"The Office" didn't do that great in its first season, struggling to find viewers while at the same time trying to establish an identity separate from the great British series on which it's based. By the end of its initial six-episode run, though, there was a sense that it was on its way to becoming a show that could easily stand on its own.
Happily, the series lived up to that promise, then exceeded it by a huge distance, in its second season. By giving life to everyone in the Scranton, Pa., branch of Dunder Mifflin, the show has created one of the best ensembles anywhere on TV -- without detracting from the brilliance of Steve Carell's lead performance or the stories of the other top-of-the-credits stars. It's quite a trick.
The DVD set of season two doesn't quite give away how the cast and crew manage to pull that off, but it does offer a great deal of other material, most of it pretty darn funny.
At the top of that list would be the fake public service announcements the cast did as an April Fool's joke (sample: Kelly (Mindy Kaling) tells us, "Some boys think they're so cool. But you know what? They're not"). The web-only summer series "The Accountants," which provides a showcase for the underrated talents of Angela Kinsey (Angela), Brian Baumgartner (Kevin) and Oscar Nunez (Oscar), is also collected here.
And, in a rarity for DVD collections, a good portion of the deleted scenes (there are some for every episode) are actually pretty good. In one of 10 episodic commentaries, executive producer Greg Daniels explains that the show's scripts typically run longer than the 21 or so minutes that the network requires, so some funny material inevitably doesn't make it to the final broadcast.
Because a lot of its humor is pretty subtle, "The Office" is a show that rewards repeat viewing. Seeing the episodes together on DVD also reveals how much the series grew during the season, with the midseason episode "Booze Cruise" representing a real turning point, particularly in the office romance between Jim (John Krasinski) and Pam (Jenna Fischer).
"The Office" is great TV in its regular form, but it may be even better in the large chunks a DVD makes possible.
EXTRAS: Commentary on 10 episodes, fake "The More You Know" PSAs, "The Office: The Accountants" webisodes, deleted scenes, blooper reel, Olympics promos, "Steve on Steve" featurette, "Faces of Scranton" video from "Valentine's Day" episode.