The first news I ever heard about original programming on Starz related to the television adaptation of Crash, so I can only assume that I subconsciously instructed my brain to ignore any further mentions of Starz, which is why it took me until this weekend to start watching catering comedy Party Down.
It might also have something to do with the fact that this show is getting practically zero publicity.
But this is a tragedy! Although the first couple of episodes are hit-or-miss, by the fourth episode the show kicks in with some Office-level laugh-while-you-kind-of-want-to-cry heart—which is nothing less than you’d expect given the people working on this thing. To recap:
The show was created by Rob Thomas (of Veronica Mars fame), John Enbom and Dan Etheridge (also of Veronica Mars, but not so much of fame), and Paul Rudd (of Every Movie Made in the Past Year fame). And it stars Adam Scott, Lizzy Kaplan, Ryan Hansen, Jane Lynch (!), Martin Starr (!!!), and Ken Marino (!!!!!!!!!!!).
Which means that as far as I can tell, this is how Party Down came into being: Freaks & Geeks and Veronica Mars and The State had a baby. And then that baby grew up to become a group of disillusioned actors working for an LA-based catering company that only works parties hilariously populated by other Veronica Mars and The State alums.
I have to admit that part of the pleasure for me is seeing all of the familiar faces (and, in the case of Enrico Colantoni’s episode-one appearance, much more than that) from shows that I’ve loved. But I’m also increasingly impressed with the way the show manages to balance being almost cripplingly dark with having a big old sappy heart.
It’s not by any means perfect, and it’s almost shockingly low-budget, but it feels fresh and surprising (if a bit uneven) in an early-days-of-30-Rock sort of way. And it’s heartening to have some evidence that Hollywood still occasionally allows enormously talented people to get together and make something lovely and unexpected.
(If you don’t have Starz, there are a few episode you can find online. Or you can watch it for free via Netflix Instant.)
An incomplete list of works recommended by David Foster Wallace. (Via The Rumpus, a site whose title actually made me grind my teeth with envy the first time I saw it. This unnerves me because — let’s be honest — there’s something really messed-up about the idea of being jealous over a URL.)
(Another thing that unnerves me? My inability to figure out how to enter an em-dash outside of Word … oh! Wait! It’s option-shift-hyphen! Look: — — — — !!!)
EDITED TO ADD: Tumblr apparently automatically converts double-hypens into em-dashes. I feel significantly less accomplished now.