Canceled TV Cavalcade: Party Down (2009-2010)

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.

Season Premier: Glee (kinda)

So, now that just about everything we watch has season finaled, Em and I were pretty excited to see an ad for a new show called Glee on Fox that premiered after American Idol last night. Well, we tuned in, but it turns out it wasn’t really a season premiere.

Well, I guess technically it was because it’s the first episode of a season, but the actual weekly show doesn’t start until the fall. I can understand wanting to get as many of those American Idol viewers as you can, but is it wise to show this thing and then wait for three months? Will people even remember it? I dunno.

I liked a good deal of the show. The premise is this teacher who used to be in the glee club starts it back up or takes it over or something, getting a rag tag group of outcasts together who sing like champs (even though they look different!). He’s also married to a character I hated by her second scene and has Charlie the Waitress from Heroes (hey, I used to like the show before I hated it) who is super cute and obviously a better choice for him as a mate.

Here’s the problem with the show. I’m bored with the above premise of the cool guy being with a crappy girl while there’s a much cooler girl right there. It’s one thing if it’s in a movie where you know things will get better (or not) within an hour or two, but here you have no idea how long it’ll last. Will it be a Niles and Daphne situation? A Ross and Rachel? I’m good on that, thanks.

I also wasn’t very impressed with the background characters, especially the d-bag football players. There’s one dude on the team who’s also in the glee club and, of COURSE, his teammates (who also pick on the other geeks in the glee club) give him a hard time about it. The thing is, these guys just come off as one dimensional, overly-threatening menaces. I’m not sure what it was, but these guys felt like actual bad dudes because they never did anything okay.

Now, I know it’s maybe not fair to judge an entire show based on one hour of television, but that’s what they want us to do right? That’s the whole point of this early, early viewing. That’s another problem, the show should be (and hopefully will be) just a half hour.

All that being said, it did have it’s good parts. I liked all of the main cast, including the glee club weirdos, Jane Lynch and Stephen Tobolowsky. And, of course, the song numbers were pretty sick. I liked the rival team’s rendition of “Rehab” and then, of course, Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” at the end was rad. It was good enough to get me to come back in the fall (if I remember AND it’s not opposite something we regularly watch).

Haha, oh, that reminds me of one other thing that left me scratching my head. They did a “next time on Glee” kind of thing the previews the season or whatever where they completely SPOILED what seems like a major plot point. SPOILER. One of the problems in the pilot is that the main guy’s wife (who, remember, I hate as a character) is pregnant. Well, she’s a shady lady so I figured something was up. Well, if you saw the “next time” thing, you know that she’s not really pregnant, but having a Hysterical pregnancy. I kind of think they threw it in to be like “Hey, he might not be with her forever!” Eh.

OH! It also takes place in Ohio, so it gets points for that. I can’t quite place where they are, though they say that Arkon is south and they’re near Carmel. I think that’s near Cleveland? I dunno, until proven otherwise, I’m gonna say it’s Toledo. Yeah Toledo!

They Can’t All Be Winners

2009-02-25
2:06:36 am

I haven’t been having a ton of luck lately when it comes to watching movies. Aside from falling asleep about a half hour in exactly no matter how cool the movie, I’ve been picking some duds (though still a few good ones). I couldn’t even get into watching Repo: The Genetic Opera for some reason. I’m not going to pass judgment on that one now because I was really tired, but I wanted to keep our Netflix queue going so I sent it back.

I did not however like an action movie I tried watching last night called Kiltro (2006). I made it about a half hour into that one before I fell asleep. I was hoping for an awesome action movie (as advertised), but instead I got a story about a guy who likes to fight and has a crush on a girl who blah blah blah. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I want my action movies (and my giant monster movies for that matter) to be less talking and more destruction, unless they happen to be actually funny like Police Story 1 and 2. Again, I don’t really consider this a review, because I didn’t watch the whole movie, just letting you action fans out there know not to waste your time.

