ER, Season Two (Order it from Amazon!)

 This will be remembered as the year of Eldard. That’s right, Ron Eldard. This is the season where he and Nurse Hathaway started playing "hide the sand and fog" on E.R.

Of course, Ron’s not the big thing about the second season of the long-running Crichton/Spielberg/Wells drama powerhouse. It’s the first season where the show was operating under the full knowledge that it was the big dog on television. The world was aching for more hospital shenanigans, a fact evidenced by a spate of E.R. styled medical shows that popped up in this show’s wake and for the most part were worse than Peter Tork’s hair.


"Don’t give me that look son of bitches, I eat Benji for breakfast and shit Lassie for dinner!"

The concept of the show is the same as it was the first season: Things happen fast, conversations overlap, tons of patients are attended to, and the soap operatic world of medical professionals always lives at the forefront. The magic of the show is how the characters override any plots the show chooses to center on. While the expected important issues are addressed, the characters always provide the weight and drama. It helps too, because with issues like AIDS and health care and child illnesses, the show could easily sink into a haze of preaching.

The second season of ER shortchanges a few of its major characters, particularly Clooney’s Dr. Ross during the first half. After the acclaimed (and frankly unjustly so) "Hell and High Water" episode, the ship is righted and the show’s breakout star gets a little more to do… like bang a medical student. Overall, it’s a compelling season and one where the show seemed to get its sea legs. Though it was a sensation the first season, the whole thing felt a bit rickety to me. Why ER is such a ratings and critical juggernaut is plainly in evidence here.

Story Arcs of Record: Dr. Benton (Eriq La Salle) tortures his young protégé Dr. Carter (Noah Wyle) ad nauseum. He also has an on and off relationship with Gloria Reuben’s Jeanie Boulet character. Nurse Hathaway (Julianna Margulies) finds out that she can love again. Dr. Greene (Anthony Elliott, seemingly recovered from the canopy head-butt) learns to deal with his newfound power, resulting in the hiring of the controversial Kerry Weaver (Laura Innes). Susan (Sherry Stringfield) butts head with the new hire as well as deal with the new responsibility of caring for her absentee sister’s spawn. People get hurt and either are healed or die.


"Your head resembles penis."…………. "You ain’t seen nothing yet, penis."

Acting: Anthony Edwards, Julianna Margulies, and Sherry Stringfield are the horses of ER and by that I mean they have long faces and huge teeth. Actually, they carry the show on their backs. La Salle gets to chew a lot of scenery, Clooney pulls in the female demographic, and the supporting cast (highlights: Abraham Benrubi, William H. Macy, and Ron Eldard in particular) fills in the blanks but it’s the three mentioned above that carry the load. What makes the show work is the lack of a central star character. The leading five or six people are juggles especially well and all of them support rather compelling material. I feel La Salle got a lot of undue praise for essentially storming around the hospital like a diva, but aside from him everyone delivers.

Craftsmanship: There’s a very consistent quality to this show, something that is plainly evident when you try to remember which was the last episode you watched. Because of the constricting locale of the show, everything seems the same. In fact, if ER and The West Wing are hampered by one thing that threatens the appeal of the show it’s the unrelenting pace and restricted locations. Minor gripes all told, as this is a stout show on the production end.

Entertainment Value: There are some shows that benefit from watching the season in giant comprehensive gulps, ones whose story threads are too compelling and twisty to stop watching. This is not one of those shows, instead one that like a 12 year old scotch requires you to sip it at a leisurely pace. It’s an entertaining show, but a bit too much in long sittings. The weekly format serves ER well.


"I promise, I didn’t eat all the Midichlorians!"

Special Features: The package isn’t as loaded as one might expect. The thing that surprised me is that most of the cast members didn’t come back to participate on a commentary track or two. Just about everyone who starred on the show can list it as one of the major contributions to their careers and it seems like they’d gladly come pay a little respect to the show that either made their name or restored it. Instead we get Mimi Leder, some other technical folks and Laura Innes. Not mind-blowing. Aside from that, there’s some decent quickies but nothing to warrant a whole lot of time. Here’s the tally:

Commentaries
"ER Specialists" – Anatomy of an Episode featurette
"On Call" – The Life of an ER Director featurette
Outpatient Outtakes (additional scenes)
CUTups gag reel

Overall: 7.5 out of 10

Buffy, Season Six (Order it from Amazon!)

