Brief spoilers for "The Office" coming up just as soon as I pack my own wine glasses...
As with "30 Rock," I've got conflicting feelings on this one. On the one hand, I'm so grateful to have "The Office" back, as it's been gone the longest of any strike-affected show. (Steve Carell refused to cross the picket line to shoot this one.) On the other, I wish that the first episode back wasn't quite so high on the squirm factor.
"Dinner Party" wasn't as cringe-inducing as something like "Phyllis' Wedding," in that I found most of the behavior here believable and in character. This is what Michael and Jan's relationship is, and this is how painful I imagine a dinner party of theirs would be. But I feel like team "Office" did such a good job of making us feel like we were as trapped at that thing as Jim and Pam that I was almost relieved when it was over. For what they were trying to do, I think they nailed it. For a feel-good, laugh-until-your-sides-hurt return from a prolonged hiatus, this wasn't ideal.
Some random thoughts:
-The writers pick up where they left off on the idea of playing with "That's what she said," first with Michael telling Jim "That's what you said" about the lack of evening plans, then with the angriest "TWSS" in the show's history right before Jan broke the rinky-dink plasma TV.
-Because she's not a regular part of the branch office setting, we never see Melora Hardin as much as the other castmembers, but she always delivers when called to serve. Her dance to Hunter's CD was a masterpiece of self-absorption.
-Speaking of "The Hunted," interesting use of the song at the end for the show's first-ever musical montage. We almost turned into a "Rescue Me" episode there for a second.
-I would think silly party games would be one of the rare things Michael's good at, but 'twas not to be.
-Was anyone else hoping we would never find out the identity of Dwight's "date" and/or her relationship to him? The babysitter revelation was funny, but I think her continued unexplained presence might have been even funnier.
-So I take it Andy and Angela are still at the "necking" phase -- and, by that, I mean the nuzzling of their necks -- based on her reaction to his attempt to kiss her.
What did everybody else think?