I also watched most of a movie called Hickey and Boggs (1972) which has a lot going for it in that The Warriors writer Walter Hill wrote it and Bill Cosby stars as a tough guy private detective along with Robert Culp who also directs. I didn’t have any problem with this movie, though it is a bit slow, I just haven’t finished it yet because it’s kind of long and it expires from Netflix on March 1. It’s in the same vein as Dirty Harry and is pretty cool, so I might finish it up today. Oh, and if you were wondering, yes it’s kind of weird seeing Bill Cosby as a tough guy, but he also pulls it off really well. It’s fun to watch. Again, not a real review, but just some thoughts.

That being said, I do have four ACTUAL reviews:

POPCORN (1991)

Man, the 90s were a weird time for horror movies. You’re looking at a time after the slasher glut greatly hindered the genre, but before Scream made them cool again. Popcorn is kind of a weird movie. The basic premise is that a college film club decides to hold a movie marathon to raise some money. But this isn’t any movie marathon, they’re showing movies with a gimmick like smell-o-vision or shock-o-rama. As such, they need an old movie theater to show their flicks in and a crazy old guy to help out (and then completely disappear) in the form of Ray Walston (My Favorite Martian). If you really liked the beginning of Scream 2 where there’s all kinds of craziness happening in a movie theater, then this is right up your alley as it seems as though a counterculture guy from back in the day wants his weirdo movie to be seen so much he’s willing to kill people for it (that’s not exactly the plot, but I don’t want to give too much away). There was enough quirky charm to keep me watching even though the movie isn’t awesome by any means. So, if that sounds interesting (oh and the fact that someone gets killed via giant fake mosquito), check it out.

THE ROCKER (2008)

I was really surprised with how much I liked this Rainn Wilson flick. I was also surprised with the huge number of cast members I not only recognized, but knew by name (for the most part). Wilson stars as a drummer who got kicked out of what became the biggest band of the 80s right before they blew up. Now, in modern times, Rainn’s down on his luck, but ends up joining his nephew’s band, which garners its own huge levels of success. Aside from the cast that includes Christina Applegate, Emma Stone, Jeff Garland, Jane Lynch (from 40 Year Old Virgin and a hundred other things), Jason Sudekis, Will Arnett, Fred Armisen, Jane Krakowski, Bradley Cooper, Lonny Ross (30 Rock), Demetri Martin and Aziz Ansari, I was really impressed with how well they pull off some moments that could have come off as cheesy. There’s also one part where Rainn offers up the emo lead singer some songwriting advice (paraphrase “let’s speed it up and switch it to I’m NOT bitter) and he actually takes it without flinching. Sure it’s kind of similar to a scene in That Thing You Do, but in this case the lead singer just decided to go for it instead of being a d-bag. The Rocker is one of those flicks that seems like it either went up against some huge other movie or their producers didn’t have the juice to put much/any advertising cash behind it, because there’s no reason that this shouldn’t have done way better (though I said the same thing after seeing Speed Racer, which I still really enjoyed, so what do I know).

I also watched a couple movies all the way through that I wasn’t really into and those were Bangkok Dangerous (2008) and The Crazies (1973). I’ll be honest, the only reason I wanted to watch BD is because I’ve laughed a million times at the Best of The Wicker Man video on YouTube starring BD’s Nic Cage. Man that’s a funny video. You can get to it here after reading an AWESOME article I wrote about horror movie remakes for ToyFare. Unfortunately, BD was no where near as ridiculous as I was hoping it would be (I mean, COME ON, it’s Nic Cage as an assassin!). Instead, it’s a pretty run-of-the mill story about an assassin who has all kinds of rules, but is starting to not want to be an assassin anymore. You’ve seen it a million times and this doesn’t really offer up anything new, unlike Grosse Pointe Blank which is completely awesome.

The Crazies (1973) is the first non-zombie George Romero movie I’ve ever seen. It was okay, but not all that interesting. Instead of focusing on characters and how they react to these crazy situations, it seemed like Romero was more focused on showing a lot of dudes in white hazmat-type suits rounding people up after a virus that makes people go bat-poop nutso, gets released in a small town. There’s nothing all that wrong, really, it just didn’t grab my attention like my favorite Romero (and horror) flick Dawn of the Dead does.