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Friday, 5 of March of 2021

Party Down – “Precious Lights Pre-School Auction”

Do you even remember what it was like to have a dream?”

In last night’s Community review I discussed a bit about the importance of maintaining a balance in an ensemble, and how Community showcases the ability to make being unbalanced not only a conflict for the plot, but to show how important each member is. Party Down is still trying to work the kinks in the role of Lydia, and the overall comedy in the show is suffering a bit for it.

I think Lydia could work within the ensemble, but I feel like when the character was conceptualized (a stage mom) they didn’t figure out a way to better integrate her position as someone who wants stardom (even if indirectly through her daughter) among all these other people, toiling away at their dreams. Indeed, it’s why Charlotte worked so well: she had already hit her height as an actress and was able to provide absurd mentorly advice. What is Lydia’s role in this show?

It’s not uncommon in Party Down for a character to just disappear for a while during an episode. They could be off prepping food or serving guests, and it makes sense in the diegesis. But Lydia is AWOL for much of this episode. Sure she’s supposed to be in the tent, prepping food, but we don’t go and see her (Henry doesn’t really check up on her). It takes a solid 10 minutes after the tip jar “revolt” for her to reappear in the episode.

And even upon her return, recounting a story about a childhood dream of meeting a TV icon, it feels a little shoe-horned in, a way for this review’s epigraph to get worked into the episode, and stick it to Henry. Even Lydia’s final bit of business, making sex noises with Ron in the prep tent, doesn’t totally work for me (she did just meet Ron, after all). It’s a weird dynamic that I hope gets worked out soon.

Indeed, the episode is ultimately about weird dynamics as Ron comes back to work for Party Down, with Henry as his boss. Instead of helping Henry, Ron decides to do his best impersonation of season 1 Henry, a surly and aloof worker who doesn’t care about his job, willing to goof off whenever, and make things difficult for his boss. It’s a weird dynamic, but one I wish the episode had explored with a bit more depth, with Ron trying to do more to sabotage Henry in small ways (hiding bottles of booze, mixing up dish ingredients, etc.) but not looking to get him fired outright.

Perhaps the one plot that really worked for me was Casey and the auction chairwoman, a retired comedian/actress herself. It was nice to see Casey not only bonding with another woman (something I feel the show never really gave her chance to do with Charlotte and now with Lydia) but also a woman whose life track mirrors that of Casey. That they had the same experiences at auditions and choices to make in their lives helps give Casey not only some perspective, but also some denial when she decides that she could totally play that suburban mom role and base it on the auction chairwoman. Casey, for obvious reasons, doesn’t want to admit that she could become this woman, but would it really be that bad?

FINAL THOUGHTS

  • I did love how Lydia’s cast matched her bow tie. If you’re going to go to that kind of trouble, you shouldn’t be passive-aggressive about having to work, even if it is in the prep tent.
  • The return of the foul-mouthed movie producer was a nice overlap, but you can’t have him be a supporting part of the plot: he’s got to be there, with amazingly eloquent profane things to say. “I trust those nips more than focus group!”
  • I read Snow Crash last summer and found it to be pretty overrated. Maybe it was because the entire premise is so cyberpunk cliche now, but I just didn’t care for it. Roast me as you see fit.


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