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Facts Only Huge Fans Know About Party Down

One of the most underrated shows of all time is "Party Down," a wacky series from the comedic minds of John Enbom, Rob Thomas, Dan Etheridge, and Paul Rudd. The show is centered around a small catering company whose workers are desperate to break into the entertainment industry in Los Angeles. It stars some of the biggest comedic performers of our time, including Adam Scott, Ken Marino, Lizzy Caplan, Martin Starr, Jane Lynch, and many more actors who are now household names. With a possible revival on the way sometime in the future, it's a perfect opportunity to discuss this gut-busting comedy.

"Party Down" aired on the Starz Network from 2009 to 2010, only getting two 10-episode seasons before being unceremoniously canceled, thanks in no small part to a shifting cast and low viewership. Nonetheless, the show gained critical praise during its run and has retained a dedicated cult fanbase who enjoy the genuinely funny writing and performances. "Party Down" Season 1 holds a respectable 87% score on Rotten Tomatoes, while the second season rocks a 100% score, with a general consensus that the series pioneered the genre of comedies about struggling actors trying to make ends meet.

Although the show has faded a bit from public consciousness and many of the stars involved have gone on to bigger and better things, "Party Down" remains an enduring staple of mid-2000s comedy. Fans of "Party Down" already know all this, but there's plenty of interesting behind-the-scenes info that the average person may not know about how this show became what it was. Here are facts that only huge fans know about "Party Down."

Rob Thomas took inspiration from The Office

"Party Down" is the brainchild of writer and creator Rob Thomas, who is also known for creating other cult shows like "90210," "Veronica Mars," and "iZombie," to name a few of his projects. His involvement in the development of "Party Down" was substantial, as he was its creator, writer, and producer. His contributions were also in finding inspiration from other successful comedy series at the time, which he brought to the writers' room.

Speaking to Details for "Party Down: The Complete Oral History," Thomas tells the story of how he came to see the British version of "The Office" as an inspiration for what they were making themselves. He said, "I had this ex-girlfriend who told me I needed to watch this British series, and I finally got around to watching it just so I could tell her I did. It was the British version of 'The Office.' And you know, that first scene where Ricky Gervais is hiring a forklift operator — it's just one shot on his face, and he gives this monologue, and by the end of it, my jaw was on the floor. It changed everything I had thought about television comedy. 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." From that spark of inspiration came the type of awkward cringe humor that "Party Down" ended up embracing itself.

The show originally had different cast members

"Party Down" was in development for a very long time, with about six years dedicated to getting the show actually made. In an excerpt from the "Party Down: Season 1" DVD extras, they went into detail about the arduous process the creators went through in developing the show by discussing many of the different elements that they worked on for so long, ranging from the concept and characters to the lighting and budget. 

Some of the biggest changes between the pre-production and the final show involved the cast, with some notable changes in the actors who ended up playing these parts. One major example is how in the original pilot the role of Casey Klein was played by Andrea Savage rather than Lizzy Caplan. According to Videogum, Savage actually appeared in the old pitch video that the creators used to sell the show to Starz in the first place. There was no bad blood regarding the recasting, however, since Savage ends up appearing in the show in a different role as Annie LeGros in Season 2. The showrunners also originally wanted co-creator Paul Rudd to have a starring role on the show. Unfortunately, he couldn't appear at all thanks to full-time film commitments.

Adam Scott left the show for Parks and Rec

A big controversy in the "Party Down" fanbase is what happened with Adam Scott, who played the leading role of Henry Pollard on the show. Towards the end of the second season, Scott announced that he would be leaving "Party Down" to take a role on NBC's hit sitcom "Parks and Recreation." Not long after that, the show was canceled entirely. There has been a lot of speculation in the community surrounding what effect Scott's announcement had on the show's end, but he has gone on record in recent years to defend his actions.

In a discussion with Details, Scott said that the show was already on its way to the television graveyard when he accepted the offer to play Ben Wyatt in "Parks and Recreation." He said, "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." Starz responded by effectually saying, "Have fun on 'Parks and Recreation.'" While it's true that Adam Scott left "Party Down" to join the full-time cast of a different show, his reasoning was understandable. 

It was deeply connected to Veronica Mars

Other than "Party Down," the biggest project created by Rob Thomas has got to be the mystery drama series "Veronica Mars." That show stars Kristen Bell as Veronica Mars, a teenage private investigator who solves various mysteries in her small town. Much like "Party Down," this show also gained a massive cult following that ended up resulting in the show being revived for a fourth and final season on Hulu back in 2019.

Thomas seems to have a loyalty to certain actors, because countless performers who appeared in "Veronica Mars" make significant appearances throughout the two seasons of "Party Down." Ken Marino is one example; he played the character of fellow private investigator Vinnie Van Lowe in 13 episodes of "Veronica Mars" before going on to star as Ron in "Party Down." Another one is Kristen Bell herself, who stars in "Veronica Mars" and shows up in two episodes of "Party Down" as catering competitor Uda Bengt. Other actors who double-dipped in both shows include Joey Lauren Adams, J.K. Simmons, Jane Lynch, Adam Scott, Ryan Hansen, and Steve Guttenberg.

There wasn't much improv

Due to the extremely talented cast of comedians both on and off camera who were involved in making "Party Down," many just assumed it was an improv-heavy show similar to "The League" or "Reno 911!" However, that apparently isn't the case, according to the creators. The show was much more writing-oriented than is generally assumed. Several people involved in the show have also said that there wasn't nearly as much improv on set as people usually think. 

