Party Down—not to be confused with reality show Party Down South—is a hilarious sitcom that ran for 20 episodes on Starz, from March 2009 through June 2010. Created by Rob Thomas, Paul Rudd, Dan Etheridge, and John Enbom, Party Down follows a group of Hollywood-based cater waiters who aspire to be something more than the pink bow ties they’re forced to wear. Henry (Adam Scott) gave up acting, while Kyle (Ryan Hansen), Casey (Lizzy Caplan), and Roman (Martin Starr) seek out acting and writing opportunities, and their boss, Ron (Ken Marino), wants to open an all-you-can-eat soup restaurant.
Jane Lynch (Constance) left the show near the end of the first season because of a contractual obligation to Glee, but Megan Mullally joined the cast in the second season as Lydia.
Each episode focuses on a different party and catering gig, with hijinks always ensuing. Because it aired at 10 p.m. on Fridays, hardly anyone watched the show. Through the power of DVD and Netflix, people slowly began to discover it, and Party Down eventually developed a cult following.
Despite the producers attracting esteemed guest stars like J.K. Simmons, Starz cancelled Party Down on June 30, 2010. Since the cancellation, rumors of a Party Down movie have been batted around, and a few cast and producer reunions have occurred. Here are 16 facts about the misanthropic series. Are we having fun yet?
1. IT WAS INSPIRED BY THE OFFICE.
Rob Thomas’s ex-girlfriend hooked him into watching Ricky Gervais’s original version of The Office. “It changed everything I had thought about television comedy,” Thomas told Details in an oral history of the show. “So I started calling my friends over, because I wanted someone to tell me that I wasn’t crazy and this was the greatest TV show that had ever been done. The guys I called over were the guys who ended up doing Party Down: Dan Etheridge and John Enbom and Paul Rudd.”
Thomas and friends met every week to watch the show, and then developed some ideas for their own series. “One of the very first ideas was, what happens to the ‘Can you hear me now?’ guy when that campaign dries up? What do you do if you’re 30 years old and you can’t get a job, or don’t even know if you want to do that anymore?” Rudd said.
“If The Office is a show about people who have really given themselves over to the rat race, let’s do a show about people who’ve chased the dream for far too long,” Thomas said.
2. ROB THOMAS FILMED THE PILOT IN HIS BACKYARD.
In 2007, when Veronica Mars’s episodes got reduced (and the show got canceled), Thomas found himself with a free month, so he called his friends to come to his house and film the Party Down pilot. He hired Adam Scott, Ken Marino, Ryan Hansen, and Jane Lynch, all of whom he had worked with on Veronica Mars.
Etheridge, Enbom, and Thomas co-directed the pilot and paid the actors $100 a day. The only casting differences were that Andrea Savage played Casey and James Jordan played Roman. The pilot was used as a demo and never was meant to be aired on TV. “We knew it could never be broadcast,” Thomas said. “We had a whole neighborhood Oscars scene in which we used plastic Oscar statues—just that scene alone meant it could never be aired because there is no one more protective of their brand than the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. We also used music that we didn’t pay for.”
Thomas initially sold Party Down to HBO, with Rudd slated to play Henry and Steve Carell as Ron. It didn’t work out with HBO or with the actors, so Thomas shopped the pilot around town. Starz wanted to get into comedy, so they signed on.
3. A POOR ECONOMY HELPED THE SHOW GET MADE.
In 2008, the world was in a financial crisis, and the Writers Guild of America had been on strike (it lasted 100 days). This allowed for many of the actors to be available. “I think it worked in our favor with the economy going to sh*t because that was one of the reasons why so many amazing actors [appear on the show],” Starr told /Film. “It made it much easier, because people were glad to be working at all and our show offered something much different.”
4. NO, IT WASN’T IMPROVISED.
“People ask all the time, ‘Was the show improvised?’ And I just take that as a huge compliment to the writing, to the performance, and also to the visual style,” Fred Savage, one of the show’s directors and producers, told Details. “Ninety percent of what you’re seeing is all scripted. The 10 percent that’s improv is some of the best moments.”
