Are we having fun yet? “Party Down” addresses the pandemic in a way few shows do

When Episode 1 begins, we don’t know what time it is. It can be any year. We are in a restaurant/bar which could be any restaurant/bar. It is dark inside and outside. It could be any time of night. And the characters’ costumes, primarily white shirts with pink satin bow ties and black pants, are timeless.

It’s “Party Down” and it’s back on Starz for a third season, more than a decade after the last one wrapped. The Ringer described the new season as “an unlikely return to the air”. The show’s original run was canceled in 2010, just days after 74,000 viewers watched the season 2 finale.

A lot has happened in 13 years. A seismic election, an attempted coup and a devastating pandemic that killed millions and continues to kill. It’s that last area where the new “Party Down” surprisingly shines. It doesn’t go away. That doesn’t make the pandemic the whole story, but it does acknowledge the danger always running in the background, like a faulty refrigerator. It turns out that the changed and tough world now needs cater waiters who understand, perhaps more than anyone else, the volatile life we’ve dealt with.

“Party Down” focuses on a group of aspiring artists and creatives in Los Angeles who pay the bills by working as catered waiters for fancy events. Ron Donald (Ken Marino) is the long-suffering, hapless boss of the organization with employees like Henry Pollard (Adam Scott), who long ago reached viral and fleeting fame, asking “are we having fun yet?” In a blockbuster beer ad. As Dane of the Greek pointed out, we haven’t seen that ad yet, but I always pictured something along the lines of Seth Green’s 1992 Rally Hamburgers commercial.

In the return of “Party Down”, Henry works as a high school English teacher, but goes back into the catering fold when he needs money. My personal favorite is still Martin Starr as the bitter, brilliant Roman, moonlighting while trying to write science fiction. Ryan Hansen’s Kyle is one of a kind actor. Jane Lynch’s Constance and Megan Mullally’s Lydia have left the unit as a wealthy widow and manager of a child star, respectively. Only former waiter Casey (Lizzy Caplan) has made it to show biz – and in a “Party Down” world, that means you’re not around.

The Party of the World is cancelled, and the party caterer and waiter are out of luck.

As is understandable for a show that’s been on for so long, there are meta elements to the story as it attempts to hold us back. “Okay, to review,” are the first words out of Ron’s mouth. But in many ways, the service industry is unchanged. Uniforms are the same. The attitude of the privileged guests and their disdain for their servants, same. The appetizers are the same fancy shrimp (this is a source of frustration for new Joe Chao as chef Lucy). But one thing is there Is changed the food service industry? It was one of the hardest hit by the pandemic.

In the first three months of COVID, the industry lost 5.9 million jobs. People stopped going out to eat. Servicemen were fired, got sick, died. Restaurant closed. The Party of the World is cancelled, and the party caterer and waiter are out of luck. “It’s still not back to normal,” the Washington Post wrote in a late 2022 article “How the Pandemic Changed the Restaurant Industry Forever.” Current issues include labor shortage. It makes sense that Henry (and Kyle, after their break and down on their luck) would return to work with the catering conglomerate.

Party Down (Starz)By the end of the first episode, we learn that it is the spring of 2020. I will not lie. It’s a sad first episode and there’s a lot of setup for a biting revelation. Ron jokes that he is cursed but believes his luck is about to turn. “It’s great to know that this year, 2020, is going to be the best year of my life,” he says, sitting at the bar while the TV studio dreads a news story on “delaying production”. The emerging virus—and Henry looks straight at the camera.

Figuring out whether or not to address the pandemic is one of the central problems in current fiction. At its worst, storytellers are also required to be prophets.

But this isn’t just a joke to kick off the relaunched show. Subsequent episodes, set in later times, address the pandemic in subtle and small ways, with some though not all party-goers wearing masks, leading to the title of the second episode, “Jack Bowtie’s Delayed Post-pandemic surprise party.” Sad here, but so far all the characters have survived, though survival has suffered. They are tired but resilient. The party is set in the first episode does Happens, however according to plan or when not.

Figuring out whether or not to address the pandemic is one of the central problems in current fiction. At its worst, storytellers are also required to be prophets. How far into the future is this? My editor asked about my next novel, which mentions the pandemic but does not set its plot in the middle. “Are writers expected to somehow know when it’s going to end?” I thought. a tricky question, because it turns out Not there, How shows, books, stories and other art deal with the virus will be one of the questions to be studied, if we have a future.

Some recent shows like “Ted Lasso,” “Only Murders in the Building” and “The Chair” ignore it altogether. Some, like “Grey’s Anatomy” and “The Morning Show,” make it a big part of the plot. It was hard to swallow, especially at the start of the virus. Some people take the horrifying idea, as “you” did, of writing about an entirely different disease—”you,” in the case of measles—and it all feels like one big metaphor.

When the first novel specifically involving COVID arrived, I was shocked at the pace — traditional publishing tends to be slow — and paused. We often read and watch fiction specifically to escape the world, not to get caught up in the nightmares unfolding in the present. “Does the World Need COVID Novels?” the Harvard Gazette asked in 2022.

It hasn’t worked out for the cater waiters, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen one day, the eternal hope of both show business and the world from 2020.

The best books take existing concerns and spin them into something different and hopeful gold, like the upcoming “The Rachel Incident” by Carolyn O’Donoghue (author of “Promising Young Woman”) which was written, as the author says. , “in the grips of late-stage pendemic blues, and when I began I had just one goal in mind: to make myself smile again. I wanted a book that would keep me upbeat, hopeful, and Made me feel forgiving where it was easy to feel sad and angry.” This book is about deep friendship and ill-fated love, not the serious illness during which it was written.

party downParty Down (Starz)That’s what even the best television does. “The Sex Lives of College Girls” mentions the epidemic briefly, in passing; A character remembers a person because his brother contracted COVID from him, for example. “Party Down” does both, the casual acceptance that this is with us — and the not so casual acceptance that it will be for the future. Like all good comedies, this idea hurts a lot. “There’s always someone out there messing with you,” Ron says, raising his eyes and a finger to the sky. He’s talking about the Boss, but he can talk about the Big Boss: God, luck, timing, whatever you want.

There is also possibility within this sadness. When Season 3 begins, on the brink of COVID, the old ways are about to burn forever. Yet the characters are on the edge of a new story. The best part of “Party Down” was always that wacky hope. It hasn’t worked out for the cater waiters, but that doesn’t mean it won’t one day, 2020 is the eternal hope of both show business and the world. There’s still time to change that. As the song “Cabaret” goes, “Maybe this time I’ll win.”

Want a daily wrap-up of all the news and commentary Salon has to offer? Subscribe to our morning newsletter, Crash Course.

Perhaps the best way to address the pandemic in the arts is to accept that it didn’t go the way we planned. We are not the people we once were or hoped to be, and the world is not great, safe or the same. It probably will never happen again. Even more? We have to keep going. We’ve got to be in this as long as we can.

In this sense, there are no better stewards through this shifting, dismal landscape than the cater waiters who are writers, actors, dancers (or “content creators”), musicians, and artists. We are all more than one. we are often not allowed Happen Most of them, especially not the identity we want most residents to have. But we keep showing up for work in clean shirts.

“Party Down” airs new episodes on Fridays on Starz.

Read more

About Pandemic Fiction, TV and Film

Rate this post

Leave a Comment