Party Down preview

Rob Thomas makes his return to television, not with the much (un)anticipated rehash of Cupid, but with an original half-hour comedy on Starz.

Party Down premieres this Friday at 10:30 EDT on Starz. There will of course be multiple showings, which reduces the conflict pressure for those watching the BSG finale. It’s also nice to see Starz planned ahead and scheduled a free weekend for customers of DirecTV, so fans of wry, uncomfortable humor will have an opportunity to check the show out for free.

My thoughts below the fold.

Thomas and fellow Veronica Mars alums John Enbom and Dan Etheridge, along with Thomas buddy Paul Rudd, dipped into that deep, dark place they don’t like to go without a therapist and a good bottle of single malt on hand. Mining the lean years and putting all that pain out there for the world to see, we follow a team of event caterers from one sad job to another. Event caterers, those poor service folk one step above Applebee’s waitstaff who have to put up with the vicissitudes of trophy wives, the nouveau riche, and worst of all…successful people in LA.

These are writers, actors, and comedians just working events until their big break, that next gig, the one that’ll break them through.

Adam Scott plays our sympathetic everyman Henry, an actor ((Former actor? He’s ambivalent about it, it seems.)) whom everyone recognizes from his one big break, a national beer commercial complete with catchphrase. It’s been several years since he’s worked, but everyone sure is happy to quote him his line and try to get him to say it. Forced by reality to go back to “sling d’oeuvres,” he goes back to where he started when he was fresh-faced and innocent.

Still plugging away at catering is Ken Marino’s Ron, a former multiple addict who gave up on his dreams of stardom and now dreams of owning a Souper Crackers franchise. The worst kind of zealot is the converted zealot, and Ron fully and douchily embraces his new role of team leader. He and Henry used to party; I suspect he was less clueless stoned than he is in charge. Ron’s a boss in the Michael Scott mold, a rich vein for the writers.

The rest of the team is filled with the sort of hopefuls you’d expect: the too-brainy and too-nerdy writer, played by Freaks and Geeks alum Martin Starr; Lizzy Caplan’s sassy comedienne; the dumb blond actor/model/musician, portrayed with frightening perfection by Ryan Hansen; and Jane Lynch, performing another in her long line of overly aggressive, slightly scary women. None of these people want to be here, but they try make the best of their “temporary” lot in life.

Each episode will be a new party, meaning LOTS of the actors from the Rob Thomas and Judd Apatow stables will be showing up. It’s pretty clear the actors are all having fun with what they’re doing, even when the situations are bleak for their characters.

Give it a shot and come back and let us know what you think of the premiere.