5. ADAM SCOTT TRAINED TO BE A BARTENDER.
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To play a bartender on the show, Scott had a bartender friend give him some tips. “They actually did come in handy, because especially in season one, I had so much dialogue while I’m making drinks, that if it didn’t look like I at least sort of knew how to make a drink, it would just be distracting,” Scott told Details. “And I really had to make those things. I mean, they weren’t accurate. It was just pouring things into a cup. But I had to do it without looking like a complete dipsh*t.”
On the other hand, Hansen didn’t do any training. “I think we were supposed to be kind of sh*tty caterers anyway, so I’m like, ‘You know what? I’m not going to take that bartending class,’” he told Details.
6. LIZZY CAPLAN LIKED THAT THE SHOW CATERED TO COMEDY SNOBS.
“Our fans, even though we didn’t have huge numbers, were exactly the type of people we were hoping to impress: smart and vocal and funny and almost snobby about their comedy preferences,” Caplan told HitFix of the series’s fan base. “You look at hugely-rated shows like Two and a Half Men that get like a gazillion viewers—I have the sneaking suspicion that not one of them watches Party Down. I think if a girl who liked Party Down found out that her boyfriend liked Two and a Half Men, she would break up with him.”
Caplan wished the show would’ve reached a bigger audience, but that wasn’t the point. “It always sort of felt like the appeal for our fans was that the show felt like it was theirs,” she said. “It belonged to them, and they discovered it, and they told their circles of friends. It was like a secret club of people in the know. Of course, secret clubs don’t usually lead to TV show pick-ups.”
7. HANSEN DESCRIBES PARTY DOWN AS A “VERY DEPRESSING COMEDY.”
Hansen’s character, Kyle, was based on the stereotypical Hollywood actor/musician/model who uses his good looks to get by. “Our show definitely captures the realistic side of what people have to go through, in order to make it in L.A. and do their dream,” he told /Film. “It’s realistic, definitely, but it’s also very depressing. This is very depressing comedy. Which is funny.”
Thomas and the other creators came up with the phrase “crealism” to describe the show—comedy realism. “How far can you push the universe and yet still believe it exists in the real world?” Thomas told Details. “Most comedies on prime-time television exist in a comedy universe. I’m an enormous 30 Rock fan, but that is a comedy universe. We tried to keep Party Down in a universe people recognize, because it makes the pain and the humiliation all hurt a little more.”
8. SCOTT DIDN’T CARE IF ANYONE WATCHED THE SHOW.
Not a lot of people watched the show when it aired—the second season finale drew just 74,000 viewers—but that didn’t bother Scott. “I think part of what was so special about it was us not knowing if it would ever be seen, or if people would ever be into it, or if it would ever even be as good as it was feeling to us,” he told Interview Magazine. “So we had this sort of gang mentality of it being us against the world. Who gives a sh*t if anyone ever sees this? So there was something really fun about that—that no one was paying attention to it, so we could do whatever we wanted.”
9. AN ADULT FILM-THEMED EPISODE LED TO AN AWKWARD ENCOUNTER WITH THE POLICE.
After filming the adult video film awards episode, “Sin Say Shun Awards Afterparty,” the prop person had a lot of adult paraphernalia in her car. She got into a car accident, and when she arrived at the hospital, the cops discovered the props. “And when the cops showed up to check out her car, her trunk was completely full of dildos and sex toys and whatnot,” Enbom said. “She was in no position to explain what was going on.”
10. THE CAST REALLY DID BOND.
In an interview with Details, Jane Lynch explained how spot-on the casting was, and how everyone “adored each other.” “We had such a good time,” she said. “I started smoking. Everybody was smoking. Except for Ryan. We would go out afterwards, and I never do that. I never fraternize with my coworkers.”
