Party Down” had been in a holding pattern for months. The second season finished filming late in ’09, and new Starz president Chris Albrecht – who was not with the network when the show was developed, and who was at HBO back when that channel passed on an earlier iteration of the series – wasn’t in a hurry to order a third, even though all the actors were on one-year contracts and available to take other jobs that would prevent them from returning to the show. (It had already happened with Jane Lynch, and it happened this year with Adam Scott and Ryan Hansen.)
Albrecht said in January that he wanted to see how the show performed when it came back and… it did not perform well. “Party Down” was one of the funniest comedies on television, but it was also one of the least-watched. The season finale drew an average of 74,000 viewers, according to TV By the Numbers. That is not a good total.
74,000 viewers? That is just criminally — CRIMINALLY — underrated.
“Party Down” was hilarious, especially this season, and the entire run should be available for Netflix subscribers as part of its streaming service.
During his executive session at the TCA Press Tour, Fox President of Entertainment Kevin Reilly announced that they’ve finished 13 episodes of “Glee,” assuring us that “the show delivers. It’s fantastic.” While this is exactly the sort of thing you’d expect a network president to say, those of us who caught the pilot episode of the series when it aired earlier this year couldn’t be much more hopeful that Reilly isn’t just talking out of his arse.
It was an interesting experiment for Fox to air the series pilot months before the series was to make its proper debut, but it created the kind of buzz that makes network executives giddy.
“We didn’t really think that a one-time-only play was going to be about ratings,” said Reilly. “It was really a marketing stunt to a certain extent, and it’s something that has ended up being very successful. In fact, it could be the marker for something we’re going to employ more frequently, because our marketing effort in these things get wedged into such a narrow window from the time they’re ready to put out there to the time they air. We wanted people to talk about it and take time to get their heads around it. It did a 4.3 rating ultimately in the Live-Plus-Seven. It’s been sampled by 25 million people between TV, the online site, and Hulu, which has been unbelievably strong. We’re going to repeat it again. We’ve heard the chatter, and the talk continues to get more and more positive.
“We were at Comic-Con last week, which was a stretch for this show,” he admitted. “We were nervous nobody was going to show up. It wasn’t even in the main venue. There were thousands of people out the door, and it was like The Beatles were there. There’s something happening with the show. With that said, we’re both very confident there is a core audience for this show that is going to be there and it will be successful. How much the upside is…? I don’t think we’re looking for this to be necessarily the biggest phenomenon of the fall. It is a little bit of an offbeat show, but we’d certainly love to have it in that square success category. We know it’s a creative success because we’ve now seen the work. So all in all, we like that strategy. It worked very well.”
Ken Marino is a busy working actor — his recent gigs include stints on the CW’s unjustly slain “Reaper” and the Starz Network’s “Party Down” — and is doubtless usually too focused on whatever project’s in front of him to look back. This week, however, sees the long-sought DVD release of “The State,” the sketch comedy series that Marino (along with Michael Ian Black, David Wain, Joe Lo Truglio, Thomas Lennon, Ben Garant, and many more) did for MTV way back in the young and innocent ’90s. Never a huge ratings success, “The State” has nonetheless acquired cult status in the years since its cancellation, and its arrival on the home market is the answer to many fans’ prayers — making Will Harris’ recently conducted interview with Marino something of a “State” retrospective (and a perfectly timed one, at that). As it turns out, Ken hasn’t seen those old episodes in years — and wasn’t all that hopeful about seeing them on DVD:
“David (Wain) kind of headed the campaign to get it done, and he dealt with the outside forces that were trying to put it together or to block it or whatever, so I would just get E-mail updates. At a certain point, I just got numb to that. I was just, like, ‘Oh, it’s never gonna happen.'”
Reminiscing about his State days, Marino opened up about the writing process, the troupe’s battles with MTV, the origins of the infamous phrase “I want to dip my balls in it,” and the long-lost album the State recorded for Warner Bros.:
“”From what I remember, it’s a drunken mess. We were, like, ‘Okay, if we take all our money and get tickets and go to the Bahamas to record it at a recording studio down there, we won’t really make any money, but we’ll be in the Bahamas for two weeks. You wanna do that?’ If you listen closely on a number of the pieces, you’ll hear ice in our glasses making noise, because we were constantly drinking whatever local flavored drinks were around.”
To read the rest of the interview — including Ken’s thoughts on a “Reaper” movie and Jane Lynch’s recent departure from “Party Down” — click here!
If you’ve checked out Bullz-Eye’s TV Power Rankings for April 2009, then you’ve already seen the site’s picks for the top 20 shows currently airing, several honorable-mention entries, and what series they’re most excited to see return. Given the way new programs are popping up constantly throughout the year, however, it was always inevitable that the voting for the Power Rankings would close just as a few promising series were making their debuts but before their consistency could be properly gauged. Here, then, are five shows which, at least as it stands right now, look like they have the potential to be ranked next time around.
1. “Party Down,” Starz. It’s a longstanding Hollywood tradition for producers to build themselves a gaggle of go-to actors who they can always count on to make an appearance in one of their projects, and although it’s Joss Whedon who has one of the most recognizable posses on television, it’s clear that Rob Thomas is building a pretty solid one, too. In “Party Down,” which focuses on a Hollywood catering company helmed by aspiring actors and actresses, you can’t go more than a few minutes without seeing someone who once appeared on “Veronica Mars.” Ryan Hansen is the only “Party Down” regular who held the same status on “Mars” as well, having played Dick Casablancas, but Adam Scott (“Stepbrothers”), Ken Marino (“The State”), and Jane Lynch, who most recently proved hilarious in “Role Models,” all made visits to “Veronica” at some point or other. Enrico Colentoni had an unforgettable nude scene in the first episode of “Party Down,” and it looks like Kristen Bell will be turning up in the season finale.
Paul Rudd is one of the other co-producers of “Party Down,” and it’s clear he had a hand in bringing some of his favorite talent onto the show as well. Martin Starr, late of “Freaks and Geeks,” is here, and after scoping out IMDb, it looks like Ken Jeong will be turning up in a future episode. With all this talent, you won’t be surprised to learn that this is arguably the funniest new show of the spring season…if seasons even still exist, that is…and is already shaping up to be the place for cool comedians and actors to guest-star. “Crash” may have been a bust as Starz’s first original series, but count on “Party Down” to do for the network what “Mad Men” did for AMC.