 Michelle Branch sucks the heat from the sun. Why does she have to pronounce the word "you" as "youweeugh". Is her favorite Irish band Youweeugh2? Perhaps she enjoys Sean Connery as James Bond in Youweeugh Only Live Twice. I’d fire seventeen rockets into her hair if I could. The fact that the last episode on the second disc culminates to one of her performances threatens to sever the veins from a man’s bottom just at the mere remembrance of it. Who needs her in this life? Not me. Bad choice, Mutant Enemy.

Season Six is the penultimate effort in the Buffy saga. It’s the one where Buffy comes back from the dead (again), Willow gets mean, Giles takes a vacation from the Scooby gang, Anya gets cuter, Spike and Buffy get closer, a villain with a shark for a head arrives, a musical episode happens, and Dawn makes me feel more like a borderline pervert.

A lot of people felt that this show died a premature death, but judging from this season I started to feel that it finished its tenure at the perfect time. Halfway through this season I started to really tire of the routine. Usually, there’d be a few really solid laughs per episode but I often found myself in a semi-catatonic state as the familiar jokes came and went. The fact that three Star Wars geeks dominate the villainy of the first 3/4ths of the arc doesn’t help. As a Lone Gunmen-esque source of comedy they’re fine in small doses but when they keep displacing time and easily manipulating Buffy and her crew, it’s not only a lame choice for the principal villain (until the REAL one arrives late in the season) of the show but also something that keeps things from ever feeling really dangerous.


"What, you ain’t ever heard of Stylish Skinless?"

When it boils down, this is a season built towards people who are completely sold on the show and no one else. The only real new ground being broken happens in smaller doses: an attempted rape by a major character, some racy sex, some surprisingly grotesque images, and stuff like that. It doesn’t push the concept all that far. Aside from the musical episode it’s more visits to the completely annoying Bronze club, more kung fu with vampires, more witty exchanges of banter, and sadly less adult interaction. With Buffy’s mom eating sod, Giles on sabbatical, and no real adult role models to balance out the teens the affair is just a little less interesting than before.

While I was watching this my wife came into the office on no less than two occasions telling me how annoying it was that all the characters speak the same. The tempo, the tone, the comments, and the bizarre sort of "Buffyspeak" sense of humor which is evident in most of the characters. I’ve mentioned it before, but it did seem a bit alienating to new viewers.

So, yeah… this show was wearing out its welcome in these eyes with season six.


Bacon, Brendan, & Caulfield was a dance team for the ages.

Story Arcs of Record: Buffy returns to life but isn’t exactly herself, Xander and Anya contemplate marriage, Buffy works at a fast food restaurant, Dawn struggles to find her identity, Spike becomes Buffy’s sex doll, Willow gets mean, and the lesbian partnership between her and Tara is strained.

Acting: James Marsters owns the show. After stealing his scenes in the last season, he’s the steadiest presence this go around as well. Sadly, he’s given the rather thankless role of pining for Buffy only to be cast aside over and over and over again. Spike may not be the most well rounded character, but he is the least "Whedon" of the characters in terms of dialogue and the actor does a good job of elevating the scenes he’s in. Emma Caulfield also does solid work here as the goofiest character in the main cast, but the joke wears thin as she becomes the scorned girl and it’s milked for too long. Michelle Trachtenberg is cute as a button and thankfully a lot less grating this year. Nicholas Brendan just didn’t interest me at all and I have to admit that I’m not disappointed that the Willow/Tara thing has come to a close. The lack of Anthony Stewart Head’s Giles gives the show an overtly teeny-bop feel and as a whole the ensemble doesn’t click quite as well. That said, their musical episode is an achievement.

Craftsmanship: The production values are at their best this season, with monster designs that get better and better, effects that actually manage to be inventive at times, and an overall sense of a show that knows its place and how to be as effective as possible.


