returns for its eighth season with a new focus: salesman Andy Bernard (Ed Helms) has become manager, floundering under the serene yet manipulative eye of new CEO Robert California (James Spader). Dwight (Rainn Wilson) chafes at the new hierarchy and vacillates between passive-aggressive apathy and naked ambition. The rest of the cast just tries to carry out their jobs, despite the increasingly absurd ups and downs of Dunder Mifflin and its new corporate owner, Sabre. There's no denying that, after the departure of Steve Carell, The Office
is uneven. Some episodes simply put Andy into Michael Scott-ish situations, while others seek out new angles on the well-established web of interpersonal conflicts. Sometimes this works--the very first episode feels like a classic episode, concluding with a moment that's heartfelt without being cloying. Other episodes find a new footing that flares to life, like when half the Dunder Mifflin team go to Florida for a seminar with new upper management Nellie Bertram (Catherine Tate). Leaving the familiar surroundings of Scranton opened up new possibilities and the cast seemed to respond with renewed vitality.
It's best to approach this season as if it were a completely new series; these episodes often feel diminished simply because the series' previous heights were so very high. But there are definite virtues: Dwight's increasing mania, Andy's clumsy pursuit of receptionist Erin (Ellie Kemper), and the solid performances of the cast as a whole provide more pleasure than many more highly rated sitcoms. When Oscar (Oscar Nuñez) realizes that Angela (Angela Kinsey) is lying about the conception of her baby, or Stanley (Leslie David Baker) cuts loose while in Florida, or Toby (Paul Lieberstein) leads a self-defense class, these scenes have a rich, lived-in feel, as the actors portray little moments with an effortless and thorough grasp of their characters. It's unfortunate the show began to lean towards an increasing number of guest stars for novelty rather than simply digging deeper into the wealth of talent that's already there. Extras include deleted scenes, some extended "Producer's Cuts" of episodes, bloopers, and a web subplot in which Andy, Erin, Kelli (Mindy Kaling), and Ryan (B.J. Novak) form a pop band. --Bret Fetzer
Andy takes over as manager of Dunder Mifflin and finds the job to be more than he bargained for. He wants to win the respect of his employees, while going toe-to-toe with Robert California, the enigmatic new CEO, who wants to turn the office into his personal playground. Dwight makes his own grab for power when he leads a team to Florida to work under Nellie Bertram, who may be slightly out of her mind. Jim and Pam's relationship is put to the test when Pam goes on maternity leave and her replacement has eyes for Jim. Meanwhile, Erin harbors lingering feelings for Andy; Angela's relationship deepens with her dashing (state) senator; and Darryl looks for love in the warehouse. Developed for American Television by Primetime Emmy Award winner Greg Daniels (Parks and Recreation, The Simpsons), watch all 24 episodes back-to-back in this 5-disc set, with outstanding bonus features including extended episodes, deleted scenes, webisodes, Football Championship promos and more!