Our High Hopes for New TV Comedy Party Down

True story: At last fall’s New Yorker Festival “Evening with Paul Rudd” event (of course we went to that) we decided to nervously queue up to ask Paul Rudd something during the Q&A. Our question was about TV — we were gigantic fans of his appearance on Veronica Mars, and we wondered, would he ever consider getting involved in a TV project? His answer made our day: “Of course,” he said, “I’ve actually been talking with my old friend  [Veronica Mars creator] Rob Thomas about doing something together.”

Two of our favorite things — Rudd and the genius behind Veronica Mars, together, on our TiVos? We started dreaming. “Please do,” we told him, and we like to think he listened to us. A bit later, a friend of ours who had just moved to LA told us about the new show he was working on — Party Down, created by Rob Thomas and produced by…Paul Rudd. It was happening!

Now it’s finally here, premiering tomorrow on STARZ. And much to our happiness, it might actually be as good as we’ve always hoped it would be.

The show, part of STARZ’s attempt to belong to the network of cable movie channels to produce quality original programming, centers around an ensemble of “cater-waiters” struggling with their acting careers (or lack thereof) in L.A. The cast features favorites from Veronica Mars (if you’re a fan, you’ll recognize them all immediately) including slacker-jerk Ryan Hansen, goofy David-Wain-favorite Ken Marino and newish face Adam Scott. Mean Girls‘ Lizzy Caplan (Janis Ian, word) and the amazing Jane Lynch co-star, and Martin Starr, who will forever be known as Bill Haverchuck in our hearts, rounds out the fanboy/girl-friendly group.

Early reviews (linked below) all seem to reflect two observable truths: The cast is impeccable, and while it’s definitely funny, it might take a few episodes to really find its tone. We used to think Rob Thomas could do no wrong, and even though his experiment with 90210 2.0 proved this assumption was partly inaccurate, we’re hoping it’s just because his creative freedom was stifled by The CW (and the ginormous shadow of the original), and now we’re rooting for a real comeback on STARZ.

Our Veronica Mars nostalgia is now bordering on pathetic, so it’s a relief that we’ll have something to enjoy while we wait for Rob Thomas to finish writing the movie. It’s dangerous to expect a lot from a show that sounds so good on paper, especially as a follow-up to an old favorite show, but Party Down sounds like awkward comedy done right — something we look forward to getting back now that The Office is lame and 30 Rock nears a season finale.

Party Down premieres tomorrow at 10:30 p.m. [You can also already watch it online here].

***
The dialogue is top-notch and the actors are all perfectly cast. … While the series’ first episode might come off as a little awkward, it definitely showcases the series’ loopy charms and points to Party Down’s full potential as a stage for some deliciously wacky (and terribly flawed) individuals all trying to achieve their dream while sucking it up week to week for another paycheck.
 It’s more than enough to make me wish I subscribed to Starz. [Televisionary]

Party Down’s satirical aim is unsteady, and the second episode (featuring Young Republicans) is so dated it’s practically unwatchable. But there’s sharp dialogue and insight into the nature of snuffed ambition. [NY Mag]

The cast is perfectly matched for the writing style. All of the actors in Party Down deliver lines with deadpan humor that serves to make what might be otherwise a depressing glimpse into the lives of a bunch of fictional wannabes much funnier than you might think. As I’d hoped, the combination of talented, clever writers mixed with a group of humorous and fairly underrated actors has given me another excuse to call up my cable provider and subscribe to Starz. [Cinema Blend]

Starz proves you don’t need to spend too much production money if you can bring the funny. [Hollywood Reporter]

The end result is not a knock out of the park, but a pleasant diversion. I’ve spoken to many of the actors from this show, and they all told me the mandate here was just to have fun — and in that, they have succeeded. [IGN TV]