I discovered Party Down last week on Netflix Instant. I’d been aware of it for a while, actually, but I wasn’t a big fan of anyone in the cast until I’d come to really enjoy Adam Scott on Parks and Recreation this season. So, I finally decided to sit down and check it out, and wound up watching all twenty episodes in the span of a few days. It’s great, which sucks, because it got cancelled a while back.
Party Down is a about a catering company in Los Angeles, staffed by slackers, cynics, and delusional actors. There’s Henry (Adam Scott), an actor who achieved a measure of fame by reciting a catch phrase (“Are we having fun yet?”) in a series of beer commercials, but found himself unable to distance himself from it and has all but given up on acting. There’s Casey (Lizzy Kaplan), an aspiring stand-up comedian going through a divorce while trying to break into mainstream comedy. Roman (Martin Starr) is a bitter, pedantic, unpublished writer of “hard” sci-fi, and his foil is the brain-dead but handsome direct-to-DVD actor Kyle (Ryan Hansen). Constance (Jane Lynch) is a good-natured yet spacey former actor, though she is replaced toward the end of season one, first by Jennifer Coolidge and then by Megan Mullally. Trying to manage and inspire them is the positive but powerless oaf Ron Donald (Ken Marino) whose dream is to gain the respect of his employees and own a restaurant franchise called Soup-R-Crackers.
Each week, Party Down caters a different event: one episode takes place at a funeral for a (not so) upstanding citizen, another is a sweet sixteen for a spoiled rich kid who discovers she doesn’t have any friends. There’s a draft party for a college football player who can’t seem to get drafted, and a birthday party for Steve Gutenberg turns into a reading of Roman’s lackluster sci-fi screenplay. At each event, the crew drinks, smokes pot, eats the food they’re supposed to be serving, and otherwise slouches through their duties with the absolute minimum of effort.
There’s plenty of crude humor (among the events they cater is a neighborhood sex party, a pornographic video awards party, and a singles event for the elderly), and loads of cynicism, but there’s some real heart buried in all the dick jokes, which, makes it a shame that Party Down was cancelled after only two seasons. Henry’s initial despair and his eventual turnaround as he becomes involved with Casey, and Ron’s clueless earnestness — he caters his own high-school reunion, foolishly thinking he’ll impress his former classmates — can be somewhat touching at times, though the moment it appears to be approaching any real sentimentality, the show thankfully veers back into comedy.
I tried to find some good clips on YouTube, but there’s nothing on there that really demonstrates what makes the show so enjoyable (although there are a few complete episodes on there). You’ll just have to watch them all on Netflix Instant or rent them.