Follow TV Tropes


Series / Party Down

Go To

Party Down is a Work Com broadcast on the Starz network between 2009 and 2010, with a revival season in 2023. It was created by Rob Thomas (Veronica Mars), John Enbom, Dan Etheridge, and Paul Rudd,

The show 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.

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.
  • Adaptation Decay:
    • "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 CG 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.
  • Affably Evil: After many twists and turns, Ricky Sargulesh turns out to be this. He's intimidating but actually quite friendly, buttering up the Party Down crew and getting along with everyone. Every suspicious thing about him seems to be all a misunderstanding until Roman realizes Ricky really does intend to murder his driver.
  • Affectionate Nickname: Constance calls Patrick Duffy "Duffels" in "Constance Carmell Wedding".
  • Age-Gap 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.
  • All for Nothing: At the end of the first season, Ron finally gets to run his Soup-R-Crackers...but by the start of Season 2, we find out he only had the job for a few months before the company folded.
  • All Work vs. All Play: Henry vs. Ron. In season one, Ron is all work, Henry is all play; in the beginning of season two, their roles flip.
  • Amazing Freaking Grace: In "James Ellison Funeral" (where else?).
  • And Starring: Lizzy Caplan as Casey.
  • Arc Words: "It's like a fairy tale." First said by Constance at the decidedly un-fairy tale-like ending of "Taylor Stiltskin Sweet Sixteen," and used to reinforce how shallow supposedly happy things are. As explained by Evie in "Jack Botty's Delayed Post-Pandemic Surprise Party" when describing her unhappy marriage:
    Evie: See, that should be a big red flag. Why does anybody say that? If it's like a fairy tale, it is a fairy tale. It seems super obvious when you say it out loud.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: In "James Ellison Funeral", Kyle complains about his movie going straight to video, a lover not calling him back, and his Xbox malfunctioning.
  • As Himself: Rick Fox, Steve Guttenberg, George Takei, and Patrick Duffy.
  • Berserk Button:
    • 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 Alpha Bitch. Subverted when her cool friends do show up and she reverts to her bitchiness immediately.
  • Bigger Is Better in Bed: Possibly the one good thing to ever happen to Ron.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The finale of the show's original two-season run. Constance's new husband dies, but he voided the pre-nup, leaving her his fortune. Casey's big break gets cut from the Apatow movie, but she inspires Henry to get back into acting and attend an audition. Roman writes what very well may be his masterpiece on a roll of toilet paper, and Ron ends up with Danielle. Of course, by the time of Season 3 a lot of these things have changed or been undone...
  • Bland-Name Product: The Soup-R-Crackers soup/salad buffet Ron wants to open is likely a reference to Souplantation/Sweet Tomatoes.
  • Blonde Republican Sex Kitten: Roman asks a student if this trope has any truth to it in "California College Conservative Union Caucus".
  • Bourgeois Bohemian: Constance and her new friends in "Constance Carmell Wedding".
  • Brainless Beauty: Kyle.
  • Bratty Teenage Daughter: Lydia's daughter, Escapade.
  • Break the Haughty:
    • Roman does this when he tricks Kyle into shaving his eyebrows.
    • Joe Munt, Roman's former writing partner, does this to Roman over the course of an episode.
  • Brick Joke:
    • In "Not On Your Wife Opening Night", Casey wonders aloud whether "cougar" means something else in the gay community. Later on, a gay actor attracted to Roman is referred to as a cougar.
  • Broken Ace: We don't see much of it ourselves, but according to others, Henry was (and still is) a genuinely talented actor who has since been burned by Hollywood and has no interest in trying again. Casey eventually convinces him to start auditioning again, but by 2020 he's seemingly quit for good.
  • Butt-Monkey: Kyle and Roman.
  • 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.
  • Career Versus Man:
    • 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.
  • Casting Couch:
    • 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.
  • Catchphrase: 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.
  • Celebrity Paradox: In the first season, Casey mentions not getting a part on Reno 911!. Two cast members from that show, Thomas Lennon and Kerri Kenney-Silver, would later show up as other characters in Party Down.
  • Celebrity Resemblance: A minor Running Gag with Lydia is her propensity for mistaking random people for celebrities.
    • In "Not On Your Wife Opening Night", Lydia compliments a legal secretary at the community theater for her role in Misery.
    • In "Joel Munt's Big Deal Party", Lydia is too coked out to realize that she definitely did not just say hi to Keanu Reeves, Wesley Snipes, or Ed Harris.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Lampshaded, then Kyled, with regards to Baretta's Beretta.
