Monday, January 28, 2013

Retro Review: Party Down

Party Down lasted two seasons on the Starz network in 2009 and 2010, although there are rumors of a movie in the future. The cast was a who’s who of comedy talent: Adam Scott (currently of Parks and Recreation), Jane Lynch (of Glee and movies like Role Models and The 40 Year-Old Virgin), Lizzy Caplan, Ken Marino (of The State), Martin Starr and more, including some excellent guest stars like Steve Guttenberg and June Diane Raphael.

The show specialized in the sort of awkward, real life comedy that traces back to shows like The Office (moreso the earlier seasons), Curb Your Enthusiasm and The Larry Sanders Show, in this instance focusing on a group of caterers in the Los Angeles area who all happen to have some connection to Hollywood (the failed actor, the wannabe sci-fi writer, the up-and-coming comedian, etc.).

Even though each episode is self-contained, based on around a different catering job each week, the show is able to build the characters and relationships enough each week to make each episode strong as both a stand alone half-hour and a continuing narrative. The fact that Adam Scott, playing former beer pitchman Henry whose career has tanked, is so effective at playing broken and sarcastic without being abrasive provides the emotional core of the show, and a perfect counterbalance to Ken Marino’s overly positive but fragile team leader Ron.

Rumor is a Party Down movie is happening sometime in the future. I’m not sure an hour and half to two hours is the right format for this humor, it works well in short, self-contained bursts, but I trust the talent involved to make it work.