According to Details, Fred Savage openly commented on how fans assume they came up with all the jokes on the fly. He said, "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. Ninety percent of what you're seeing is all scripted. The 10 percent that's improv is some of the best moments." The reasons for having less improv seemed to be utilitarian in nature thanks to their limited time and budget. In a piece by Vulture, they noted how "the editors had only three days for post-production after filming, which didn't allow for many improvised takes to make it to the final cut, although the actors tried a lot of things."

That said, some of the fan-favorite moments are indeed instances where the actors went off–script, including one particularly hilarious scene where Kyle responds to the question "Can you pop a lock?" (which was apparently totally improvised). 

Economic trouble helped the show

Believe it or not, "Party Down" might not have existed without the crushing recession of the 2008 financial crisis. That may seem like a pretty strange connection, but apparently the ramifications of the economy being in the toilet made certain aspects of the show's production more manageable.

According to an interview with Slashfilm, actor Martin Starr talked a bit about how the recession actually helped make the show much easier than it would have been otherwise. He said, "They've been trying to make this show for, like, three-and-a-half years...we did fall into a time-slot right as the economy fell to s***...I think it worked in our favor with the economy going to s*** because that was one of the reasons why so many amazing actors [appear on the show]. It made it much easier, because people were glad to be working at all and our show offered something much different." An unexpected result of the struggling economy at the time was the Writers Guild strike, which put a halt on many shows being produced at the time. This gap allowed for normally busy actors and actresses to have the time to appear in "Party Down," which explains why it has such a surprisingly stacked cast for a show so small.

The pilot was filmed in a backyard

It's no secret that "Party Down" had a low budget, but not many people realize just how bare-bones the creators had to be even when making the original pilot. In the entertainment industry, it's normal practice to make a pilot and/or teaser of a show idea so that you can pitch it later to producers to make a full show. It's like giving out free samples of a snack so they can buy the entire dish. Unfortunately for the creators of "Party Down," their pitch pilot was made with so little money that they had to cut corners wherever they could.

During the lull before "Veronica Mars" got scaled back to fewer episodes than it used to have, creator Rob Thomas had enough time to crank out something new with his friends. According to Texas Monthly, he brought the cast and crew to the backyard of his Hollywood home and filmed the entire pilot there. Thomas and the crew ended up shipping this low-budget pilot around town to see if any companies wanted to make the show, which is how it was eventually noticed by Starz. According to director Fred Savage, he noted how the essentials of the show were present even in that primitive pilot. He said, "They had given me that pilot that they shot in Rob's back yard, which was a bit of a Frankenstein's monster. The tone of the script was definitely there, but the look of the show was a little all over the place."

Lots of the cast came back for Childrens Hospital

Another beloved and bizarre cult series is "Childrens Hospital," a black comedy produced by Adult Swim and starring Rob Corddry in the leading role. The show follows the doctors and staff of a barely functioning medical center and is intended as a direct parody of medical dramas such as "Grey's Anatomy," "House," and "St. Elsewhere." It is widely regarded as one of the best shows in the Adult Swim catalog, having won four primetime Emmys during its run (including for Outstanding Short Format Live-Action Entertainment Program and Outstanding Actor in a Short Form Comedy or Drama Series).

More importantly, the show has several connections to "Party Down," considering that they are both similarly praised cult comedy classics. "Childrens Hospital" has two actors from "Party Down" in its core cast: Ken Marino and Megan Mullally. Marino plays the role of Dr. Glenn Richie and Mullally plays the simply named character of Chief. Interestingly, "Childrens Hospital" directly addresses the connection to "Party Down" by having the characters from that series appear in an episode named after the show. In the episode, Dr. Richie finally has his much-delayed bar mitzvah, which is catered by the Party Down catering company. Ken Marino and Megan Mullally reprise their roles from "Party Down" within the scene alongside Lizzy Caplan, Martin Starr, and Ryan Hansen.

Lizzy Caplan loved how niche it was

Out of all the stars of "Party Down," few have attained as much respect in the comedy scene as Lizzy Caplan. Having got her start as a side character on "Freaks and Geeks," she continued making waves as a comedic performer with notable roles in "Mean Girls" and "Cloverfield" aside from her main role in "Party Down" as Casey Klein. It should come as no surprise that she of all people valued the approach the show took with its comedic style, even though it could be described as a bit niche.

In an interview with HitFix, Caplan discussed how the show's cancellation was a bummer for her and the cast. She appreciated the fans who did stick around. She said, "It always sort of felt like the appeal for our fans was that the show felt like it was theirs. 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." Luckily, the end of "Party Down" was not the last we'd see of Caplan, as she has continued working on projects like "Masters of Sex," "The Interview," and "Inside Job."

There could still be a movie

Ever since the show ended, there's been consistent talk about whether there will ever be a "Party Down" movie. The buzz around it is rivaled only by the endless discussion of the "Community" movie (which was finally announced). If there's one thing that can be said about fans of cult comedy shows, it's that they're loyal.

In 2021, Starz confirmed that they'd be bringing back "Party Down" in a revival season nearly 10 years after the show ended. Similar to how Netflix brought back another Ken Marino property, "Wet Hot American Summer," this revival will bring everyone's favorite caterers back for a six-episode limited series. This news has given fans hope once again for news on a "Party Down" feature film. 

Sadly, there hasn't been any word of this possibility since a Rob Thomas interview with Variety in 2015. He told Variety, "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. 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." All the excitement surrounding the show being brought back could very well spark producers to finally give the film a green light.