TV Series at your Library: Party Down
Originally aired on Starz March 2009-June 2010
Recommended for fans of Parks & Recreation, The Office, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and Judd Apatow films
Along with cult favorites Freaks & Geeks and Arrested Development- Party Down certainly earns its spot in the “Beloved Shows Cancelled Way Too Soon” club. Although, the show’s short run might not be such a bad thing now that the episodes exist on DVD at the library and, for the time being, are available on Netflix Instant. Party Down’s half-hour episodes only lasted two seasons which make it easy to digest without requiring a lot of time to commit to yet another show.
The show follows six aspiring Hollywood actors and writers working for the small-time catering company “Party Down.” Each episode is a different Los Angeles party or event that the catering team has been hired to work. The events range from Sweet 16 birthday parties and private school fundraisers to Russian mafia celebrations and senior citizen mixers. The guests and hosts of these parties usually lead exotic, affluent lives that add a new dimension of comedy to every episode.
While the parties are absurd enough to keep the show interesting, its really the “Party Down” team that hooks viewers. Each character has their own dreams and aspirations. There’s the screenwriter, the comedian, the pretty boy, the actress past her prime, and the team manager trying to inspire the team to care more about their catering job. They sound like caricatures, but the show is written so well and each cast member plays their part with such brutal honesty, earnestness, and nuance that its impossible not to like each one of them, even as their situations become more pathetic. This is especially true of Adam Scott who plays the main character Henry Pollard; an actor best known for doing beer commercials who decides to leave acting behind. He comes back to “Party Down” so he can earn an income while trying to figure out what to do next. Henry is lost and confused, but I realized that the show provides comfort by highlighting that nobody really has it all together, and this is just as true with the rich “successful” types that host the LA parties as it is with the down and out catering members.
Party Down’s comedic style is dark and situational. Fans of British and documentary style comedies will likely enjoy Party Down’s grim nature. The style feels very real and you get the impression that the show’s producers and directors (which include Paul Rudd and The Wonder Years’ Fred Savage) really understand the culture surrounding these struggling Hollywood wannabes. You wish the best for the team members, but the show is too honest about the cutthroat, bottom line, and dispensable nature of Hollywood to resolve any of these characters easily. Luckily, there’s plenty to laugh at and the show only gets funnier as you continue watching it. So check out the DVDs at the library, sit back, and enjoy the party.
What to watch next? Try HBO’s Extras starring Ricky Gervais.