    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.
    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".
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander Minder: Henry finds that his job largely consists of this duty when he gets promoted to manager.
  • 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.
  • Color Motif: Pink, the theme color of Party Down the catering company. It emphasizes what a lame job it is.
  • 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.
  • Control Freak: Uda Bengt.
  • Cringe Comedy: All over the place, but especially in "James Ellison Funeral."
  • Cut Himself Shaving: As revealed in "Celebrate Ricky Sargulesh", at some point in the past Ron was in a relationship with a co-worker and had a messy break-up. He apparently told Constance that the injuries were from stepping on a rake. And, well, they WERE from getting hit with a rake...
  • The Cynic: Henry and, to a lesser extent, Casey.
  • 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".
    • Regarding specific characters:
      • "James Rolf High School Twentieth Reunion" is focused on Ron's attempts to impress his former classmates, especially his crush.
      • "Joel Munt's Big Deal Party" is mostly about Roman clashing with his former writing partner and meeting an idol of his.
      • "Constance Carmell Wedding" is, predictably, centered around Constance as well as Henry and Casey's attempts to convince her not to marry a man they both think is untrustworthy.
      • "Once Upon a Time Proms Away Prom-otional Event" gives us a closer look at Lydia and her relationship with Escapade.
  • 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.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: In "Celebrate Ricky Sargulesh":
    Ricky: And so, I take from your example, I...turn to Ula and say, "Ula, will you be my wife?" (turns to Ula) Ula, will you be my wife?
  • Diagonal Billing: Done for Adam Scott and Ken Marino in the closing credits.
  • Did Not Get the Girl:
    • The ending of "James Rolf High School Twentieth Reunion."
    • The beginning of Season 3 reveals this happened to both Ron and Henry. Ron's girlfriend Danielle left him for someone else, and Casey has since gotten famous and left Los Angeles and Henry behind. At the end of the season, this happens to Henry again, when he chooses to end things with Evie and keep his job as an English teacher. However, the final scene of the season teases that Henry and Casey might still get back together some day.
  • 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.
  • Domestic Abuser: Casey's husband. Fortunately, she divorces him after a few episodes in season 1.
  • Downer Ending: "James Rolf High School Twentieth Reunion" ends with Ron regressing, chugging a bottle of whiskey and later vomiting in front of Melinda and collapsing to the ground while she cries. It's played for laughs, but it's still genuinely sad, and kicks off a downward spiral for Ron that continues into the next episode.
  • Drink-Based Characterization: A cultured author and the Jerkass screenwriter desperate to please him raise a stink over the lack of Calvados in "Joel Munt's Big Deal Party".
  • Drowning His Sorrows:
    • Happens to Ron in the final two episodes of Season One: the first happens when he learns a woman he had a crush on hooks up with someone else, and the second after Uda Bengt insults him, sending him into a spiral.
    • Kyle in "Nick DiCintio's Orgy Night" after being on the receiving end of a "The Reason You Suck" Speech.
  • Dumbass Has a Point: Ron in "Precious Lights Pre-School Auction." The way he expresses it makes no sense, but he is right that Henry is giving people crap for the same things he did when Ron was team leader.
  • Dumb Blonde: Kyle.
  • 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.
  • Embarrassing Ad Gig: Henry became famous for his role in a beer commercial that spawned the in-universe catchphrase "Are we having fun yet?!". He thinks the role killed his chances of having a real acting career, and he dreads being recognized in public.
  • Europeans Are Kinky: Ron is approached by a European porno producer.
  • Failure Is the Only Option: Whenever a character hopes they can get their big break this episode, you know it will end horribly for them.
  • Farce: The eponymous play in "Not On Your Wife Opening Night". The plot of the actual episode also quickly devolves into a farce, which is lampshaded by Henry.
  • Fee Fi Faux Pas: A repeated trope.
    • 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.
  • Freak Out: Ron's whole life seems to be one sustained breakdown, but his two most spectacular incidents were in "James Rolf High School Twentieth Reunion" where he drains a bottle of whiskey (after discovering that his classmates consider him a joke, a loser, etc.) and promptly projectile vomits it in the parking lot next to the former class president, a woman he was desperately trying to impress; and in "Stennheister-Pong Wedding Reception" where a verbal beatdown from Uda leads him to hide out in the catering van with vodka, without his pants, and sobbing about how he's an idiot.
  • 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".
  • Hidden Depths: As a midwestern mom, Lydia knows more about football than anyone else on the team, which comes in handy during the events of "Cole Landry's Draft Day Party."
