OK, how overwhelming is Thursday-night TV? (It's only going to get worse next week when ABC's delightful Ugly Betty enters the mix.)

Thanks to some preview screeners, I managed to see nearly everything that aired last night (except on Fox, which is oh-so-easy to ignore right now). And while Survivor was a snooze and ER so glum and ludicrously melodramatic that I'm once again considering throwing in the surgical towel for good (though I will check out John Stamos' arrival to see if the show will neuter his charisma as well), the rest of the night was quite interesting.

Commenting on the early news from last night's ratings: Woo-hoo to ABC and Grey's Anatomy for exploding out of the gate, clobbering (though hardly burying) CBS' still-sturdy but slipping CSI, which had a solid opener (and dazzling glimpses of Cirque du Soleil) and a disturbing finish that revealed Catherine had been drugged and taken to a strange hotel/motel room overnight. In an extended scene of wordless anxiety, Catherine performs a rape kit on herself and subsequently takes a shower, which isn't likely to wash away the "ick" and the "what happened" anytime soon. The original is still far and away the best of the CSI shows ( Miami's Brazil-set opener this week was almost unwatchably ridiculous), but now it has some serious competition.

Grey's I've already reviewed, and if you thought Thursday's episode a tad too serious, I imagine fans would have bashed the show if it hadn't taken some time to grieve for Denny. I thought the contemplations on time were marvelous, and the flashbacks pretty fabulous. And next week's episode, I'm happy to say, is back to the show's frothy best, resolving some of the issues dangling from this week. You really don't want to miss it.

By the way, I'm not surprised in the falloff for both the generic Shark and especially the pretentious Six Degrees (whose numbers fell through the hour). As much as ER irked me, it was still the most viable viewing option in that hour.

But the actual best show of Thursday night? This week, that honor falls to the Emmy-winning The Office, which produced a pitch-perfect, exquisitely squirm-inducing season-opener that already makes the show a front-runner for next year's best comedy Emmy. In fact, with the exception of the overdone Dwight scenes (sorry, he's still a deal-breaker for me), I'd say this episode was on par with the brilliant British original. And I never thought I'd type those words.

Put aside the poignant agony of Jim and Pam no longer having each other to lean on and giggle with (my heart broke when Pam turned to Ryan to smirk over Michael's classic line, "We're all homos. Homo sapiens," and Ryan didn't respond). Jim's in Stamford now, where his Jello gag didn't play as well as it did with Dwight. Pam's still in Scranton, newly liberated from a lovelorn Roy (great twist). Jim-and-Pam is still one of TV's best unrequited love stories of the year.

Too bad Jim missed this day in the office. It was a classic. When Michael calls the closeted Oscar "faggy," and it's up to HR's Toby to inform Michael that Oscar is in fact gay, the stage is set for an uproarious display of politically incorrect overreaction, from Dwight's witch hunt (and belief that Sharper Image really sells a "gaydar" detector) to Angela's authentic bigotry to Kevin's sophomoric smirking. But Michael takes the prize with his clueless embarrassment about the line he has crossed: "You don't call retarded people retards. It's bad taste. You call your friends retards when they're acting retarded. And I consider Oscar a friend." There's great writing in that retarded logic.

I loved Oscar's self-deprecating reaction to his newfound notoriety. How "super-cool" is he, this "accountant at a failing paper-supply company in Scranton." (Echoed by former temp Ryan's joyless response to taking over Jim's job as a "junior sales associate at a mid-range supply firm... that'll show 'em.")

The episode builds to one of those trademark scenes that are so awkward and appalling yet so painfully hilarious that you want to hide your eyes even as you're laughing aloud. Michael convenes the staff in the conference room, which is always a bad sign. Oscar has already had "the worst, most backwards day of my life," and it only gets worse as Michael tries to hug it out, only to be pushed away as Oscar calls him "ignorant and insulting and small." All true, but such truth only makes Michael retreat into his whipped-dog, little-boy, whimpering shell. At which point you can't help but forgive the idiot, while wondering how in the world he manages to keep his job. Oscar's forgiveness comes with a price: a kiss from Michael that is so excruciatingly inappropriate that everyone wants to run out of the room screaming. Horrifically funny.

It was the first time in a very long week of watching that I actually made noise in front of the TV.

Even the final gag scores, as Michael looks out at Oscar getting into the car with his "roommate" Gil and mutters, "I wonder if he knows."

Brilliant. Amazing stuff. I can't wait to watch it again. This week, the only show I've said that about is Grey's Anatomy.

Are Thursday nights overwhelming, or what?