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She played the severe girlfriend so well and ended up being a great comedy duo with Steve.
Steve found her very funny and I think that, had she not been so hardcore, it wouldn’t have been nearly as funny.
Greg Daniels (executive producer/co-creator): I had an expression that I used in the writers room to describe a scene where the situation was charged, where several characters had different opinions and there was an excuse for them to all sit around and fire off great lines one at a time.
I called it a “killing field,” like it was just nonstop joke-joke-joke.
It’s just a boiling-hot crucible of comedy.” To celebrate its 10th anniversary, we tracked much of the cast and crew for an oral history of the landmark episode. Writing ‘The Dinner Party’ Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg joined the “Office” writing staff in Season Two, penning memorable episodes such as “The Secret” and “Women’s Appreciation.” Gene Stupnitsky (co-writer): We kind of talked about “The Dinner Party” as Who’s Afraid of Jan Levinson-Gould? And just the world’s worst dinner party, the most awkward dinner party – with your boss.
We had set it up earlier, where Michael kept asking Jim and Pam for plans, and they kept having excuses.
A line would happen and the audience, along with the people at the dinner, would just kind of sit there and let it hang.
I found that aspect of her really funny because nothing could, in any way, sway her to feel like anything had any humor to it at all. To Jan, Michael was this guy who was kind of an idiot, but also represented this possibility for her white picket fence, which is why the dinner party is so resonant. It’s her moment of “here we are living together, and I’m gonna have a candle business, and we have a Warhol on the wall of me, and [Michael] adores me, and we’re gonna have this perfect life.” It’s her having a delusional fantasy of normalcy. Pre-Production A table read is a chance for actors to get familiar with the script and for the writers to see if the jokes work.
The result was a master class of dark comedy that few other shows would dare attempt, as well as 22 of the most brilliantly cringe-inducing minutes in TV history.
“The episode is a crucible for the various relationships on the show,” says Ed Helms, who played Andy Bernard.
But over the next two seasons, the series, starring Steve Carell as the manager of a Scranton, Pennsylvania, paper company called Dunder Mifflin, gradually found its footing.
Going into its fourth season, The Office had strong ratings and serious momentum, despite a looming writers’ strike that would eventually shut down most of Hollywood (including a good chunk of that season of The Office).