  • Hookers and Blow: Joel Munt in "Joel Munt's Big Deal Party" is obsessed with it.
  • Hypocrite:
    • In "Pepper McMasters Singles Seminar", Constance finds old people repulsive despite hardly being a spring chicken herself.
    • In "Celebrate Rick Sargulesh", Roman actually has the nerve to call out Henry for sleeping with Casey when Roman had dibs and for sleeping with a co-worker in the same conversation.
    • Ron calls Henry out on this repeatedly in season two whenever Henry tries to get Ron to act professional on the job.
  • Humiliation Conga: Ron in a few episodes. Especially his class reunion where high school crush Melinda doesn't recognize him; Melinda's high school crush sleeps with her at the reunion; Ron gets wind from that same guy that people think he's pathetic; his story of how he got his nickname Bluto gets sadder; and he vomits in front of Melinda just as she's starting to turn around to him. The night ends as he's begging Melinda to call 9-1-1
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Each episode's title derives from whatever event the group is catering that episode.
  • I Know Mortal Kombat: Reading porn turns out to make Roman into an excellent orgy coordinator in "Nick DiCintio's Orgy Night".
  • Important Haircut: While Ron is a slacker, he wears his hair shaggy. When he's an insufferable jobsworth, he sports his signature flat-top.
  • Inelegant Blubbering: James Ellison's secret lover in "James Ellison Funeral".
  • 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's Personal: Lydia's notes for "Wesley Snipes"'s movie in "Joel Munt's Big Deal Party" involves adding several layers of this trope.
  • Jaded Washout: Henry starts as this in Season 1. He's the only member of the team not actively trying to make it in Hollywood and is seriously cynical. However, this changes after he and Casey start hooking up, and especially when he gets his promotion at the end of the season.
  • Jerkass: Roman, and also most of the hosts of parties. But not Steve Guttenberg.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: In "Kyle Bradway is Nitromancer," Lydia and Constance reminisce about Casey and Henry's relationship and get challenged by Roman. Although we know Roman was jealous of them, he points out that it's weird to be that invested in someone else's short-term fling:
    Lydia: You know, I always rooted for them as a couple.
    Constance: Me too.
    Roman: Why? Because they hooked up ten years ago on and off on a shit job? They never just dated or had a normal relationship. What if their bullshit got in the way of each of them finding the right person, hmmm? Why not root against them? Why root for them?
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold:
    • Howard, Constance's fiancee in the Season 2 finale, is a Dirty Old Man who Casey and Henry take an instant dislike to. However, he insists that he truly loves Constance and he proves it by signing his prenup with a false name, thereby successfully evading his daughter's wishes and leaving his fortune to Constance.
    • After mostly just being a Jerkass, Roman finally starts to show shades of this at the end of Season 3, thanks to Character Development. Specifically, he learns to laugh off the destruction of his car, feels stirrings of love and gets over his resentment when he finds out that love isn't reciprocated, and encourages Lucy to keep trying, just as she encouraged him.
  • 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".
  • Lighter and Softer: Season 3. While the show's original two-season run ended on a hopeful note, it still had a running theme of cynicism about Hollywood. Any success our main characters got was short-lived, and the only options were either to a) degrade yourself to please people in power b) fight viciously for bit parts that can easily be taken away from you, or c) completely give up on your dreams. However, Season 3 introduces An Aesop that you can find happiness in simply persevering, even if you never have the success you originally wanted. In particular, Henry chooses to keep his job as a high school English teacher because it makes him happier than being a star would, Kyle still has a role in a major movie (even though it's not the leading role he thought it was), Ron and Constance have found a way to keep Party Down going despite continued problems, Lydia realizes she can focus on her own life instead of Escapade's, and Roman and Lucy decide to keep pursuing their dreams even when they lose their masterpieces. And while there's still plenty of farce, gross out comedy, and awkward moments, there's far less Cringe Comedy, not to mention way fewer homophobic and pervy comments from Roman.
  • Literary Allusion Title: One of the people at "Joel Munt's Big Deal Party" is working on a movie called Pride and Prejudice. It's a Buddy Cop Movie; one of the cops is a white racist and the other is a rapper.
  • Love Triangle: Henry, Casey, Uda.
  • 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.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • "Ronald Donald" is only two letters away from Ronald McDonald, the grinning McDonald's mascot. It's fitting for a clownish character who works in food service, often sports a forced smile, and dreams of running a franchise restaurant.
    • Constance is named for the fact that in her pursuit of her dreams and her optimism, she's completely constant.
