Party Down

Ken Marino, left, and Adam Scott are Party people.

There’s something afoot at Party Down, the fictional, eponymous Los Angeles catering service. It’s supposed to be staffed by wanna-bes and dropouts, but every schmuck onscreen is played by a real-life underrated gem. The exploits of hors d’oeuvres passers has great comic potential to begin with, but someone’s stacking the deck (our money’s on executive producer Paul Rudd).

Life in L.A. is a party, and these are the losers that didn’t get an invitation. Adam Scott plays Henry, a washed-up actor that every party guest vaguely recognizes—an inside joke, since Scott’s guested on more prime time shows than Ed Begley Jr. (who also appears, naturally). Desperate, Henry rejoins Party Down’s pink-bow-tie brigade, a crew led by Ron (Ken Marino of comedy troupe the State), a peppy conformist. The cast is rounded out by Christopher Guest mockumentary player Jane Lynch, Martin Starr of Freaks and Geeks and ex-Mean Girl Lizzy Caplan, while guest stars include the always welcome J.K. Simmons. Veronica Mars fans will recognize Ryan Hansen playing an airhead actor; in fact, the show’s like I spy for Mars alums, with more than a dozen in the first season’s credits.

Armed with chafing dishes and white shirts, the crew manages to ruin each week’s event in moronic fashion (it’s party down as in Black Hawk Down, as in “Officer down!”). The show hasn’t quite achieved laugh-out-loud hilarity, but the premiere episode is charming, and it’s overstuffed with enough potential. These actors are too good to be without a series, so good on Party Down for saving them from a future as, heaven forbid, depressed L.A. cater waiters.

Party Down premieres Fri 20 at 10:30pm on Starz.

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