The girl’s plummet was so sudden and forceful that Billiard Ron came down with a horrible case of the Fishburne’s.

Entertainment Value: For people who understand the vibe and enjoy the way that Whedon and gang do their business, it should be another season of pure bliss. It’s still a good show, it just has a way of trying too hard sometimes and coasting on the characters at others. I don’t know how many fistfights with beasts a human needs to see in a lifetime but this show exhausted my quota about three seasons ago. What makes the show great is the drama, humor, and the way the evil forces factor in. Not how many times we see the cast patrolling a cemetery (yawn) or killing vampires while having perky conversations (yawn) or whatever other staples the show rests upon. The very last moment in the season is terrific, though. The last few episodes of the show seem to be geared towards setting up who the "Big Bad" for the seventh season is, and then a curveball is tossed at the last second. Nice.

Special Features: There’s no shortage of special features in this set and though the Joss Whedon commentary tracks tend to be the ones worth listening to the most, there are a few other folks who contribute as well. As expected, Once More With Feeling gets the most love and it’s apparent how much TLC went into that episode. Not the band TLC, as they’re too busy being only two chicks. Here’s the tally:

6 Commentary Tracks
Behind-the-scenes featurettes
Easter eggs
Music videos
Academy of Television Arts and Sciences panel discussion
Outtakes
Interactive game trailer
DVD-ROM

Overall: 6.8 out of 10

Angel, Season Three (Order it from Amazon!)

 The progression of Angel from simple Buffy spinoff to fully developed superior show took about a season and a half for me. What it lacked in humor it made up for in maturity (the fact that there are no scenes in the Bronze club already elevates it to a primordial higher level) and the cast seemed gel in record time. Every character still sports the Joss Whedon sense of humor but there’s a much more mature and relaxed vibe to the show that serves it well. Even the stuff I find silly (most of Lorne’s stuff) is tolerable because of the balance the show strikes.

After seeing the third season in its entirety, it’s my least favorite of the three despite some great strides forward (Skip the demon, the growth of Wesley as a character, the continuing improvement of David Boreanz). The main reason is the extremely long subplot involving the arrival of Angel and Darla’s son, Connor. While the scenes involving demons and vampires taking taking care of an infant often have just the right amount of surrealism, the story gets bogged down at times. When Connor returns from another dimension as a fully grown young man (played by the annoying Vincent Kartheiser), the season comes crashing to a boring halt. As an aside, I feel for the real life parents of the kid who played the infant version of Connor. He looks one of Nosferatu’s worst bowel movements come to horrible, pulsating life. Then again, it does grow into Kartheiser so perhaps it’s just desserts.


"Thank you, Mr. Hefner!"

Additionally, the lessening of the Wolfram and Hart aspect of the show hurts a bit. With Lindsay gone, the bulk of the evildoing falls on the shoulders of Lilah Morgan (Stephanie Romanov) and though she does a good job, there is another central villain to the season. Holtz, played by Keith Szarabajka (pronounced "Smith"). The interesting thing about Holtz is how he’s a villain with the purest of intentions. After losing his loved ones to Angel when the vampire was a villain, there’s a long-running animosity between the two that isn’t dulled by Angel’s newfound soul. There’s also talk of a prophecy and all sorts of gobbedlygook, but the bottom line is that this season is driven by a few long story arcs.

At the end of three seasons, the show is still quite strong although it hints at massive changes in the near future.

Story Arcs of Record: Holtz’s crusade to defeat Angel and steal his son, Connor. The arrival of Connor and how he changes the dynamic of Angel Investigations. Lilah’s rise to power within the Wolfram and Hart hierarchy. Cordelia’s "gift" and how it evolves, ultimately changing her very form of existence. The triangle between Fred (Amy Acker), Gunn (J. August Richards) and Wesley (Alexis Denisof).