  • Mistaken for Masturbating: Happens in the very first episode, "Willow Canyon Homeowners Annual Party." A girl Kyle is making out with sees Ron attemptting to vigorously clean a stain out of his pants in the adjacent bathroom and assumes the worst.
  • Mistaken for Racist:
    • An offended black couple walk out in "Willow Canyon Homeowners Annual Party" when Ron loudly tells Henry not to ever serve two jiggers.
    • Kyle sings a song with lyrics that have unintentional Nazi overtones to an audience predominantly composed of Jews.
  • Moment Killer:
    • 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. The ultimate example is "KSGY-95 Prizewinner's Luau," where everyone in the main cast aside from Ron spends the entire episode tripping on shrooms.
  • 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.
  • The Neidermeyer: Ron.
  • Never Heard That One Before: Are we having fun yet?
  • No Sense of Personal Space: Constance.
  • Old-Timey Ankle Taboo: While raiding a theater company's costume department, Casey dresses herself in a bourka as a lark. Henry jokes that he's turned on by the sinful sight of her ankles.
  • 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.
  • Only Sane Employee: Henry in season two is the only one who has perspective and is holding the group together.
  • Only Sane Man: Henry typically takes this role, having no great ambition that clouds his understanding of events around him.
  • Political Overcorrectness: Played with in "California College Conservative Union Caucus".
    • 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.
  • Put on a Bus:
    • Constance after episode 8 of season 1 due to Jane Lynch's conflicting schedule with Glee. The Bus Came Back at the end of season 2, for her wedding and for occasional appearances in the revival season.
    • In the revival season, Casey has made it in Hollywood and quit Party Down, so she's not in the regular cast.
  • Raging Stiffie: Kyle spikes Roman's drink with a ground-up Viagra in "Pepper McMasters Singles Seminar" to get back at him. However, there still has to be real arousal for the erection to start, making for a Brick Joke during The Tag.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Kyle gets a pretty deflating one from a struggling actress he's hitting on about how he's just as much of a failure as her in "Nick DiCintio's Orgy Night", leading him to Drown His Sorrows.
  • Right Through His Pants: Both averted and played straight.
  • Running Gag: Whenever Uda's having a conversation, expect her to say a non sequitur or something insulting, only to then reveal that she's been responding to someone in her Bluetooth earpiece.
  • 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.
  • Self-Deprecation: "James Ellison Funeral":
    Henry: Most actors aren't very bright, so it has to be simple.
  • Self-Serving Memory: Constance clearly believes she was a much bigger actress in the 1990's than she actually was. When they cater his high school reunion, Ron is happy to be back at the school where he was the popular class clown. However, talking with his classmates makes him realize he was actually the loser everyone picked on.
  • Sensitivity Training: Ron in "Willow Canyon Homeowners Annual Party."
    Ron: I learned things that blew my mind. The term Mexican? Not offensive.
  • Serious Business:
    • Valhalla Catering, Party Down's rival catering company, is intense.
    • Roman takes everything way too seriously. He accuses someone of making a mockery of the body shot in "Nick DiCintio's Orgy Night".
    • "James Ellison Funeral" has a discussion about what a black person lusting after white people would be called, since "jungle fever" is only for whites who like blacks.
      Roman: "Temperate deciduous fever"? "Fjord fever"?
  • Short-Runner: Lasted for only two seasons, with 20 episodes in total.
  • "Shut Up" Kiss: Casey to Henry in "Steve Guttenberg's Birthday".
  • Sir Swears-a-Lot: Leonard Stilstskin in spades.
  • Sitcom Character Archetypes:
    • The Wisecracker: Henry
    • The Bully: Casey
    • The Charmer: Kyle
    • The Square: Ron
    • The Dork: Roman
    • The Goofball: Constance/Lydia
  • The Slacker: Henry in season 1, Ron in the early parts of season 2.
  • Slobs Versus Snobs: The undisciplined, quirky slobs of Party Down versus the regimented, vaguely terrifying snobs of Valhalla Catering. This is most evident in the picnic episode when the rivalry leads to a kickball game between the two companies. Despite Casey's efforts, Party Down ultimately loses when their "ringer" collapses on the field.
  • Small Role, Big Impact:
    • Uda Bengt only appears in two episodes but her relationship with Henry is an ongoing plot thread throughout most of Season 2.
    • Escapade has also only appeared onscreen twice (so far) but is frequently mentioned by Lydia.
