The Office-The Christmas Specials (2001)
Menu Animation & Audio
Audio Commentary-Directors' (Episode 2 Only)
Featurette-The Office: Closed For Business
Music Video-'If You Don't Know Me By Now' By David Brent
Featurette-Recording 'Freelove Freeway'
|Year Of Production||2001|
|Running Time||95:46 (Case: 186)|
|RSDL / Flipper||RSDL (43:44)||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||2,4||Directed By||
Roadshow Home Entertainment
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.78:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.78:1||Miscellaneous|
|Subtitles||English for the Hearing Impaired||Smoking||Yes, very minor|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
There is little doubt amongst critics that The Office was easily one of the classic British television comedies of all time. Indeed, it is the only UK television comedy to garner a Golden Globe Award - two of the blighters in fact. Unlike many shows which run on well past their use by date, the writers of The Office wisely - but to fans' deep sadness - decided to call it a day after two seasons. Fortunately, there were also two special episodes filmed for a Christmas airing in the UK, and here we have them nicely presented on a single DVD - The Office - The Christmas Specials.
For those of you unfamiliar with the two original series, I urge to you rush out and get your hands on a copy as soon as possible if you enjoy cutting-edge, painfully self-aware comedy. Our reviews of these series can be found here for Series 1 and a similar mouse-click away for Series 2. As a brief reminder of the basic plot, the series is a spoof "fly on the wall" documentary, as a BBC film crew explore the working lives of a group of office workers at paper merchant Wernham Hogg. Undoubted "star" of the show is the self-congratulatory "boss from hell" David Brent (Ricky Gervais), a man who takes the concept of political incorrectness to staggering new depths. He is joined in the spotlight by the sycophantic Gareth (Mackenzie Crook), the world-weary Tim (Martin Freeman) and the attractive but career frustrated Dawn (Lucy Davis).
These special episodes take place a fair while after the conclusion of Series 2 as the team prepare to get together for a Christmas party. The BBC camera crew has returned to catch up with the members of the office - to see just where life has taken them. My how times have changed at Wernham Hogg! This DVD presents both Christmas Specials, as follows:
These special episodes deliver an utterly satisfying conclusion to a truly masterful television series. The tone is generally even more bleak than the first two series, with potentially too much pain on display. That is artfully changed during the two episodes to provide an end result which, albeit with fewer outright laughs than the previous series, is immensely satisfying. There are two pivotal points in the second episode - one of which will make you cheer aloud, and the other of which will (okay I admit it) bring a genuine tear to your eye.
Seeing the end of a much loved show like this is always difficult. The writers, and the performers for that matter, have excelled themselves in delivering a believable evolution for the characters and a final ending which offers some hope for the denizens of Wernham Hogg. This DVD, along with the two previous releases, is something to treasure for fans of top-notch comedy. I know for sure that I will watch the entire set again - for the umpteenth time. Totally recommended.
The overall video transfer of this disc is once again very good for a television series.
The series is presented in its original televised aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and it has been 16x9 enhanced.
As we have come to expect, the modern transfer is essentially flawless. There is a very high degree of sharpness to the image at all times, and the touch of softness which was occasionally present in the previous series has essentially disappeared. There is still some noticeable grain present during the opening title shots of Slough - apparently the only bit of the show ever shot on film. Otherwise the image is very solid.
Shadow detail and black levels are not heavily tested as almost all of the series is shot in bright conditions. Colours are solidly rendered, with a fairly subdued and minimalist palette as befitting offices in general, and Slough in particular. There is more outdoor shooting in these episodes, and these shots look highly naturalistic. Skin tones are genuine.
The transfer is free from MPEG artefacts. Aliasing is again mildly evident if you look quite hard, but on my progressive scan system was never distracting. When viewed on an interlaced player, the aliasing is more pronounced. Whenever computer screens are shown there is some annoying aliasing and moire present. There is some occasional edge enhancement (for example in episode 2 around 27:53), but this is generally trivial. There are no significant video artefacts in the way of flecks and scratches.
The English for the Hard of Hearing subtitle track follows the dialogue quite closely, giving relevant audio cues, but it does edit some of the dialogue for the sake of brevity.
