Party Down is a Work Com broadcast on the Starz network between 2009 and 2010, created by Rob Thomas. It follows a group of struggling actors and writers working a low-paying and humiliating job with the Party Down catering company while chasing their Hollywood dreams.Each episode is structured around a different party they have been assigned to cater, with the lives of the affluent party hosts becoming entangled with the sad-sack lives of the caterers.Despite great writing, great acting and a devoted (if small) following, the show was too good to last. However, there is a movie in the works.
This show provides examples of:
Actor Allusion: For some of the series, Casey talks about how she's trying to get a spot in a Judd Apatow movie. In reality, Lizzy Caplan has been in several Apatow productions, and is part of his Production Posse.
In one episode, George Takei makes an appearance and Bobbie pronounces his name like "Takai." Roman corrects her pronunciation, saying "People have been pronouncing it wrong for years!" Years earlier, Martin Starr mispronounced Takei's name exactly that way in an episode of Freaks and Geeks.
Adam Westing: Steve Guttenberg plays himself as an almost cartoonishly cheerful and generous host, who takes a group of strangers under his wing for a night. Then he steals one of their dates.
"Taylor Stiltskin Sweet Sixteen" involves a film adaptation of a graphic novel about Edgar Allan Poe as a vampire slayer. Roman and one of the girls at the party get miffed about the studio Bowdlerizing Poe's alcoholism and underage incestual relations.
In "Joel Munt's Big Deal Party", a scif-fi author is enraged when he finds out the adaptation of his novel will be using Conspicuous CGI for a monster that isn't even visible. This instance is later discussed when Roman and Joel Munt argue over how you're supposed to successfully adapt a psychic gas-creature to film.
Ron goes off when the group is in danger of getting poor client feedback cards or when his reputation is at stake. Examples of this include threatening to destroy the teen girl's life in "Willow Canyon Homeowners Annual Party" and desecrating the American Flag in "California College Conservative Union Caucus."
Roman can't stand it when people mix up his precious science fiction with hated fantasy. He even ruins a sure thing with a porn star when she mentions that she likes dragons.
Betty and Veronica: Henry with Uda and Casey. Uda is the Betty and Casey is the Veronica, although this applies more to the nature of his relationships with them than the characters' actual personalities.
Be Yourself: What with the lampshaded resemblance to an afterschool special, this ends up as the moral of "Taylor Stiltskin Sweet Sixteen" as Taylor learns to take popularity less seriously and just have fun with the real, uncool friends she had before she became The Libby. Subverted when her cool friends do show up and she reverts to her bitchiness immediately.
Bi the Way: At the end of season 1, Kyle tells a gay producer he would do anything for a part in a movie (and yes, it's implied what would happen), and in Season 2 the movie has been released. Also Roman is hinted as such every so often, having a guy giving him hickeys, to his relationship with his co-writer, and watching a guy masturbate. Also the 300 Gay test.
Calvinball: The team-building game in "Brandix Corporate Retreat" involves blindfolds, pirate hats, suspended hula hoops, stacked boxes, plastic cup pyramids, Jenga, tire runs, punching bags, football dummies, and a cat plush toy. Casey has no idea what the fuck is going on in there.
Casey has this dilemma in season 1, as evidenced in the episode "California College Conservative Union Caucus," when she has to choose between moving to Vermont with her husband or taking her chances as an actress in LA.
This is also one of Henry's big conflicts, mainly explored in Season 2. He's clearly disheartened by his experiences, but also clearly loves acting. He struggles with choosing a safe and responsible life or risking it all for one last chance at his dream.
In "Taylor Stiltskin Sweet Sixteen", it appears that Mr. and Mrs. Stiltskin have a standing agreement that any boy-toy the missus beds gets a part in her husband's movies. Mrs. Stiltskin tries to get Kyle in bed but he has to awkwardly shy away from kissing because his teeth hurt after being bleached.
Kyle uses this to get a role between the first and second seasons.
Another past instance of Kyle's comes up in "Not On Your Wife Opening Night". In the same episode Casey attempts this by taking advantage of being Mistaken for Gay.
Catch Phrase: Subverted. Henry was in a beer commercial where he said, "Are we having fun yet?" Whenever people recognize him they ask him to say it, which he hates doing.
Ron: Okay, so, I'm putting this gun in a bag here, and it stays here, and nobody touches it for the rest of the evening. Casey: Well, you know what they say about a gun in the first act, Ron. (beat) Kyle: First act of what?
The Chew Toy: Ron is a pedantic, sycophantic, socially inept loser who thinks he may well be the next Donald Trump. He's also put through more mental and physical trauma than any other character on the show.
Class Reunion: Party Down caters Ron's reunion in "James Rolf High School Twentieth Reunion".
