I have high hopes for Party down. Not because I’m a Veronica Mars devotee — apparently there’s a significant cast overlap — but because I have a soft spot for weirdo American comedy. Ken Marino, the horny, be-afroed, gum-chewing counselor from Wet hot American summer, as the team leader of a catering crew? Great! Bill Haverchuck, the single most pitifully endearing character in all of television history, as a science fiction-writing server? Even better! [That scene in front of the TV is guaranteed to choke me up, every single time. I love you, Bill Haverchuck.] Other regular cast members include Jane Lynch, the square-jawed father-to-be from Tell me you love me, and crazy Lizzy Caplan from True blood. You had me at “Party.”
Two episodes in, though, I’m not sold yet. There were a few GOL moments, a few good one-liners, but otherwise the interactions felt kind of forced. The danger for the show, I think, will be to drift too far in the direction of American pie, to favor goofy jerk-off jokes over genuine awkwardness or absurdity without reserve. Fred Savage’s directorial stint during season four of It’s always sunny in Philadelphia corresponded to a general slump in the hilarity (the season premiere excepted), so I wonder if his hand on Party down is what’s keeping things too conventional. Maybe David Wain should direct an episode or two?
Meanwhile, Reno 911! has also just started an unexpected sixth season, with a couple notable additions to the cast: Joe Lo Truglio (also with The state pedigree) and surprisingly hefty Upright Citizen Ian Roberts. I stopped following the show after Reno 911!: Miami — great title, mediocre movie — but the season premiere shows promise of reinvigorating the series.
One final State-related observation: did anyone else ever fall in love with Stella and watch the “Office party” episode over and over and over? Wednesday’s season finale of Damages felt a lot to me like the climax in “Office party,” when the CEO of the company fires Michael, David and Michael, who are then reinstated by the Chairman of the Board, who is then arrested for “corrupt business practices” by the District Attorney, who is then fired by the Mayor, whose authority is trumped, we learn, by the citizenry.
“O beautiful, for spacious skies…”