By Nicusor Ciumacencu  —  I recently watched Season 3 of Party Down, which ran just over a month from February-end to March-end of this year. This is a show I’ve been wanting to write about for a while. Like for 14 years. From the moment Season 2 abruptly ended, perhaps due to low viewership.

Not many watched Party Down, (on Starz)  but it became a, sort of, cult phenomenon after it ended, and here we are many years later facing a reboot.

Same guys all over again. They were all young, 14 years ago. Fresh and ready to hit Hollywood with their part-time gigs and plenty of time, desire, and lots of options. Like when you’re young and choices are many on the living room coffee table. But just like the usual trajectory in Hollywood, (I mean a successful trajectory when one comes to Los Angeles with little cash in one’s pockets, acquires part-time jobs in the food and beverage industry but only doing this for one to two years till acting jobs kick in and bussing tables is no longer needed) Party Down ended 14 years ago after just two seasons as if the servers found Marvel movie jobs and embarked on entertainment trajectories that guaranteed, as I said, they didn’t have to buss tables anymore. 

For the new viewers, that were too young or uninterested 14 years ago, Party Down —created by John Enbom (Veronica Mars), Dan Etheridge (Veronica Mars, Paul Rudd (yes Paul Rudd), and Rob Thomas (also of Veronica Mars) — follows the employees of a Hollywood catering company as they pass drinks and hors d’oeuvres at fun events all while hoping this is just a temporary assignment on their way to securing fame and recognition.

At the center is Henry Pollard portrayed by Adam Scott. He is best known for a beer commercial where he trumpets “Are we having fun yet?”— a phrase that over the years has turned into agony for him thanks to people remembering his face when all he wants is to be forgotten as an actor. 

Now, some 14 years later, they almost all still work in banquets which means that, like in reality, the wannabe souls looking for a breakthrough ended up being part of those 98% aspiring souls that try Hollywood and remain trying for years and years, while remaining in gigs that were supposed to last one to two years at most.

So as it turned out, only about two percent of those coming to Hollywood with big dreams succeed in making a living as actors, or entertainers. The rest either go back to the prairies in the center of America or remain in L.A. stuck in the gig industry on the left side of America.

And BTW, the gap between the first two seasons and the third is the same as the gap between the two Avatar movies.

An interesting thing about the catering business in L.A.: As a seasoned connoisseur, since I, myself, do banquet gigs as a server to provide the dough for subsisting while allowing myself to play the writer on the side, I noticed that at any point during all these years the percentage of Latino coworkers never went below 80 to 85 percent. In other words, the entire business relies on Latino hands and far less on Caucasian Hollywood actors, influencers, or plain wannabes of any kind.

There are no Latinos in Party Down, and there should be.

But the show is focused, strictly, on what catering means for fame and stardom seekers, nothing more than a side gig, which results in loads of humor about the real intentions and aspirations of those dreamers. The show has always been about people who somewhat fail in their careers, but the failures are humorous, nobody is really upset or suffers; it’s just a little loss or an acceptance that maybe they’re not good enough. 

To Latinos, however, catering is a job and not a gig, and is often a full-time job necessary to pay for a family and kids and those kids’ future education. There is no known information about a wannabe actor who has the slightest intention of starting a family with kids.

The new season starts on an optimistic note. 

Henry (Scott) has given up on acting but seems to be at peace with it. He’s also gotten married and became an English teacher.

First impression is that aside from Roman and Ron (Martin Starr and Ken Marino), the other characters have largely moved on from their service industry days. It’s only short-lived. Kyle Bradway (Ryan Hansen) got cast in a superhero movie and, to him, it seems the catering days will never return.

Adam Scott and Jennifer Garner in “Party Down” (Image Courtesy of Starz)

Up until about halfway through the first episode when unexpectedly he is canceled in a heartbeat based on some Nazi song he once performed at a Jewish wedding with his former band Karma Rockets… unintentionally. But these days intentionally or unintentionally result in the same thing: cancelation. We soon discover that this happened just before the start of the pandemic in early 2020, so we all get “canceled” for 2 years or so. 

With Episode Two the world opens after lockdown and pretty much the entire crew is back in buttoned-down, white shirts and pink bowties. There are two new members: Lucy (Zoe Chao), the new chef, and Sackson (Tyrel Jackson) the social media influencer.

Lucy works that job on another level, a level in which the food she creates ceases to exist as a nutritional aspect and is rather something valued based on the emotions it provokes, oftentimes regardless of how edible it is. 

Sackson is the other breath of fresh air in the show, a young influencer preoccupied with creating content and how many likes or views he receives — we know the business. There is much fun coming out of this as Sackson is willing to break any rule to create his digital content. As an employee, he is not allowed to wander around the premises of the locations where they work: a private mansion, hotel, etcetera. But it’s those exact areas he needs to make interesting videos for his audience. 

That is really funny, for someone like me knowing the business because I work in the business; but how many others would find it funny?

Ron seems to endlessly struggle with keeping his company running — unpaid bills, debt, canceled events — therefore he’s willing to accept any sort of offer, even one from a newly established white supremacist organization. Meanwhile, Jennifer Garner, cute and sparkling as a movie executive, tries to resurrect Henry’s acting career, and just like in Hollywood, they end up having an affair. 

There is one character that doesn’t return with Season 3: Casey Klein played by Lizzy Caplan, (busy filming “Fleishman Is In Trouble”) nonetheless she’s expressed her desire to return to Season 4 should there be one. 

There is a comfortable feeling watching the show, and to one like me, doing similar gigs, it is impossible not to connect with the situations and work relations and all the fun this job implies. I even thought I recognized a kitchen location that looked strangely similar to one in a hotel I used to work for.

Even without a personal connection like I have, it’s fun to watch the series, you don’t have to think too much about the humorous situations, the silliness is plentiful to prepare you for a serene, deep night’s sleep. And that is all there is to it, which, looking back in retrospect at how bumpy the ride has been during the long breaks between seasons, one wonders: Will there ever be a 4th season? And if so, then when? Next year? In 2037?


No comments


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.