Cluster F-Bomb: Leonard Stiltskin's dialogue in "Taylor Stiltskin Sweet Sixteen Party" and "Precious Lights Pre-School Auction."
Lampshaded by Roman at the end of "Sweet 16" when he assumes the customer feedback card to be nothing but insults, and gets it right word-for-word.
Conspicuous Consumption: In "Steve Guttenberg's Birthday" Lydia reveals that if she had millions of dollars, the first things she'd do would be to throw a huge party, buy some shoes for herself, and buy a few hundred horses for her daughter.
A Day in the Limelight: One episode has the crew catering a Russian(?) Mafia, where they are immediately recognized by all the work they have done (except Ron & Roman). They are treated like celebrities, and it gives Constance her "Big Break".
Deadpan Snarker: In a show which is about marginalized people living downtrodden lives and regularly abasing themselves when serving food to people richer, more powerful and more successful than they are, this is pretty much a given. Casey and Henry do their fair share, but Roman is probably the best example.
(Discussing Henry's outfit) Henry: I was going for "helpful, gay pirate." Casey: You don't look helpful.
The Ditz: Constance in Season 1 and Lydia in season 2. Although both Jane Lynch and Megan Mullaly were playing a ditzy female character, both brought their own brands of ditziness.
Doing It for the Art: Henry is implied to have been a talented actor who turned his back on acting after being unable to shed his image as a beer commercial mascot. Roman, similarly, is unable to sell any of his scripts because of his commitment to "Hard Sci-Fi" (although this actually turns out to be a dedication to Technobabble-laden exposition at the cost of exciting events or relatable characterization).
Dyeing for Your Art: Roman uses this trope in "Willow Canyon Homeowners Annual Party" to trick Kyle into shaving all his hair (although Kyle only gets to do his left eyebrow before the scheme is revealed to him) by giving Kyle a fake voicemail that a character he's auditioning for is being rewritten as a cancer patient undergoing chemotherapy.
In "Taylor Stiltskin Sweet Sixteen", poor Ron is too high to keep himself from saying "nigger" while hanging out with some rappers. Subverted—at the end of the episode, it seems to have actually made them all friends.
In "James Ellison Funeral", Lydia asks awkwardly, loudly, and bluntly about how James Ellison died.
In "Constance Carmell Wedding", the circumstances surrounding Danielle's parents' divorce means that Danielle and Ron can finally be together, but that doesn't change the fact that Ron just cheerfully told Danielle that her parents are getting divorced.
Foreshadowing: In "Pepper McMasters Singles Seminar", Ron tells Constance and Henry a Scare 'Em Straight story about a friend mixing prescription drugs and liquor and nearly dying. The same happens to Bruce.
Gag Penis: Ron's is briefly visible as he hastily stuffs it back into his pants.
Genius Bruiser: Roman is extremely irritated to meet a hulking college football player who is better-read than he is, as well as a pre-med student.
Global Ignorance: Constance thinks that Toronto is part of the United States in "California College Conservative Union Caucus".
Hilarious in Hindsight: In the 6th episode, Henry's old acting buddy Michael talks about playing Edgar Allan Poe in an adaptation of a graphic novel where Poe an Lincoln deal with mystical amulets and vampires. Considering an adaptation of both Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and a fictionalized thriller version involving Poe entitled The Raven are about to come out, this isn't quite as far fetched.
Informed Ability: Averted with Henry's acting. You hear a comment here and there about his talent and then he blows everyone away in "Steve Guttenberg's Birthday Party".
Informed Judaism: Casey Klein's religion is never brought up in season one. In season two, she makes two references to being Jewish, though it never factors into her actions at all. Actress Lizzy Caplan is Jewish in real life.
It Is Pronounced Tro-PAY: In "Steve Guttenburg's Birthday", Kyle thinks "Nietzsche" is pronounced "Niche". He also thinks "velour" is pronounced "vel-hour".
It's Personal: Lydia's notes for "Wesley Snipes"'s movie in "Joel Munt's Big Deal Party" involves adding several layers of this trope.
Jerk Ass: Roman, and also most of the hosts of parties. But not Steve Guttenberg.
Just Friends: Henry and Casey for much of the series, especially after they first sleep with each other.
Large Ham: Most people belonging to the community theater in "Not On Your Wife Opening Night".
Marijuana Is LSD: Roman accidentally eats three marijuana muffins and goes on some kind of cosmic journey of introspection in "Constance Carmell Wedding". To be fair, he eats an absurd amount of the stuff.
Matzo Fever: None of the other male waiters are Jewish, but they all have the hots for the smoking Semite Casey Klein.
May-December Romance: Constance and her fiance Howard in "Constance Carmell Wedding". Howard's daughter shows up halfway into the party and turns out to be Constance's age.
