Party Down: Season 1 – DVD Review
By Chris Kromphardt
Staff Writer, Justice Administrator
Party Down takes a relatively simple premise—a catering business staffed by a bunch of Hollywood has-beens or never-weres working a different party every episode, meandering through life with occasional glimpses of their former fame when someone recognizes them as, say, that guy in the beer commercial—and absolutely delivers in its hysterical first season. It’s like Clerks meets Curb Your Enthusiasm.
Party Down is the product of multiple ensembles. One is the creator pool, which includes Veronica Mars alums Rob Thomas, John Enbom, and Dan Etheridge, in addition to actor Paul Rudd. They get an assist from Fred Savage—yes, that Fred Savage, from The Wonder Years—on directing several episodes. As a fan of Mars who was heartbroken when low ratings caused the show to be cancelled after its third season, seeing those names was what got me to give Party Down a look. The same excellent writing and character work that made that show so addictive are on display here as well, albeit in a more comedic and irreverant fashion.
A second ensemble is, of course, the cast. Those checking out the first season—sadly, the cast starts to change toward the end of this season as actors move on to higher-profile gigs—will no doubt see some familiar faces. Again, we have some Veronica Mars alums here in Ron Marino and Ryan Hansen, as well as fan-favorites from other series like Lizzy Caplan and Jane Lynch. Yes, the same Jane Lynch who’s so popular on Glee right now. The comedic chops of these actors are given ample opportunity to soar thanks to the show’s great writing and clever party settings, so perhaps it was Party Down’s inevitable fate that, given the talent it was able to muster at its onset, other, bigger studios would take notice.
Starz really hit on something with Party Down. Not well-known for its original programming, they managed to capture lightning in a bottle here. Nearly every one of this season’s ten episodes—“Brandix Corporate Retreat” is the only notable exception—is consistently and originally funny. Party Down doesn’t rely on the same recycled gimmicks as most network sitcoms; it blazes sensational new territory through well-written and -executed jokes, not lame sight-gags and shaky cameras that tell you when the actors are being funny.
The DVD also comes with two behind-the-scenes features that were originally aired Starz, as well as producer commentary on two episodes.
On a final note, those readers who are also subscribers to Netflix—like me—can check out the entire first season on Instant Queue, along with those episodes of the currently airing second season that have already shown. I can’t comment on the special features of the DVD set because I didn’t watch it that way, but I can strongly recommend Party Down to anyone with a taste for cynically brilliant comedy.