A descendent of the blisteringly funny situational comedy of the unrivaled The Larry Sanders Show, Party Down is a hilarious tribute to the broken-down yet ever-striving characters that sit on the Hollywood sidelines. From a jaded sci-fi writer to a hunky would-be actor, the employees of the Party Down catering company are fraught with rejection and awkward quirks that commonly surface in the most inappropriate ways around party guests; Mary (Megan Mullally), the fortysomething, painfully cheery stage mom, smarmily hitting on the host of an orgy party while serving drinks, is just one example of how the show’s writers procure laughs out of the most cringe-worthy scenarios.
Henry Pollard (Adam Scott), a once-thriving, easily recognizable actor who graced television screens with a catchy beer commercial, has managed to work his way up to the manager position of a second-tier, somewhat unreliable catering company in the second season of Party Down. As the man in charge now, Henry is put in the most precarious position, having to often deal with mercurial, neurotic clients while managing his ex-lover and employee Casey (Lizzy Caplan) and his zany, sometimes alcoholic ex-boss and now subordinate Ron (Ken Marino). As expected, things don’t always go smoothly: One especially uncomfortable setting finds the catering team working a funeral party as the mistress and bastard son of the deceased make an unscheduled appearance.
The stellar cast riotously brings to life this slightly foolish, ragtag team of also-ran caterers in spiritedly maladroit fashion. Scott and Caplan play off each other perfectly as the two semi-leads, creating a beautiful, lingering tension that builds throughout the season as their characters’ suppressed desire for one another becomes excruciatingly apparent. Noticeably absent from the second season, though, is Jane Lynch, who jumped onto the unstoppable Glee machine. Mullally was given the difficult task of replacing Lynch in the catering sextet; fortunately, the once-Will & Grace scene-stealer proves wonderfully weird as Mary, exuding stellar, provoking mix of happy-go-lucky optimism and pent-up (possibly sexual) desperation. The storytelling gifts of writer-producer Rob Thomas, the creator of another under-seen show, Veronica Mars, prove innumerous, as these wholly original, vital characters practically bleed insecurities, coming off as tenderly funny and human.