by Bob Grimm & r & & r & The Office: Season 2 & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & I & lt;/span & n the bonus commentary for the episode, "The Dundies," B.J. Thomas (who plays temp Ryan and has written a few episodes) notes that the second season of The Office was "less dark and more optimistic and celebratory" than its predecessor. He's right. From the first episode, Season Two distances itself from its freshman year, which was almost unwatchably harsh and dogged constantly by comparisons to the original British show.
In that inaugural episode, Michael Scott is not only physically lighter than in Season One (Steve Carell lost a lot of weight in the interim), but he seems lighter in temperament, too. Roasting his employees during the annual office awards show at Chili's, Michael seems less bitter, more playful. He even elicits a little sympathy toward the end of that episode.
Luckily, the rest of the office makes up for the balance of bitterness. The episode sets the tone for the season with a focus on the many finely drawn (and hilarious) supporting characters -- from aloof and manipulative Creed, to the delightfully droll Stanley, to Angela and her penchant for kittens and pictures of babies dressed like adults.
More importantly, though, this was a season for intra-office romance, as Dwight and Angela -- two of the least sexy, least romantic characters in TV comedy today -- pursue a thoroughly creepy, covert relationship, and Michael develops a vague boss crush on Ryan. Both of these, however, pale in comparison to the forbidden, pins-and-needles attraction between Jim and Pam, the real heart of the show. From the drunken kiss in the opener to that now-famous, season-ending moment of weakness, the tension is almost unbearable.
In the DVD commentary, Jenna Fischer (Pam) describes the lengths they went to in order to amp up the intensity of that scene -- and to keep it from leaking to the press. It's only one of many nice moments in the bonus features -- which include (among other things) bloopers, deleted scenes, Web-only episodes and one of my favorite moments in the whole four-disc, 22-episode set. In a fake public service announcement, Dwight deadpans: "The Arctic wolf lives on a diet of caribou, musk oxen, lemmings and hares. [pause] I could do that if I had to." Genius.