  • Snap Back: In the 10 years between the end of the main show and the revival season, Ron has broken up with the daughter of the previous owner, so he's still in the same position he was in the main series. Henry didn't get the part he auditioned for at the end of season 2 and comes back to work for Party Down. Roman's magnum opus is revealed to have led nowhere so far, so he's still in the same position he was 10 years ago.
  • Space Whale Aesop: In "First Annual PI 2 A Symposium", Henry teaches kids that acting is the ticket to paying your bills, but not necessarily in the conventional way. He teaches his students to cry really hard if someone's trying to stiff you on the rent.
  • Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace: Happens twice during Constance's wedding, the second time for the wrong couple.
  • Squick: In-universe—Henry visibly shudders when Ron discusses semen shooting up and hanging off of the edge of his bike helmet in "Cole Landry's Draft Day Party".
  • Stage Mom: Lydia.
  • 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."
  • Straight Man: Henry, usually.
  • Straight Gay: Cole and Jerome in "Cole Landry's Draft Day Party".
  • Stripper/Cop Confusion: In "Pepper McMasters Singles Seminar" with both a cop and a nurse.
  • Stupid Boss: Ron.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Happens twice with Constance:
    • Bobbie St. Brown, who fills in for Constance in the final two episodes of the first season, is even more of a Cloud Cuckoolander than she is. She's also Constance's roommate and turns out to have been the one who hit her with her car (as Constance referenced in an earlier episode).
    • 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".
  • The Tag
  • Tear Jerker: In-universe, Henry's performance at "Steve Guttenberg's Birthday".
  • The Teaser
  • Technician Versus Performer: Kyle and Roman are constantly arguing about this; in this case Roman, as a writer, is the technician and Kyle is the performer.
  • Technobabble: Roman's scripts brim with it at the cost of actual plot or emotional resonance.
  • A Threesome is Manly: Roman does not think so.
  • Throw the Dog a Bone: Just as Ron bemoans his fate to a seemingly callous and unfeeling God, fate intervenes. It's still not completely without humiliation and pain though.
  • Time Skip: There are 10 years between the end of season 2 and the first episode of the revival season. There are an additional three years between the first and second episodes of that season, skipping completely over the pandemic.
  • Tomato in the Mirror: When Roman consumes a large quantity of marijuana, he starts ranting about his new idea "and when they get to the planet, they realize the alien civilization is themselves!"
  • Took a Level in Kindness: While he's hardly a nice person, Roman is much less acerbic and creepy in Season 3 than in the show's original run. He's still a pretentious nerd who can't stand Kyle, but he shows emotional maturity, doesn't act like a perv as much, and even manages a quasi-friendship with Lucy, as the two of them encourage each other not to give up on their dreams. By the end of the season he's possibly on the way to Jerk with a Heart of Gold status, as opposed to the straight Jerkass he was in the original series.
  • Too Much Information: In their first conversation together, Lydia tells Casey that her ex-husband is sexist, racist (yet had an affair with a black woman), anti-Semite, and homophobic.
  • Totally Radical: Lydia has apparently had some odd encounters due to misuse of "cougar" and "bear" in her online dating profile.
  • True Companions: Despite all the bickering, the team actually does have some modicum of this, as demonstrated by everyone getting entangled in Roman's revenge plot in "Joel Munt's Big Deal Party".
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot:
    • 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. Kyle 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.
  • Wax On, Wax Off: Subverted for humor when Kyle assumes a random Black guy is a master of the Blues. The Black guy turns Kyle into his errand boy just for kicks.
  • Wham Line:
    • The end of "Celebrate Ricky Sargulesh," when Roman has a critical realization:
    Roman: Wrong fat guy with glasses.
    • In "Kyle Bradway is Nitromancer," things seem to finally be going well for Ron, and it looks like Party Down will stay in business. And then:
    Ron: “It’s an amazing feeling to know that, for a fact, this year, 2020, is going to be the best year of my life."
  • Writers Suck:
    • Kyle brushes off Roman as a writer in "Celebrate Ricky Sargulesh".
    • The community theater actors in "Not On Your Wife Opening Night" pointedly avert this attitude, kissing up to Roman and proclaiming that in theater, the writer is God.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: Happens to all the characters at least once. Some standout examples:
    • Henry in "Taylor Stiltskin Sweet Sixteen" nearly gets a major supporting role in a big-budget movie.
    • In season two, Casey finally gets her Judd Apatow role only to find out her scene was cut in "Constance Carmell Wedding".
    • The Season 3 premiere has Ron looking like it's going great, getting control of Party Down, everything going his way...and then it's revealed this is March of 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic is about to destroy the catering business.