These episodes comes on a single sided dual layered DVD 9 disc. There is a layer change present at 43:44 but it occurs in between episodes.
The overall audio quality of this disc is very nice for a television comedy series. Once again, the lack of a canned laughter track lends a refreshingly clean feel to the audio. I could identify no significant defects at all.
The audio track is in English Dolby Digital 2.0 encoded at a 192 kbps.
Dialogue was always crystal clear and audio sync was fine.
As ever, the title music is arranged by Big George and is a very nice cover version of Handbags and Gladrags (written by Mike D'Abo, of Manfred Mann fame). There is also a lengthy excerpt from Brent's pop single - an hilarious cover of If You Don't Know Me By Now by Simply Red. This is one of the corniest videos you will ever see - George Michael eat your heart out! Of course, with this being a party episode there are numerous sound bites from your typical UK Christmas pop songs to bring back a few memories too.
The soundstage is obviously frontal in nature, but as always it is perfectly suited to the pseudo-documentary nature of the series. With Pro Logic II enabled some ambience is redirected to the surround speakers, but this generally adds little to the audio experience. Essentially, the surrounds and subwoofer subwoofer are unused.
|Surround Channel Use|
There are a few good extras on the disc - if only there were some more!
The menu retains the minimalist approach of the previous discs. A Christmas tree and telephone are surrounded by office party chatter and disco soundtrack. It allows the selection of individual episodes (the first with thirteen and the second with nineteen chapter stops), the option to play both episodes in sequence, subtitle activation or access to the following extras:
Running over the second episode only, writers Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant provide a funny commentary which is well worth listening to. As ever Ricky Gervais appears to actually be David Brent. They have an interesting take on The Lord of the Rings trilogy. "Does it count as a director's commentary if we just sit here laughing"?
This featurette is a sad, funny and melancholy look back through the shows with the cast and crew. It brings happy memories flooding back and the sad realisation that there will be no more episodes to watch. It runs for a reasonable 22:36. It is once again presented at 1.78:1 with a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack encoded at 192 kbps.
Running for only 5:47 this is a great extra, showing the cast heading to Hollywood to pick up their - completely unexpected - Golden Globe Awards. Presented at 1.78:1 with a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack encoded at 192 kbps.
Ricky Gervais performs the full length version of If You Don't Know Me By Now - fantastic stuff running for 3:36. It is once again presented at 1.78:1 with a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack encoded at 192 kbps.
Ricky Gervais is joined by a band including Noel Gallagher from Oasis, to record the full version of Free Love Freeway. It is really very good, and great fun to boot! Running for 4:43, it is presented at 1.33:1 with a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack encoded at 192 kbps.
If you (SPOILER ALERT: highlight with mouse to read) click on the photocopier on the extras menu, as it is copying you get to see Ricky Gervais cracking up repeatedly during the filming of the If You Don't Know Me By Now video. It'll make you laugh - I bet! Running for 1:38, it is presented at 1.78:1 with a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack encoded at 192 kbps.
This disc will not be available in Region 1 until the middle of November, but I suspect it will be the same as our own. The Region 2 disc appears to be identical to the Region 4 release, so buy whichever can be found for the lowest price.
The Office - The Christmas Specials is a really great finale to cap off one of the true gems of new millennium UK comedy. As ever, the humour is often politically incorrect but remains genuinely funny. These specials deliberately take the characters to their lowest ebb, to make the final resolution as uplifting as possible, and it succeeds brilliantly. Not as many overt laughs this time around, this is nonetheless the perfect complement to the earlier series. Ricky Gervais is a comic genius! Utterly recommended for fans of The Office.
The video quality is very good for a television series.
The audio quality is perfectly fine for a television comedy.
The extras are fairly few, but of good quality and appreciated nevertheless.
|DVD||Momitsu V880 upconverting DVI player, using DVI output|
|Display||Sanyo PLV-Z2 WXGA projector. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 720p.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.|
|Amplification||Onkyo TX-SR600 with DD-EX and DTS-ES|
|Speakers||JensenSPX-9 fronts, Jensen SPX-13 Centre, Jensen SPX-5 surrounds, Jensen SPX-17 subwoofer|