"You'll never work in this town again!" -Leonard StiltskinRob Thomas(*) has told the story many times of how he, John Enbom, Dan Etheridge and Paul Rudd pitched "Party Down" to HBO, only for the HBO execs at the time to decide that they had conflicting visions of what a Hollywood comedy should be. And so HBO ultimately gave us "Entourage" (about Hollywood insiders who get everything handed to them on a silver platter) and Thomas and company eventually found a home for "Party Down" (about Hollywood outsiders who struggle for everything and fail far more often than they succeed) at Starz. And an episode like "Precious Lights Pre-School Auction" - which namechecks "Entourage"(**) while featuring the return of JK Simmons as foul-mouthed movie mogul Leonard Stiltskin - is a reminder of why the outsiders' perspective is so much more fun.
"I know." -Henry
(*) Rob, by the way, spent a year at the start of his career writing for "Dawson's Creek" and has taken opportunities in the past to have fun at the expense of The Beek, here with the phrase "James Van Der Beek's parrot."
(**) Love that Roman is a phony who will say "F--k 'Entourage'" while at the same time knowing and caring about the show enough to be indignant at Kyle's suggestion that Roman would be Turtle, when Roman clearly knows, "I'd be E, and you'd be Turtle."
So here we have the members of Party Down once again attending a function they'd never be allowed into as guests in a million years, though Casey comes closest by running into a comedian-turned-mom who's basically Casey a few years down the road. (***) Stiltskin and his wife are there to taunt them about how far all the characters haven't progressed in the last year: Henry never got to play Young Abe Lincoln, Kyle is still nowhere (and, unsurprisingly, Mrs. Stiltskin has chosen to forget their time together), Roman is at best proprietor of a a prestigious blog, etc.
(***) And in a meta touch, the character was played by Andrea Savage, who played Casey in the original homemade pilot shot in Thomas's backyard. Savage couldn't do the series because, appropriately enough for this character, she got pregnant.
Kyle's still trying, and still believes in himself enough as an actor to enjoy gaming Roman, while Henry is slipping so deeply into his new manager job - with the Taco Bell view that accompanies it - that he tears into Ron with the kind of speech he'd have laughed at a year earlier. (He tries to play it off as acting, but you can see the self-loathing on his face afterward.) But they're all running in place, and Ron, with his disgusting 'pit stains and loss of his barely-legal girlfriend, is actually going backwards.
But for once we get a small victory, as Casey nails her audition for a small role in a Judd Apatow movie(****), dissuading her from following Savage's path for at least a little while.
(****) Between Lizzy Caplan's early role on "Freaks and Geeks" and the amount of crossover between the Thomas and Apatow repertory companies, what other director could it be?
Structurally, "Precious Lights" didn't have the comic build that the best "Party Down" episodes do, but it still had plenty of great one-liners, whether it was Stiltskin explaining that he once drank ape sperm to get a game with Tiger Woods, or Roman's line about The Beek's parrot, or Casey lamenting all her bad auditions, including the time she was told she was "'too Jew-y'... and I was reading for 'The Diary of Anne Frank.'" And the tip jar gag was a nice role reversal from the episode last year where team leader Ron insisted on putting out the tip jar over everyone's objections, only for the partygoers to cheap out on them.
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