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The Office - Season 8 [DVD]
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Big changes are in store for Scranton in the hilarious eighth season of this Primetime Emmy Award-winning series. Andy has taken 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 (James Spader, Boston Legal), 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 (Catherine Tate, Dr Who), 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 harbours lingering feelings for Andy; Angela's relationship deepens with her dashing (State) Senator; and Darryl looks for love in the warehouse.
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I believe Ed Helms (Andy) received unfair criticism after being thrust into the 'manager' spot-light; after all, who really is able to fill Steve Carell's shoes? I genuinely enjoyed the opening episode to the season with Andy as manager, the team bonded with him well and it felt like an equilibrium was forming, providing stability that the show desperately needed after Steve's departure; I was hopeful and excited to watch more. The introduction of James Spader's character (Robert California) at the end of season 7 was excellent, he was intense, dark and hilariously weird; I was left hoping that he would get the job. So I was thrilled to see that he was playing a key role in season 8 as, not only the manager, but the new CEO of the company. California provided some fantastic comedy moments in the season that got me rolling about with laughter (although these were desperately few and far between) but I felt his character was toned down from the harsh, uncompromising man that was introduced to us, which was a shame.
The season started with some good ideas and a solid basis: Andy as manager and Robert as CEO. Andy becomes more confident in his new role, he's supportive and protective of his employees who are, in turn, happy with their new boss and show compassion when he doubts himself...AND THEN everything is completely turned on its head.
First of all Nellie Bertram - I cannot begin to describe how frustrated and disappointed I was to see that Catherine Tate's character (introduced during the interview process at the end of season 7) was anywhere near this season. Her introduction in the previous series was frankly embarrassing... she was dramatically unfunny and irritating, I found myself cringing for all the wrong reasons. Not only are we subjected to her for a few episodes, but she heavily features throughout the season; there are even occasions where you think (and pray) that she'll be fired/leave the show and are bitterly disappointed. The writers couldn't seem to decide how they wanted the audience to react to her. Initially, the other characters detest her too, she is rude, unpleasant, annoying and arrogant; but then there is a very poor attempt to somehow make her likeable despite her terrible character and that fact that she is directly responsible for Andy losing his job. And then.... she just stays, she doesn't go away, like a persistent and unrelenting itch. The most satisfying part of the entire season is where Andy and Erin lose it over the manager switch and end up shouting at her and Robert, trashing the office and smashing a picture of her - hooray! It is a shame that after that, you guessed it... she doesn't leave, she stays...and stays...
The decision to have a dual storyline with the opening of a Dunder Miflin/Sabre store (much like the Apple store) was an interesting idea. Yet ANOTHER new character is involved: Cathy Simms, Pam's maternity replacement. I felt so sorry for actress Lindsey Broad, who was basically given the pantomime villain to play - a woman who tries to seduce Jim despite knowing that he is married with two young children. She is written purely for the audience to detest (which is not necessary considering the abundance of unpleasant characters in this series - did I mention they bring Packer back?)
Erin is given some screen time to develop her character and her relationship with Andy which was a nice idea but wasn't exactly handled well - again over the top writing.
It's not ALL bad, there are some funny/good moments (for example Creed's response to Toby's self defence training had me in absolute stitches!) but when you compare episodes from this season to classic episodes such as: 'The Dundies', 'Casino Night' and 'The Dinner Party' - there really is no comparison at all.
Having waited so long for the Region 2 release to become available and being so disappointed by this season, I just hope season 9 and the finale of my favourite show will be handled more sensitively. Please don't let me down writers!
It was always going to be hard following Carrells departure. The main problem for me was that the characters called upon to fill the void are charmless and unfunny. Gabe, Nellie and
Robert California are bad enough. Kelly and Ryan feature more, sadly. But the worst character for me is Andy. He has no redeeming qualities and I couldnt care less what he says or does. He also ruins the first 6 episodes of season 9 until he sails off to........oh who cares. Then hey presto season 9 becomes every bit as good as the Michael Scott years. Dwight, Kevin and Creed provide what few laughs there are in season 8 but even they are few and far between.
But the departure of Steve Carrell is definitely felt here and left a gap in the show which couldn't really be properly filled by Ed Helms, who plays the neurotic Andy Bernard, who can be funny but also quite annoying as well, and unlike Michael Scott, Andy just isn't comfortable as the office manager. But the rest of the cast are still just as good with Rainn Wilson still as hilarious as ever as the insane Dwight Schrute, John Krasinski as Jim Halpert and Jennifer Fischer as Pam Beesley and also Catherine Tate makes a good introduction to the show as Nellie. There are some episodes here that are better than others of course as is always the case with US TV shows given that they do over 20 episodes per series.
Some of the best episodes in the season include "Pool Party" where Robert invites the staff around to his house before it is being sold off. "Last day in Florida" where Jim tries to stop Dwight from potentialy getting fired. "Angry Andy" where Andy returns to the office and get's mad when he sees Nellie has taken his place and the finale "Free Family Potrait Studio".
So if you liked the previous series of The Office you should like this as well although it has to be said it just isn't the same without Steve Carrell, but the casting of James Spader goes some way to making up for it. So its worth a look.
The Office has become an utter mess. The majority of the episodes of this series are very poor with very few laugh out loud moments mostly from Dwight.
To be fair though, we are at Season 8, there's only so much that can be done. The plots are farcical with a handful of interesting plot lines that seem to just disappear or fizzle out. The Andy and Erin stuff is insulting and Catherine Tate's role is disgustingly bad.
I feel like the writers forgot the name of the show. The first few series had some semblance of reality and structure which helped the comedy. That's all gone now. It's all a bit random.
I'm disappointed but, deep down, I knew that it would be a further step on the steady decline of this once great series.
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