Party Down: Season 1
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Party Down: Season 1

Few people ever star off their working life in the field they want to make their profession. As we start out on our chosen path in life there are bound to be a series of jobs that may help pay the bills but thankfully are usually not what you want to do for longer than absolutely necessary. While this is true for most professions it is especially true for those with aspirations in the entertainment industry. It is so common for hopeful actors, directors and writers to take side jobs that there are a plethora of jokes along the lines of ‘what do you call an actor in Hollywood; waiter." There is actually a logical reason that so many wannabe actors support themselves in the service industry while awaiting that big break in movies is those jobs tend to provide great flexibility in hours freeing up sufficient time for the arduous audition process. The combination of potentially wacky characters and a constantly changing venue can easily be created by focusing on a catering company staffed entirely movie hopefuls. This is the simple premise rich with promise that is explored by the new Starz original sit-com, ‘Party Down’. The Starz network has been following hot on the heels of HBO and Showtime with original weekly series that are just a little more unusual than other networks would produce. I’ve seen a few of their series now and so far most are winners. With ‘Party Down’ it took only one episode for me becomes a fan. The series is one of the misfit ensemble cast series reminiscence of’WKRP’ or ‘News Radio’. The series is a bit difficult to classify; it blends the outrageous with well crafted dark comedy spiced with little inside the industry satire. In any case this is one of the freshest sit-coms around, a bright spot in a fairly dismal programming season. This is not for the kids but adults will find it is consistently humorous with a lot of as of yet untapped potential.

A trio of proven talents is credited with the creation of this series. John Enbom and Dan Etheridge were partnered for the critical success; ‘Veronica Mars’ and are joined here by comedian and writer Paul Rudd. The cast of characters depicted here may all be obsessed with stardom but what truly makes the series work so well is how they translate so well to any group of people in any work place. While watching you will have more than a few movements that will ring a familiar bell. One major benefit seen here comes from the ‘Veronica Mars’ connection. The people on both sides of the camera are friends in the real world re used to working together. This gives the feel of a well honed comedy troupe. This is especially evident in the amazingly tight sense of comic timing and how the cast members play synergistically off of each other. This group of barely functioning people all work for a catering company called ‘Party Down’ owned by Mr. Duk (Ken Jeong). The onsite supervisor Ron Donald (Ken Marino) is a clueless sort who tries to rule his team with threats of putting them on final warning but really no one takes him very seriously. He is expert and annoying the clients with his constant need to appear in charge. His main goal in life is to make enough money to open a Soup R’ Crackers, an all you can eat salad and soup franchise.

An old friend of Ron’s has joined the company as the series begins. Henry Pollard (Adam Scott) was just getting his acting career off the ground when he got a beer commercial. The tag line ‘are we having fun yet’ became so popular that it type cast Henry to the point where he was unable to get serious work. Soon after joining ‘Party Down’ Henry become friends with benefits with co-worker Casey Klein (Lizzy Caplan). She is trying to become a comedian but so far all her attempts to get a gig on television comedy shows have with rejection. Her husband has been pressuring her to give up and move away with him that led her to seek a divorce and turn to Henry for comfort. Kyle Bradway (Ryan Hansen) is the typical handsome actor with little capacity for any intellectual endeavors. His friend at work is aspiring author Roman DeBeers (Martin Starr) who is constantly getting reject but maintains that he only deals with serious science fiction. For much of the first season the last member of the troupe was played by versatile character actress Jane Lynch as Constance Carmell. Constance has been playing bit parts literally for decades. She has an annoying habit of forcing herself into every conversation or tagging along as an unwanted addition to any group. Lynch is in great demand leaving the series for a role on ‘Glee’. Filling in for her to finish off the season was another excellent character actress Jennifer Coolidge who left for a featured part on ‘The Secret Life of the American Teen’.

The basic format of the series is episodic with each episode covering one event catered by the group. As the characters interact with the guests it typically reflects some conflict within their ranks. Each episode also furthers story arcs for the characters gradually unfolding the current story and their back stories. No matter how hard they try it just seems that circumstances quickly get out of control. For example when they catered a party for a group of young conservatives Ron accidently destroys a flag that survived Desert Storm and was to be presented to the Governor. Ron tries to simulate the battle damage by scorching the flag only to set it ablaze in front of the youthful Republicans. The series is not politically correct and the language is not family friendly but it is hysterical.

Posted 03/29/2010

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