Acting: I simply don’t see how David Boreanz hasn’t been able to mortgage a nice film career from his steady work as Angel. The guy has looks, presence, and comic timing. Plus, he’s unique. Here he shows that the anchor of the show will always be him and his lack of silliness instantly makes Angel a more valuable show that Buffy to me. Alexis Denisof as given ample chances to brood and bleed as his character gets separated from his friends after he’s forced to make a fateful decision. His work is strong. Charisma Carpenter is entertaining as always and is given a little bit of an assist by Amy Acker as Fred, a character I absolutely hated up until this season. As Lorne, Andy Hallett seems like a character whose purpose isn’t really vital and without his karaoke bar just seems like an extra comedic character the show doesn’t need. For the most part, this is a rather stout little ensemble.


"I found the prices at Mask Emporium reasonable, and despite my lack of eyes I find the holes to soothe my face void with a comforting breeze and you KNOW how hard it is to find size 8 hornsides."

Craftsmanship: I love the music for this show. It has that right mix of mood and tone and perfectly dovetails with its sister show’s peppier score. As far as the episodes go, the creature designs and costumes are all quite good and though the show has its share of bad FX (what show with this kind of budget on television doesn’t?) it is for the most part quite successful. Because the fight scenes aren’t as plentiful and there’s more weaponry used, I found it less grating over the course of a season.

Entertainment Value: I find the show always entertaining, even during the weaker moments. If you invest in these characters there’s a good bit of stuff to be had even though the creators tend to drag their story arcs slowly along, sometimes over several seasons. Still, as Whedon shows go this is my favorite. Still.


"You’re a lawyer? Yeah, I’d like to sue my childhood neighbor Mr. H.R. Giger."

Special Features: There’s a handful of nice commentary tracks, including one from Joss Whedon himself. No cast is involved, which is a shame because television shows like this get a little boring if it’s just the creative personnel doing the chatting. Still, it’s definitely a treat for hard-core fans. The deleted scenes are minimal and nothing that’ll change the way the viewer ties their shoes or eats bread, and the other stuff is for the most part quick entertainment you’ll never revisit. It’s a decent array of features, but nothing that makes the set worth buying based on features alone. Here’s the tally:

Commentaries
Deleted scenes
Featurettes
Auditions
Gag reel

Overall: 8.0 out of 10

Homicide, Season One & Two (Order it from Amazon!)

 When it reached the airwaves, Tom Fontana and Barry Levinson’s Homicide: Life on the Street was like a slap in the face with a hot towel to audiences whose idea of a hard-hitting police show was Hill Street Blues. With it’s handheld camerawork, almost too real procedural style, and willingness to focus on then-controversial material, it was a sandblast to the senses for many when it debuted in 1993. Though its ratings were less than perfect, critics gleaned to it and eventually audiences came around as well. Between this show and NYPD Blue, the mid 90’s were the dawning of a new age of police television drama and the landscape would never be the same again.

Partially because Levinson and Fontana are a cut above most television creators and partially thanks to a an incredible ensemble cast, the show holds up as well today as it did then. The cases parallel the real world, the police work is sometimes fruitless and meaningless and sometimes enlightening, and the show never sells its characters short.


Suzie felt it’d take just a few more telekinetic bursts of the bloodspot and she’d be able to seamlessly replace that guy in Prince’s band.

The fact that the cast is a combination of then unknown actors and established and acclaimed film thespians does wonder to sell the weight of the show and Fontana and Levinson may have never matched this combination of drama and episodic television again. Oz was disjointed and aggressive and this year’s The Jury looks compelling, but Homicide: Life on the Street is where it’s at.

This first collection is rather short, considering it’s two seasons’ worth. There’s nine episodes in the first season and only four in the second season but it came out of the gate with guns blazing and television procedurals were never the same. A classic show, one loaded with great guest appearances and familiar faces galore.

Story Arcs of Record: Tim Bayliss (Kyle Secor) joins the homicide division and is given immediate immersion. Pembleton (Andre Braugher) thinks he’s God’s gift to police work and he just might be right. The Adena Watson case rips everyone apart. People are interrogated like mad. The motley crew of detectives bicker, interact, and sometimes even get along.


The first screen shot from the upcoming documentary Piss Poor Puppeteers Uncensored.

