I don’t remember exactly when my wife and I tried watching Party Down for the first time. I think it was before we finished Veronica Mars (possibly before we even started) and might have even been while she was still pregnant. We watched the first two episodes of the show about a group of LA carterers who all want to be doing something else and then stopped. I’ll get to why in a bit.
To break things down, you’ve got Ken Marino playing the very enthusiastic boss who wants to own his own salad restaurant franchise, Adam Scott plays a former actor just trying to make ends meet, Lizzy Caplan wants to be a comedian/actress, Martin Starr wants to write hard sci-fi screenplays, Jane Lynch was an actress and Ryan Hansen also wants to be an actor. Each episodes features the gang working some kind of event from a funeral to an NFL draft party and sweet 16s to singles parties. The events themselves lead to various misunderstandings, but there are also overarching stories about these people, their relationships and what’s going on outside of work.
Much like Louie, a show whose first season I watched and wrote about over on my dad blog Pop Poppa, the thing that makes Party Down click for me is how real it gets at times. Sure, there are the usual sticky relationships between some of the caterers, but there are also some real moments of camaraderie between these people who would otherwise not even know one another.
The moments that got to me the most, though were the ones closest to home. Seeing as how the cast of characters is essentially made up of people trying to follow their very-difficult-to-attain dreams, there are several moments throughout the 20 episode series where they question whether their goals are actually attainable or not. As someone who would love to get his act together and write a book or a screenplay, I can completely relate to this. When is it time to finally give up and move on to a job at the Post Office or something? Or isn’t there a time? The great thing about this series is that, one of these low points actually takes place at an awkwardly planned orgy party.
The reason my wife and I stopped watching Party Down the first time around is because the second episode isn’t very good. The mostly liberal caterers find themselves working a college conservative party that Governor Schwarzenneger is supposed to attend. The political angel is actually fine, but Marino’s arc in the episode is just ridiculous and involves him not only dealing with one ruined flag that’s supposed to be given to the governor, but later taking a different flag, dirtying it on the ground right out in front of the party and accidentally setting it on fire. It sounds like something out of an old slapstick movie. I’ve got no problem with slapstick, but it just doesn’t fit the overall tone of the show and didn’t make me want to keep watching. I know a few other people I’ve talked to stalled out here, but I really recommend powering through or just skipping that one and moving on through the rest of the series.