With "The Office" returning tonight after a four-month layoff, here's a quick refresher so you don't feel like you're walking in late to a meeting.
Show: "The Office"
Location: Scranton, Pa.
Setting: Dunder-Mifflin paper company.
Regional manager of Dunder-Mifflin Scranton branch: Michael Scott (Steve Carell)
Sales rep (assistant to the regional manager): Dwight Schrute (Rainn Wilson)
Assistant regional manager: Jim Halpert (John Krasinski)
Receptionist: Pam Beesly (Jenna Fischer)
Account supervisor: Angela Martin (Angela Kinsey)
Michael Scott's former boss, his current unemployed girlfriend: Jan Levinson (Melora Hardin)
Former intern, current VP of regional sales: Ryan Howard (BJ Novak)
Dunder-Mifflin sales: Andy Bernard (Ed Helms)
-- Tonight's episode, "Dinner Party," centers around Michael Scott's season-long desire to have the recently-coupled Jim and Pam over for dinner. After three seasons of hinting at a relationship, Jim and Pam officially announced their relationship in the first episode of Season 4.
Throughout the season, Jim has dodged dinner invites by changing the subject or inviting Michael and his boss-turned-unemployed girlfriend Jan over for a meal on a night when he knows Michael is out of commission.
-- Michael, the clueless boss who ultimately means well, is obsessed with being friends with his employees.
-- Unlike past seasons of "The Office," early episodes of Season 4 have centered heavily on locations outside of the Scranton cubicles. Ambitious brown-noser Dwight Schrute, for instance, was revealed to own a bed & breakfast, and Michael spent one episode trying to prove to his current boss (and former intern), Ryan, that he could survive in the wild.
But the more inspired moments of the season continue to take place inside the Scranton office, such as when Jim faced a staff revolt by deciding to combine three birthday celebrations into one.
-- Michael and Jan have had a rocky past.
In the last episode aired by the writers strike, Michael was caught in the middle of Jan's suit against Dunder-Mifflin for wrongful termination. Michael says in a deposition that Jan believed her termination had something to do with her "twins," a.k.a., her recently enhanced breasts.
It's also revealed during the depo that Jan gave Michael a scathing performance review -- after they had started dating -- and had looked through Michael's diary. These storylines will likely pop up in the remainder of the season.
-- Dwight and Angela, who long had a "secret" relationship, split up early in Season 4.
The breakup happened shortly after Angela had asked Dwight to take care of her sick cat, Sprinkles. Rather than follow a lengthy medication procedure, Dwight killed the cat, justifying his actions thusly: "As a farmer, I know that when an animal is sick, sometimes the right thing to do is to put it out of its misery. With the electricity we're using to keep Meredith alive we could power a small fan for 2 days. You tell me what's unethical."
-- Seeing an opportunity to hit on a grieving Angela, Andy made his move. He brought Angela a new cat, a ploy Dwight had tried and failed. Angela finally accepted Andy's advances: "You may ask me out to dinner. Nothing fancy or foreign, no bars, no patios, no vegetables, and no seafood." A major plotline of Season 4 has been Dwight's grieving over Angela.
-- NBC has announced a spinoff to "The Office," which will debut after the Super Bowl in 2009. Details are scant.
-- Todd Martens
Photo courtesy NBC