Acting: Andre Braugher got the lion’s share of the acclaim from this show, and deservedly so. Pembleton’s a great character, and one of the better African American television leads of that or any other time. There’s simply no bullshit to the actor’s craft and it’s a shame he never converted it to something bigger. Kyle Secor is additionally strong, as is Clark (future director of S.W.A.T. as well as countless TV shows) Johnson, and Daniel Baldwin. Ned Beatty is quite surprising in a rare role that doesn’t set him up as a bumbling idiot or grandfatherly figure and Richard Belzer adds himself to the pantheon of comedians who can flat out ACT. All in all, it’s a really amazing bit of work by all.

Craftsmanship: A lot of people, myself included, were a bit put off by the sometimes overaggressive camerawork and cutting but it became seamless and invisible after a few episodes and the show’s merit is that it never tried to be glossy like the shows that it was competing against. In fact, the show is a lot like its home town, Baltimore. It’s working class and unassuming and lets its charms either work on you or not.

Entertainment Value: It’s not as loaded with humor as you’d expect from Barry Levinson, but that’s why the show works. The humor is smart instead of cheap and in the hands of people like Jon Polito and Belzer it’s exquisite. The shows are almost always strong and the cases are good enough to keep a viewer riveted. It’s not as delicate a balance as some shows, but Homicide: Life on the Street is a classic regardless.


"What’s happening to my mouth and chin, officer? Am I guilty of first degree Charles Napier?"

Special Features: This is not a package you buy for the special features, though I really do love the way these are set up. The boxes are those thin plastic ones that would actually have been a good way to do the DVD packaging from the start. We’d certainly be able to fit more on our shelves. The commentary is good, but it left me craving more and the featurettes are nothing that’ll warrant a second glance. The features are fine, but unspectacular. Here’s the tally:

• Commentary
"Homicide: Life at the Start"
"To Catch a Killer: Homicide Detectives"
Super Bowl XXVII commercials for Season 1 premiere
Song listing

Overall: 8.5 out of 10

The Future is Wild (Order it from Amazon!)

 Spurred on by the wildly successful BBC "Walking With" documentaries about beasts that no longer walk the planet, The Discovery Channel (I wish all America kids were required to watch an hour of that channel every day before ingesting PS2, Adam Sandler movies, and MTV but that’d make me as bad as the watchdogs currently in place) brings us the latest in their own "what if" series of shows, The Future is Wild.

The basic gist is that the fine folks at the channel got a few scientists from around the world to speculate about how life would be 5, 100,000,000, and 200,000,000 years in the future should mankind be erased from the face of the Earth. You know, if an ice age would happen that lasts longer than the eleven minutes Roland Emmerich thinks it would. Then, computer effects artists realize their speculation, resulting in a documentary of stuff we’ll never have the opportunity to see.


The future floats.

It’s a great concept, one that’s executed in a solid manner for the most part. It’s rare that the creatures are all that believable as far as computerized creations go, but that’s the case with all of these shows. It’s impossible to expect cinema quality effects. The animal designs range from familiar to absolutely far out. Obviously, as the time becomes farther from the current day the wackier they become but it’s a neat thing.

With that said, some of the stuff with the scientists explaining to the screen what is essentially fiction borders on silly and the names they come up for these futuristic creatures tend to be just plain benign. I wish it was a little more serious in tone.


The future lives amongst the seeds.

Story Arcs of Record: The future is wild.

Acting: The computerized beasts stuck to the script brilliantly, remembering every click, chirp, and grunt. The scientists remembered to take a shower and floss before appearing on camera. I think.

Craftsmanship: Since most of the material comes from the imagination, there’s a high level of artistry on display and a venture like this is both bold and incredibly ambitious. As far these style of shows go, this may be my second favorite after Chased By Dinosaurs and Blue Planet. That’s good damn company to be in

Entertainment Value: It’s a blast, something both kids and adults would enjoy. I’d love to see a sequel to this show populated with the very best conceptualists and artists like Wayne Barlowe, Brom, Patrick Tatapoulos, and Doug Chiang and see their take but this is still a terrific way to spend a few hours. It’s edu-tastic!


The future is a molester!

