Mar 17, 2011

[TV] Party Down: Season 1

Party Down: Season 1As the 2010-2011 US TV season seems to be winding down and there are less and less shows to enjoy, I find myself either digging through our library of TV shows and movies for things to watch to keep things going. My partner and I are tremendous entertainment fans in this regard and we always have something playing while we're at home or eating or whatever else we get into other than playing console games or tabletop RPGs.

Comedies are always tricky to figure out given how the genre has evolved over the years. I come from a perspective of liking smarter, wittier shows most of the time but I do have my history of really stupid campy stuff. In terms of TV sitcoms, some shows just work for me while others I just can't stand and for the life of me I can't consistently explain why this is the case.

Basing my TV watching decisions on the opinions of critics hasn't always proven to be a reliable method either, which is to be expected. Sometimes I totally get why everyone likes a certain show and I totally go for it. Other times I read reviews and find myself scratching my head and trying to figure out why on earth the reviewer liked this or that horrible show, at least from my perspective.

That's the trick with anything really. It always boils down to a matter of taste.

Party Down is a comedy series created by John Enbom, Rob Thomas, Dan Etheridge and Paul Rudd. The show was aired on the STARZ channel and episodes were directed by either Fred Savage or Bryan Gordon.

Party DownImage via WikipediaThe show, I feel, is really an ensemble effort. Although in the interests of identifying a lead character, you'll probably end up with Henry Pollard (Adam Scott), a failed actor who has given up the craft and has returned to the more or less steady employ of the titular catering company called Party Down. The company is led by Ron Donald (Ken Marino), who has a history of drinking and other wild things but has turned a new leaf in order to save up enough money to run his own franchise of Soup'R Crackers.

Given the California settings, the rest of the catering crew consists of other entertainment industry aspirants who are constantly trying to break into the business as actors, writers and what have you. Constance (Jane Lynch) constantly brags about her past movie and TV exploints while getting into strange situations and often mingling with the guests. Kyle (Ryan Hansen) is your classic blond beach type who feels his looks (as limited as they are) are enough to get him into movies despite a lack of acting talent. Roman (Martin Starr) is a struggling writer who still tries to get his screenplays out there despite lack of interest. And then there's Casey (Lizzy Caplan), who is constantly on the phone either trying to work things out with her husband, secure another audition or just complaining about not getting this or that part or role.

Each episode takes place at a different event that the group is catering, which presents an interesting background to things in order to set the stage for the stories of the day. Each character exemplifies various stereotypes related to such struggling actors stuck in service industry jobs while waiting for their big break and thus you get a lot of witty dialog, wacky antics and somewhat painfully awkward circumstances to boot. It makes for an interesting mix of events that plays out somewhat like the popular mockumentary style seen in many shows like The Office, but without the 4th wall breaking or the need to talk directly to the camera.

While there are probably a lot of instances when Jane Lynch stands out a bit since, well, she's Jane Lynch, for the most part the show works really well as an ensemble effort where each character gets their own quirky plot path to play around with, much to the enjoyment of us a viewers. Sure, a lot of times they get into some pretty stupid gimmicks such as Kyle's teeth hurting all day because of a bleaching procedure or Candance getting stoned in the men's bathroom, but the end results are pretty funny.

And it's not some toiler humor level of funny but a quick and dirty witty kind of funny - something that needs actual writing talent pushing the series along and the kind of skilled and passionate actors who can do the humor sufficient justice to make things work as a show. And despite the fact that I was only really familiar with Jane Lynch in terms of the cast (I never got into Veronica Mars), I was very impressed with how it all came together. I'm not saying they're the best comedy actors on the planet - but they are a group that definitely meshed well with one another once the season got warmed up.

While the show has been officially cancelled, I for one am looking forward to the chance to watch the second season (once I secure copies) and I definitely recommend the show to other people who like the kind of comedy that still requires a brain.

Party Down is definitely an interesting show with a unique personality and one that I can't blame the critics for liking. It gets 4 crazy go-getter ideas that Ron develops out of a possible 5.



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