11. STARZ ENCOURAGED THE PRODUCERS TO ALLOW FOR SOME NUDITY.
“Let’s put it this way: We were asked by the network, and not in an offensive way, to explore premium content, and part of that was some nudity if it was possible,” Dan Etheridge said. “It made us all flinch a little bit. Porn awards [“Sin Say Shun Awards Afterparty”] was born from trying to take that request and figure out a way to do it that will enhance the show. Failed orgy [“Nick DiCintio’s Orgy Night”], similar thing.” According to Caplan, “[Starz] loved boobs. I think it was coming from high up. There were just random boobs flying around in our show sometimes.”
12. MEGAN MULLALLY BROKE HER WRIST DURING THE SECOND DAY OF FILMING THE SECOND SEASON.
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As she was driving to work, Megan Mullally got into a car accident. “I broke my wrist,” she told Details. “The other person was fine, thank god. I’ve never had a broken bone, but it wasn’t a horrible tragedy or anything. Apparently, when Dan and John got the call that I’d been in a car accident, that’s all the information they got. They didn’t know if I was, like, dead, or fine, or anything. And then apparently the thought crossed their mind that I was just trying to get out of being on the show and it was all a big ruse.” The writers quickly wrote her broken wrist into the script.
13. KEN MARINO LIKED ENDING THE SHOW AS IS.
“I would have loved to do maybe one more season,” Marino told Details. “But there’s that feeling now that the show is contained in these five, six hours of story, and how much more story do you need to tell? There’s something quite nice about that. You watch it, and you’re done, and you say, ‘Oh, I like that nice piece of TV.’”
14. SCOTT DIDN’T LEAVE PARTY DOWN TO PLAY BEN ON PARKS AND RECREATION.
It may seem like Scott departed Party Down for the better opportunity to star on a hit show, but that’s not how it went down. In 2009 Chris Albrecht took over Starz and left the cast and crew hanging. “There was a misconception out there when the whole thing happened that I was leaving an active show,” Scott told Details. “They were in the process of killing Party Down when I took the Parks and Recreation job. What I did was go to Starz and say, ‘I’m getting an offer from one of my favorite shows. I would love to do it, but if you want to keep me around for Party Down we can have that conversation.’ And they said, ‘Have fun on Parks and Recreation.’ The message was very clear to me.”
However, Scott felt conflicted for “leaving” the show. “Ken and I had this long heart-to-heart on the phone where I realized halfway through I was kind of calling to get his blessing,” Scott said. “He was basically telling me, ‘You need to do this. It’s time to say goodbye to the show.’” In June 2010, Starz officially announced there would not be a third season.
15. CHILDRENS HOSPITAL HAD A MINI PARTY DOWN REUNION.
Ken Marino and Megan Mullally both star on the show Childrens Hospital. During the end credits of season 3 episode 13, from August 2011, Casey, Kyle, Lydia, Roman, and Ron—sporting those signature bow ties—appear to be catering a “Jew mitzvah” at the hospital.
16. A PARTY DOWN MOVIE IS PROBABLY NOT HAPPENING.
Since the show went off the air, Rob Thomas and cast members have constantly been asked about a Party Down movie. In a 2015 interview, Thomas said he hoped it would still happen. “I would say that if you were to ask every producer on the show and every actor on the show, everyone would love to do it,” he told Variety. “The problem is they all became big stars and have their own shows and trying to schedule that … everyone is doing too well for us to be able to schedule a Party Down movie.”
When HitFix asked Adam Scott about it in December 2015, he responded with: “I kind of doubt that’ll ever happen. I mean, if anything were to ever happen, it would probably be some more episodes, but I don’t know. I feel like it’s been a little while. It would be super fun, but I also feel like maybe it’s best to kind of leave it. Like, why screw something up? Or why take the risk of screwing something up? On the other hand, if everybody else was into it, I would totally do it.”
But if the movie did get off the ground, Thomas has an idea. “We talked about structuring it like Four Weddings and a Funeral,” he told Collider in 2011. “We don’t envision the movie as one long party. We think each act would be a new party and we’d stretch it out over the better part of a year so we’d be able to see the growth and do long arch stories for our characters and get some finality to some of the existing storylines.”
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