Meaningful Name: Constance is named for the fact that in her pursuit of her dreams and her optimism, she's completely constant.
Ron is making some progress on the former class president in "James Rolf High School Twentieth Reunion" when Kyle and Roman barge in arguing over Cool Versus Awesome.
Later he has an absolute perfect moment to make a move... unfortunately moments earlier he had just chugged an entire bottle of hard liquor, and well you can guess what happens next...
Mushroom Samba: Over the course of the series, there is at least one instance for every character in which they're tripping on some substance, either inadvertently or on purpose.
Naked People Are Funny: Hell, it's enough to make an otherwise horrifying tale of skull fractures hilarious in "Pepper McMasters Singles Seminar". Or at least stoned-out-of-their-minds Constance and old paramour Bruce think so.
One Dialogue, Two Conversations: In "Joel Munt's Big Deal Party", Lydia shares light conversation with one of the attendees in the bathroom and remarks that she "came in here to powder my nose, but I can't find the stuff." The attendee lends Lydia her compact...which is full of cocaine. Later on she asks a different woman the same thing and actually receives makeup.
Some of the attendees are pointedly non-politically correct because they champion free speech—for example, one short guy encourages Casey to call him "shrimp".
Meanwhile, Constance gets offended at one attendee's joke about a gay man when the punchline doesn't actually have anything to do with homosexuality in itself. Also, the guy who told the joke is, himself, gay. Then she gets mad about a black attendee not getting to vote on an issue at the party (the problem isn't his race, it's the fact that he's a non-citizen) and thinks the attendees have problems with women having free speech when they correct her.
Political Stereotype: Zigzagged in "California College Conservative Union Caucus". The attendees are certainly conservative—annoyingly so—but the worst part of the stereotype is subverted when they're proven to not be homophobic or racist. But then a couple gets in a bullheaded argument about family values versus a political career.
Many of the actors have past connections with Rob Thomas, in particular with Veronica Mars. Ryan Hansen (Kyle) and Kristen Bell (Uda) were main characters, Ken Marino (Ron) had a recurring role, Adam Scott (Henry) and Jane Lynch (Constance) guest starred. Enrico Colantoni and Jason Dohring, both main characters on Veronica Mars, guest starred in episodes 1 and 2, respectively. Ed Begley Jr., who had a recurring role in season 3 of Veronica Mars, guest starred in episode 3. Also, Daran Norris (Cliff) and Ryan Devlin (Mercer) show up in episode 4.
Several of the stars and guest stars have also been associated with Apatow productions: Martin Starr, Lizzy Caplan, Jane Lynch, Adam Scott, Ken Jeong, Kristen Bell, & Christopher Mintz-Plasse.
Various members of The State appear in one-shot roles. Ken Marino is a veteran of that group.
Raging Stiffie: Kyle spikes Roman's drink with a ground-up Viagra in "Pepper McMasters Singles Seminar" to get back at him for the incident detailed in "Dyeing for Your Art". However, there still has to be real arousal for the erection to start, making for a Brick Joke during The Tag.
Ruthless Foreign Gangsters: The staff caters an event for a gang of Eastern European gangsters of unspecified ethnicity, though the name "Zoltan" suggests that they're Hungarian. They're celebrating their leader getting away with murder, and the staff has reason to suspect that they're plotting another.
Stereotype Reaction Gag: Unintentionally implemented in an attempt to avert it by Ron in episode 1. Having just attended a racial sensitivity seminar, he spends the episode avoiding anything that can be construed as using stereotypes.
(An African-American man at the party drops a piece of chicken on the floor, Ron picks it up) Ron: Can you get this man some more fried chick— (Looks up and sees the man) ...Appetizers that are not shrimp?
The Stoner: Ron makes frequent allusions to his past as a stoner. In the first part of Season 2 he reverts to his old ways until getting trapped in a coffin while smoking in "James Ellison Funeral."
Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Lydia replaces Constance in season two. They're both weird ditzes. Lydia eventually gets more fleshed out and she moves away from being too similar to Constance, but the fact that she replaced her is lampshaded in "Constance Carmell Wedding".
Ron downs a bottle of whiskey a la Bluto Blutarsky in Animal House. It ends exactly how you expect it would.
A company picnic champion learns that there are downsides to winning the hot dog-eating contest just before a softball game.
Waiting for a Break: All of the main characters are waiting for their big break, with the exception of Henry, who has given up. Casey is an aspiring comedic actress. Ryan is an aspiring actor/musician/model. Roman is an aspiring writer. Ron is aspiring to run a "Soup-R-Crackers" chain restaurant. Constance is a former B-movie actress who is still on the prowl for roles. Lydia is completely invested in getting her daughter's big break.