Monday, March 30, 2009
When the minds behind Stella and their comedic associates meld together to bake up a television series, it's like a chocolate souffle - delicious and gooey - even if it collapses in the oven. Party Down, one of the new original comedy series on Starz, certainly does not cave . Amusing in bits, lovable in doses, the show isn't laugh out loud funny, but it's a tasty treat. Fred Savage directed the premiere episode (and credited for the next four). Paul Rudd and Rob Thomas headline a list of writers who have collaborated on the comedy. It stars Ken Marino, Adam Scott and Jane Lynch as out of work actors who work for "Party Down", caterers to Los Angeles' well-to-do, yet "ordinary people". They are a funny bunch of misfits - one is a surfer dude type who has just sold a script to a network, the other is a struggling comedian with husband issues. Marino plays Ron Donald, the head boss who really needs to give a good impression since his whole livelihood depends on it. His strive for perfect, cheerfulness and conscientious actually ends up creating chaos and confusion as he loses control of his staff, who are more interested in mingling with the guests and eating the food.
Lynch plays Constance Carmell, an actress who has been around the block. She gives advice like a hard bitten coach, yet seems amused by the fact she's working as a caterer, which is probably one of hundreds of jobs she's had in her life. Scott plays Henry Pollard, the guy running away from his failed acting career. Being known as "That Guy" from beer ads gone by, he's the steady pulse in the group of misfits, providing the anchor to Marino's neurotic Ron. Personally, I know a "That Guy" - an actor/comedian who appears in commercials and has guest appearances on television shows, but can't find luck in a successful project. There is something to be said about these actors who hang out in Hollywood for years, waiting for that elusive break. Henry portrays this well, maintaining the straight guy face as the bartender to a wait staff of acting star wanna-be's. He's in the same boat as the rest of his co-workers - dreaming of stardom while earning a paltry paycheck to get by. The only difference is - he's given up.
Party Down portrays the disillusionment of life and dreams squandered with laughs and a hint of pathos. This facet isn't limited only to the caterers, but their upper middle class employers as well, businessmen who live in the comfort of huge homes with families, yet still mourn that abandoned boyhood dream of playing guitar for a rock band and banging groupies.
First episode provided a good introduction to characters. Good solid comedy that's more subtle and blends into the action.
You can watch Party Down on Starz (check you cable line up) on Friday's at 10:30pm et/ct. Or you can watch it online at www.starz.com/originals/PartyDown. Members of Netflix can also watch it anytime by downloading the Microsoft Silverlight plug in, also available for Mac.