Special Features: It’s printed in color. Otherwise, the special features are dick toss. Here’s the tally:

No

Overall: 7.0 out of 10

Jeremiah (Order it from Amazon!)

 How prepared one is for Jeremiah depends on how prepared one is to see Malcolm Jamal Warner’s ballsack thrusting at a post-apocalyptic whore.

See, I live for that shit so Jeremiah is for me! Actually, it isn’t, but not because of the dangling Cosby parts. J. Michael Straczynski’s adaptation of an obscure comic book is a bold attempt to create a science fiction show that bucks the trend and tells a sort of mixture of Mad Max and The Stand within the structure of an R-rated Showtime Original television series. The premise is simple: A virus wipes out the majority of the world’s population and around fifteen years down the line mankind is a bartering, bickering group of factions driven by survival and greed. Well, I promise, it’s not as much like 2004 as you’d be led to believe.


This summer Luke Perry faces… The Smallest Helicopter Ever, from Paramount Pictures.

Some of Jeremiah is actually quite good. Luke Perry is a controversial but ultimately sound leading man and Jason Priestly delivers his best performance (save for Cold Blooded) as a ruthless colony leader. There’s also some interesting looks at how a post-plague society would react and it never hurts that there’s the flexibility of pay cable. Nudity, profanity, and violence are things that make sense with subject matter like this.

With that said, some of the show feels a little cold and disjointed and the end result made it a story I found it hard to stay with throughout the twenty episodes included. Making matters worse was the fact that the season ends on a cliffhanger when I had no clue the show lasted longer than this first installment.

That was annoying.

Story Arcs of Record: Jeremiah searches for his long lost father and in the process goes from town to town dealing with new people and new plights. Malcolm Jamal Warner’s Kurdy comes to grips with his place in the grand scheme. Assorted denizens of the future world battle for water and traded goods in a quest to keep the species alive.

Acting: As I mentioned above, Perry is pretty damn solid in the leading role. It took me a while to acclimate to the former Cosby kid playing a shifty companion but he eventually won me over, ballsack and all. The supporting cast is unexceptional, sadly. Aside from Priestly, he has a nice meaty role that allows him and his sideburns to chew scenery galore. He’s not a bad actor though apparently his driving skills could use some help.


Eyes Overachieve ponders his next career move.

Craftsmanship: This show is ambitious and the budget doesn’t follow through on that. There’s a certain bit of blue-collar feel to this show, something that could have added to the charisma of the show or hampered it. I feel this time the result was a negative one and the show felt like something born in the mid 1980’s. Every once in a while something inventive would step to the fore (I kind of liked some of the set design) but for the most part it felt like the production values hurt the overall impact. Plus, when you’re dealing with two primary characters, sometimes a little help is needed by the eye candy. Nope.

Entertainment Value: It’s a little too dark and small of a show to really compete with similar shows. In fact, in the last TV Showdown review I was a little harsh towards Firefly (which led to enough hate mail to last me a year) but while these shows both occupy a similar unloved portion of my television palate, the Whedon show at least had personality to spare. This does not. J. Michael Straczynski’s a guy I simply cannot fully endorse as a creator. I don’t know Babylon 5 well enough and of his comic ventures only Midnight Nation really worked for me 100%. That and Supreme Powers. In short, I wasn’t too entertained by Jeremiah.


It was then he realized why he was called Prick Whereabouts.

Special Features: This is a pretty decent bunch of features, actually. Also, I have to give props to the packaging of the DVD set. It’s quite nice and since the show is a smaller and less known one I was glad that it had an attractive presentation. The commentary by the two leads is pretty entertaining and it’s obvious that Perry investing 100% of himself into the show. Too bad it didn’t pan out. The deleted scenes are interesting but nothing that vital. I liked the featurette though. Apparently, the second season never was allowed to finish, so here’s hoping DVD makes up for it. Here’s the tally:

Commentary
Deleted scenes
Behind-the-scenes featurette
Production sketches
Photo gallery

Overall: 6.0 out of 10

The Office, Season Two (Order it from Amazon!)

