The world lost an amazing show last week when Starz decided to cancel Party Down. I can’t say I was surprised, but I was certainly bummed. Both a critical success and a ratings nightmare, the show drew only 74,000 viewers for its final episode. To give you some perspective, Judge Judy drew more than six million viewers last week—which means more people sat in front of their screens listening to a divorced couple fight over who would get custody of their motorcycle than tuned in to Party Down. But despite its abysmal numbers, Party Down was canceled way too soon—and like many shows before it, the powers that be are going to be so sorry they let this one go.
As its loyal fans knew all too well, Party Down centered on a Los Angeles-based catering company (called Party Down, natch) staffed entirely by people who wished they were somewhere else (most of the characters were failed or wannabe actors). Their weekly catering adventures resulted in insane encounters with some of LA’s weirdest inhabitants—a brilliant setup that gave us a core cast of characters who we shadowed as they navigated the events their employer was hired to cater (and which ranged from funerals to failed orgies to Sweet 16 parties to an event at Steve Guttenberg’s house). One episode in particular—“Not on Your Wife Opening Night”—was set at a fundraiser for a community theater, and may very well be my favorite episode of television from 2010.
The concept of the show completely original, the storylines were relatable, the pacing was snappy, and the writing more hilarious than anything Comedy Central has produced in the last couple years. You didn’t have to know anything about show business to appreciate the characters' humor, because at its heart, Party Down was about following dreams, dealing with rejection, and surviving all the lame jobs we've all had to work just to get by in the meantime. The humor was black, but you rooted for these loveable losers to win, and as you did, you couldn’t help but root for the show to succeed too.
But alas, the show's slowly growing word-of-mouth momentum and the involvement of comedy all-stars like Paul Rudd (a producer), Martin Starr (from Knocked Up and Freaks and Geeks), and even Fred Savage (yes, The Wonder Years' Fred Savage, who directed most of the episodes), couldn't save it, and Party Down was put to rest way before its time. It now joins Firefly, Arrested Development, and Freaks and Geeks in my DVD library, where I will continue to relish it for years to come.