Today, a very vocal minority slice of the Internet is bemoaning the decision that the Starz network made to cancel their beloved show about the Hollywood catering circuit called Party Down. The show went from being all but ignored during its first (brilliant) season to becoming a critical darling during its second (quite excellent) slate, but thanks to a combination of mass viewer disinterest (the show’s finale scored a dismal 0.0 Nielsen rating with adults 18-49) and poor succession planning on the network’s behalf, last Friday’s second season closer ended up being the series finale. And you know what? I’m totally okay with that!
Don’t mistake my lack of tears (tearz?) over Starz president Chris Albrecht‘s decision to axe the show for a lack of passion for Party Down. Quite the opposite, in fact: I strongly believe that it deserves to be included in any conversation about the best half-hour television comedies of this century and, once we all have the benefit of a few years of hindsight, I would argue that it will end up with a fate similar to the film Wet Hot American Summer, a project that also failed to strike a chord with audiences during its initial run but eventually found itself a slavishly devoted cult audience thanks to the power of good, old fashioned word-of-mouth (and not any of this viral, social marketing tomfoolery). Additionally, I am going to miss the red hot and entirely natural romantic chemistry between leads Adam Scott and Lizzy Caplan ferociously.
That said, the writing was Sharpie’d on the wall about this show’s fate months ago. After losing Jane Lynch to Glee near the end of the show’s first season, Starz made the boneheaded financial decision to sit idly by as two of show’s core stable of actors were poached by the Peacock Network: Adam Scott joined Parks And Recreation and Ryan Hansen is set to star in Friends With Benefits. The show would’ve been able to effectively soldier on without Hansen, but Scott was an integral element to the show’s success. He was the program’s audience surrogate, the character whose stability provided the emotional stability that allowed the comedy — both of the lovably goofy AND dark, painfully awkward varieties — that occurred around him to flourish. In short, without him, there isn’t really a show.
Think of it this way. Imagine Starz had turned a blind eye to the show’s anemic ratings (really, we have to mention that 0.0 rating again!) and given a third season a greenlight anyway. The show would’ve had to find a brand new protagonist, one whose comedic sensibilities meshed with the rest of the ensemble cast AND who was capable of being a romantic lead (because, face it, there’s no way that person could’ve been Ron or Roman). The show’s creators were able to seamlessly transition from Jane Lynch to Megan Mullally because both actresses served as support characters, but the show’s momentum would’ve been set back to square one if they had to find a new Henry. And don’t say that could’ve been Lizzy Caplan/Casey, because that would’ve required a complete overhaul of her character’s creative constitution.
Allow me to make this analogy, SAT style:
Henry Pollard:Party Down :: Sam Malone:Cheers
Translation: Cheers was able to survive the loss of Diane, but if they had ever lost Sam, there wouldn’t have been a show. In a similar vein, I would argue that Party Down could’ve survived the loss of Casey*, but the loss of Henry was impossible for the show to overcome. As soon as Adam Scott agreed to join the exceptionally talented cast of characters on Parks And Rec, this show’s fate was sealed.
So while we’ll certainly shed a tear or two tonight that we’ll never get another new episode of Party Down, we’re content with the knowledge that 20 near-perfect episodes of this show will always exist. Chris Albrecht will no doubt catch some heat from Internet ruffians for canceling the show, but if you put aside the fiscal blunder he and the network made earlier this spring, it’s near impossible to make the case that Albrecht made the wrong creative decision today (except, that is, if you’re Martin Starr).
R.I.P. Party Down (2009-2010)
*That’s not to say that Lizzy Caplan was anything other than great, mind you!