 The first season of The Office set the stage. It set up the subtle and rewarding sense of humor creators Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant have invested and established a really interesting group of comedic gold mines with its principal cast members.

The second season has the benefit of having earned its audience and immediately begins the savage and unrelenting mauling of Gervais’ David Brent character, the clueless and egocentric manager at the center of The Office. A lot of folks who are fans of the show felt that some of the events in this second season are hard to watch due the sheer misfortune and corporate punishment Brent gets but I just found it funny as heck. He’s not a guy I could ever root for, as I’ve had a couple of bosses not unlike him. More than Office Space, this portrays the total oblivion of working in the cubicle rich environment, even though the British side does have its differences from my own American experiences.


"What can we here at the law offices of Gilbert, Gravely, and the Small Ronald do for you today?"

For those who don’t know, the premise is that the Wernham Hogg corporation is the subject of a documentary, and the show is presented in that format. The camera is a fly on the wall, and though it’s really a stretch to assume that the camera could be THIS invisible to the employees of the paper company, it doesn’t matter because the ultimate goal is just to entertain.

Ricky Gervais, Martin Freeman, and Mackenzie Cook are absolutely terrific in this show and once you get the feel of the setup it’s a show that absolutely flies by in what seems like ten minutes. This second season is a bit darker, with Freeman’s character getting a little vindictive in the first half but it never loses its focus and whether we’re seeing David Brent completely screw up a lunchtime drinking session, conduct a motivational speech, or crash his career into the dirt, the show is as brilliant as anything out there right now. It’s certainly isn’t for everyone but it’s for me, and that’s enough.

Story Arcs of Record: Freeman’s Tim gets a girlfriend, much to the irritation of Gareth (Cook). David Brent deals with the integration of the company’s Swinden location and also sees his job quickly becoming redundant in the eyes of his superiors. Dawn and warehouse boyfriend Lee’s relationship matures. Gareth is just plain perverted. In this show, the story arcs really don’t matter, however.


Though it hurts likes the dickens, giving anal birth to a thresher shark is a riot.

Acting: Priceless. Gervais gets all the attention (he won a Golden Globe this year for it), but everyone here is terrific and their subtlety fuels the show. Martin Freeman’s career is taking off but I find Mackenzie Cook both the funniest and most lost character in the lot. He almost makes David Brent look intelligent at times, which is a feat. Since so much of this show is improvisational, this is a crackerjack group of actors.

AMENDMENT: Sorry. The show is NOT improvised. My bad. In fact, that it isn’t makes the actors’ work even more resoundingly solid as it seems natural. Thanks for the corrections Justin and Tom.

Craftsmanship: Bare bones. The show is completely minimalist, so don’t expect much more than the typical documentary style. The camera does manage to be an active participant, however. Its placement and timing results in some of the biggest laughs.

Entertainment Value: If you like this sort of humor and have even experienced an iota of the office life, this show will be a blast. I will say that it is simply too damn short to fully recommend to all comers. It’s just so damn short that I find myself really getting involved around the fourth episode and then it’s all gone.


A rare moment of the bad hair triclops during its vacation time away from mythological Crete.

Special Features: There’s some decent little features here but this little BBC set is a rather light one, all told. Granted, it’s cheap and attractively packaged so there’s no real complaints. I would love a cast commentary and have no idea why one hasn’t been done. It’s a lay-up, for God’s sake. Here’s the tally:

Outtakes
Deleted scenes
Video Diary
Slough slang glossary

Overall: 8.0 out of 10

THE SHOWDOWN TALLY:

Best Show – The Office, Season Two
Best Acting – Homicide, Seasons 1-2
Most Bang For Your Buck – ER, Season Two
Coolest Show – Buffy, Season Six
Best Packaging – Homicide, Seasons 1-2
Most re-watchable – The Office, Season Two

Individual Awards & Jabs

Best Actor – Ricky Gervais – The Office, Season Two
Best Actress – Sherry Stringfield - ER, Season Two
Best Supporting Actor – Andre Braugher - Homicide, Seasons 1-2
Best Supporting Actress – Juliana Margulies – E.R., Season Two