Sunday, January 11, 2009

Dispatch from press tour: Rob Thomas and company get ready to 'Party Down'

After last January's tour was canceled by the writers strike, I spent a lot of time vamping for things to write about, most notably spending a lot of time watching and writing about the Jeremy Piven version of "Cupid." So obviously one of the shows I'm most psyched to talk about at this January tour is ABC's upcoming "Cupid" remake. But with that session almost a week away, I first got to enjoy the panel for "Cupid" creator Rob Thomas' other new show, "Party Down."

Thomas has been trying to get "Party Down" -- a comedy about a group of LA cater-waiters, most of whom aspire to careers in showbiz that they'll never get -- going for nearly six years, when he, good friend Paul Rudd and writers Dan Etheridge and John Enbom (who worked with Thomas on "Veronica Mars") became obsessed with the original British version of "The Office."

"We started talking about wanting to write something that had a similar comedic tone," he explained, "and we decided if that show was about people who had given themselves over entirely to the rat race that it would be interesting if we took our stab at people who had perhaps chased the dream for too long, people who had refused to join the rat race."

Five years ago, they sold the concept to HBO (at the time, Rudd would have played the lead), but then the deal fell apart when HBO felt the pilot -- set at a neighborhood potluck in the unglamorous neighborhood of Sherman Oaks -- wasn't as "inside Hollywood" as they wanted. Then two years ago, Thomas shot a homemade pilot and almost sold it to FX until that deal fell through, too.

And now it's at Starz, where it will premiere in March, with a cast that's a mixture of "Veronica Mars" alums (including Adam Scott as the lead, Ken Marino and Ryan Hansen, plus Enrico Colantoni as a guest in the pilot), Apatow world alums (including Lizzy Caplan and Martin Starr) and people who bridge both those worlds (notably Jane Lynch).

Naturally, most of the talk in the session turned to the cast and creators' own experience with cater-waitering.

"I ran into an acquaintance of mine who was cater-waitering at a party," Thomas recalled. "And I started telling him the idea for the show, and I realized, halfway into this conversation that there was no good way out of that. 'You know, it’s about those people who come to L.A., chasing a dream, and they’ve been at it too long, and they find themselves in a dead-end job.' And about this time, I felt very bad about that."

Lynch noted that she had waitressed but never worked catered affairs, while Caplan fessed up that she had done more than a few.

"The whole experience made me so angry," she said, "like having to go around and serve these people because I was so convinced that, like, 'It should be me. You should be serving me.' It’s like there’s nobody really cockier than the unemployed actor. Like you're positive that you can do it better than anything you’re seeing on any screen."

Scott's last appearance at press tour -- as the henpecked husband on "Tell Me You Love Me" -- saw him answering questions about prosthetic falluses, and here he demonstrated a dry wit that suggested he'll do a fine job filling Rudd's shoes.

"I always thought after 'Tell Me You Love Me,' I just wanted to do something less hilarious," he deadpanned.

"Actually shooting that show was really fun even though the result was kind of dire. You know, very, very, serious drama. It was actually fun to do. But this is certainly much lighter fare, and it is a welcome change. It was not always easy to go into work (before). I mean, I drive to work now, and it’s like I just hope I can keep a straight face while I’m working with Ken and Jane. Whereas I used to go into work thinking, 'Oh, I hope I can cry properly when we lose the baby.'"


Paul F said...

Never heard of this before now. Looking forward to it, despite what I've heard about Starz' other show.

Bobman said...

This show sounds like something I'd enjoy watching... why does it have to be on Starz, dammit. I already splurge on Showtime.

jcpbmg said...

because of starz's partnership with netflix hopefully netfflix will stream new episodes (under watch it now)

Anonymous said...

I'm willing to try anything Martin Starr is in. As an Angeleno, I love the concept. I've been waited on hundreds of actor hyphenated and they never fail to entertain.

Anonymous said...

Sounds to find out if Starz is premium. It is? Crap. The Netflix angle is promising...has Starz aired any other series that way before? Have they had any notable original programming before?

Anonymous said...

I remember looking forward to this when Rudd was supposed to be the lead.

So is this going to be a short run series? I thought several of those people (Marino, Caplan) were affiliated with other fall pilots.

Anonymous said...

It's funny that he was inspired by "The Office," because this sounds a lot like the first season of "Extras."

Anonymous said...

I had totally forgotten that this show existed, so this is a happy reminder. Love the cast, love Thomas and will no doubt love at least *something* about the show.

I'm kind of weirdly disappointed that my bad scanning skills initially lead me to believe that Marino and Scott might be guesting on "Cupid". Since the trailer for that show seriously underwhelmed me, I'm counting on likeable guests in the first few weeks while I'm getting used to a "Cupid" without Piven or Marshall.