“Am I supposed to enjoy the irony or pity the sincerity?” Roman DeBeers
Everyone who makes it big in Hollywood has a story to tell about how they waited tables, scrubbed floors or sucked cock to pay rent and thank God all that’s behind them. But what about the waiters, floor scrubbers and cocksuckers who never make it? They might end up on the payroll of Party Down, caterers to a hundred pointless Hollywood shindigs. About half-a-dozen strong, they look in enviously at the world they desperately want to enter, like children with their noses pressed against the glass of a toy shop. It’s a great premise and it comes from a great writer, a writer who has already produced one of the best TV shows ever made.
“Half a dozen strong, they look in enviously at the world they desperately want to enter. It’s a great premise and it comes from a great writer, a writer who has already produced one of the best TV shows ever made.”
The extraordinary teenage noir Veronica Mars made Rob Thomas a television god and his new creation1 reunites cast, writers, producers and guest stars from his masterpiece. The unjustly culled show needs avenging and Party Down is its bloodthirsty agent – wild at heart and geared on top.
Not that it’s any kind of follow-on thematically. The company of dipshits cater a new party each episode – one week it’s the College Conservatives, the next the porn awards afterparty, then some film producer’s bratty daughter’s 16th. Replete with their own legends, insecurities and jealousies, the party cliques are, in their own way, as desperate and deluded as the Party Down staff.
“Replete with their own legends, rivalries and jealousies the party cliques are in their own way as desperate and deluded as the Party Down staff.”
Which is pretty impressive as everyone on the staff is a mid to high-level screw up. There’s Henry (Adam Scott) an actor who nearly made it but quit when the going got rough, then Casey (Lizzy Caplan) a struggling stand-up who could make it if she stopped being a gimp. Further down the food chain we find Kyle (Ryan Hansen) a jackass prettyboy too dumb to be an industry operator; Roman (Martin Starr) a deluded “hard sci-fi” writer with more smarts than Kyle but not an ounce of social skill. Intriguingly, season one sees Sue Sylvester from Glee play Constance Carmell, a seasoned journeyman acturd. Jane Lynch couldn’t commit to the show after the role of a lifetime came up on Glee. Can you blame her? I can. This is way better.
Still, screw Sue. We’ve got our team leader Ron Donald (Ken Marino) who unlike his crew is a company man. He just wants to be the best caterer he can before setting up his own Soup R’ Crackers franchise. As the series progresses, though, Ron unravels faster than an engagement to that sick piece of shit Billy “Foetus Leaver” Cudrup and he’s as fucked as the rest of them but that’s character development right?
“Roman and Kyle have a brilliantly dysfunctional relationship, a running pointscoring rivalry as they hold
plates of hors d’oeuvres for people who actually matter in this town.”
Henry and Casey, the two sanest members of the clique, hook the hell up. She’s hot and funny, he’s a talented enigma with broken dreams and permanent bed head – of course they hook up. Henry’s big moment was a talking cameo in a beer advert where he delivered the line “ARE WE HAVING FUN YET?” He gets recognized from time to time and everyone wants to hear that line. Henry no longer wants to be that guy. He never wanted to be that guy.
And no one really wants to be at Party Down. No one wants to be on the outside looking in, so everyone drinks, pops pills and gets high on the job. Roman and Kyle have a brilliantly dysfunctional relationship, a running pointscoring rivalry as they hold
plates of hors d’oeuvres for people who actually matter in this town. It could barely be more poignant.
But the question is: are we having fun yet? Aw hell yeah, papi. Party Down is pacy, funny and whip smart. The dynamics between the crew, combined with the scumbag party group of the week offer almost endless comic potential. Starz are really not playing with their original drama. They’ve given us the nuts and glory of Spartacus, the coffee and O.D. of Gravity and now the crap and canapé of Party Down. This is the best of the three. It’s got balls and it’s got heart – swimming in pathos, never drowning. Track this motherfucker down.
The verdict on Party Down: Party up.
Marks out of 10: 8
1 Co-creation with Veronica Mars alumni John Enbom, Dan Etheridge and Paul Rudd.