It’s High Time to Party Down

The Starz pay cable movie channel has been a little late to join its peers in the original programming pool. Over the past two years, their efforts have included unnecessary takes on Crash and, even more inexplicably, Spartacus. Note to programming department: just because you’re a movie channel does not mean your shows need to be based on films.

Then, there’s Party Down. This is the show that should put Starz on the map. But it probably won’t. Because unfortunately in its second season hardly anyone is watching.

The show is about the employees of a Hollywood catering company. Each week they staff a different party. It manages to be both profanely funny and brutally poignant. I really thought I had seen enough about the downtrodden dreamers of L.A. who didn’t succeed in their dreams to become famous. But this show is not about their crushed souls (though each has his or her own sad backstory). Instead, the characters exist in a world where the malaise is a given for everyone at the party, caterers and revelers alike. Despite a premise that should be a one-way ticket to depression, Party Down is a top-notch showcase of comedy writing and acting that seesaws successfully between deadpan and absurd.

If that’s not enough of a reason to watch, how about this? The last episode was about an orgy.

Granted, it was really about a (mostly) failed attempt to throw an orgy. Thomas Lennon (The State, Reno 911) guest starred as Nick DiCintio, the exasperated host who just can’t quite get the party started. The staff tries to help. Watching the geeky, yet belligerent, Roman (Martin Starr) trying to explain why it is better to do shots off a woman’s chest than a man’s is reason enough to catch this episode.

Need more reasons to watch? The cast is solid across the board. Adam Scott anchors the show as the unflappable crew boss. Another alum of The State, Ken Marino, plays the clueless doofus with abandon. And Megan Mullaly makes a welcome return to sitcoms, shedding the over-the-top blather of her best-known Will & Grace character.

Starz has not done Party Down any favors by putting it on Friday nights or for that matter by airing it on Starz. It just is not high value TV real estate. But like the best parties, it is worth seeking out even if it is hard to find.