwight’s more odd moments as well as exploring his character via the lyrics.
The extras do not stop there however, as the DVD contains approximately three hours worth of deleted scenes, plus episode commentaries, bloopers, and a brief Joss Whedon interview where he discusses the episode he directed during season three (“Business School”). Additionally there are excerpts from the 2006 NBC Primetime Preview, some wraparounds with Toby, winners of a “Make Your Own Promo” contest, the full “Lazy Scranton” video that aired in one episode, part of Conan O’Brien’s intro to the Emmy Awards, and a hilarious bit entitled “Kevin Cooks Stuff in the Office,” which features Kevin (Brian Baumgartner), an accountant in the series, making some absolutely disgusting foods using the at-hand supplies in the kitchen and break room.
This last extra, which is utterly absurd and ridiculous, is a perfect example of why the series is so funny. Other series have found humor in dysfunctional workplaces, but The Office offers up an utterly unique perspective, mining comedy from heretofore unimagined aspects.
The next time someone tells you that the sitcom is dead just point them to The Office and let them see how wrong they are.