Party Down

So excited: I have been searching for a way to watch this show since I heard it existed! I don’t have Starz, but I finally tracked it down online. It shares creators, producers, and actors with Veronica Mars, one of my all-time favorite shows, and has been cited as one the best shows of 2009.

The show opens with a chipper, tuxedoed man (Ken Marino – Tony from Reaper) reciting the really long motto of Party Down Catering. The guy, we learn, is Ron, and he’s in charge of the catering crew getting ready for a party. He is manic about succeeding and earning a great feedback card from the client.

Ron has his work cut out for him; two of his staff are already eating the client’s cheese while rehearsing for an audition. Another is late. Still another was recently fired for masturbating on the job. We know early on that nothing is going to be held back, here.

Henry (Adam Scott) is the new guy. In a pilot, you need a new guy. He and Ron are old friends. We sense right away that Henry has recently experienced some kind of major life setback, but we’ll get the details gradually.

The crew of incompetents making Ron’s life hell include the ever-hilarious Jane Lynch (Glee), Lizzy Caplan (the underrated Related), Ryan Hansen (playing pretty much the same character as he did on Veronica Mars), and Martin Starr (Knocked Up, Superbad). The characters are all showbiz wannabes. Ryan Hansen’s character, Kyle, is perhaps the most fervent in his ambitions, and the hardest to watch, in that he’s so committed to being obnoxious, you’re embarrassed for him (think Michael Scott).

Once the party gets started, we find Kyle hitting on the client’s daughter and Jane Lynch’s Constance having water gun fights with some young guests. This may not be their dream job, but they’re doing their best to have fun at it.

Enrico Colantoni plays the husband of the party-thrower, and he is totally over suburban family life. He drinks to cope with his uptight wife and the smug neighbors and winds up skinny dipping in the pool, to the guests’ horror. He jokes about trading places with Henry, which I’ll take as a hint at things to come in the series.

Eventually we discover Henry’s secret, that his single claim to fame is having appeared in a beer commercial, where he popularized the catch phrase, “Are we having fun yet?” (Sort of his answer, I suppose, to “Whaaazzzz up?”) Now he’s given up acting, and wants desperately to remain anonymous.

In fact, desperation is the name of the game for these cater waiters. Desperation to succeed, to escape, to slog through one more party. And that’s a good premise for lots of funny situations. While this pilot wasn’t fall-on-the-floor funny, it sets us up. We know everyone’s desires. It’s hinted that romance may lie ahead for Henry and Lizzy Caplan’s unhappily married Casey. Cuz you have to have sexual tension. And Ron seems very close to snapping. And a Joey Lauren Adams guest appearance awaits. Plus, knowing that people like Paul Rudd, Dan Etheridge and Rob Thomas are behind the scenes, I am eager to keep watching.

UPDATE 1/10/2012: Megan Mullally has confirmed that a Party Down movie is in the works!