‘The Office’: The Classic ‘Dinner Party’ Episode Originally Included a Murder — ‘We Decided That Was Going Too Far’
The Office is one of the most enduring comedies of all time in large part because of its relatability. Anyone who’s ever worked in an office environment can relate to the characters on the show, from the socially inept boss Michael Scott (Steve Carrell) to the voice of reason Jim Halpert (John Krasinski). Dunder Mifflin might be a fictional company, but it was all too real.
The series took plenty of risks over its eight year run, but there was one time when writers decided to reign in their initial idea. It happened during one of the most famous episodes of The Office ever, which was called “Dinner Party.”
‘The Dinner Party’ showed Michael Scott’s awkward home life
Most episodes of The Office take place at work, obviously. But in season 4 episode 13, a few of the main characters were taken out of their natural element and placed in the awkward situation of dinner at their boss’s house.
Dinner at Michael’s house includes guests Jim, Pam, Andy, Angela, Dwight, and his girlfriend Melvina. Though Michael hosts the party to show off how happy he is, the event ultimately proves how dysfunctional his relationship with girlfriend Jan truly is and that Michael is just as cringe-worthy at home as he is at work.
The writers decided against killing a dog in the episode
Though the episode intended to make viewers uncomfortable, writers for The Office drew the line at intentional pet murder.
“Most scripts get rewritten, and I think this was the only one ever done that didn’t. The only thing that was changed was that in our first draft Jan hits the neighbor’s dog and kills it on purpose,” writer Gene Stupnitsky told Rolling Stone.
“We decided that was going too far,” fellow writer Lee Eisenberg agreed.
‘Dinner Party’ highlighted deeper truths about relationships
The Office is about working in an office on the surface, but more than that it’s always been a deeper exploration of human relationships. Ed Helms, who plays Andy, explains why this episode was so memorable.
“[’Dinner Party’] is a crucible for the various relationships on the show,” he said. “It’s a tight, contained space where so many relationship issues are bubbling around between Jim and Pam, Andy and Angela, Michael and Jan.”
He continues, saying the unique setting makes interactions between familiar characters more intense. “It’s that pressure-cooker aspect that heightens everything, plus the decorum of the dinner party, the sort of need to rise to a different sort of social construct, as opposed to just being co-workers in an office space,” Helms continues. “It’s just a boiling-hot crucible of comedy.”
The writers are proud of how the episode turned out
With so many hilarious episodes of The Office, it’s tough to be memorable. But writers Stupnitsky and Eisenberg are thrilled with how “Dinner Party” turned out.
“It started off very slow,” Stupnitsky recalled of the first table reading. “Not a lot of laughs. Little by little, it just starts building, and I never experienced that before. The laughs kept getting bigger and bigger and bigger and bigger. I remember I was just sweating through my T-shirt. It was the greatest feeling I’ve ever had.”
“There’s nothing more satisfying than having Steve Carell barely able to get through his lines,” Eisenberg said.
Even without the dog murder, “Dinner Party” is an unforgettable episode that thankfully didn’t take that dark turn.