TV Talk: “Party Down” and “Dead Like Me”

June 17, 2009 at 7:41 pm | Posted in TV | Leave a comment
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Lately, I’ve been kept entertained by the majesty that is Netflix Watch Instantly. So many movies… so many TV shows… all with decent video quality and ripe for the viewing! It’s a great way to kill time, I can tell you that much.

Anyhow, through Watch Instantly, I was able to watch two TV shows I otherwise would have never seen. And that would have been a shame — a crime shame — because both these TV shows are a) hilarious, and b) head over heels better than 90% of the crap littering television today. Both come highly recommended, and you can read more below:

Party Down

Party Down

Party Down

Party Down is a dark comedy on Starz that is relatively unknown to the general TV-watching public. The show centers around a group of failing actors, actresses, comedians and writers in Los Angeles who work as caterers to scrap out a living. The humor and story themes are very much in the same vein as The Office — awkward conversations, career apathy, blossoming romance in the workplace, the always hilarious combination of ignorance and arrogance in an employer,  etc. However, it is not filmed in “mockumentary” format like the hit show on NBC. Also unlike The Office, the show is on premium cable, which means it can (and does) get away with much raunchier humor in more adult settings and themes.

The show has a simply amazing cast, with each of the six main characters bringing something unique and memorable to the show. The show mainly follows the desperate exploits of Party Down’s manager, Ron (played by Ken Marino), and the show’s main love interest, Henry and Casey (played by Adam Scott and Lizzy Caplan, respectively). Among the show’s four co-creators are Rob Thomas (Veronica Mars’ creator) and current comedy super-celeb Paul Rudd.

Many people have not gotten the opportunity to hear about or watch this show since it is buried on Starz, which I never even knew had original programming, much less programs of this caliber. But if you have Netflix, I highly recommend watching the first season of this television show.

For more Party Down info and showtimes, check out the show’s official website.

Dead Like Me

Dead Like Me

Dead Like Me

As the old saying goes, genius is rarely recognized in its own time (maybe it doesn’t go like that exactly, but work with me here). Boy, do I agree with that one. Many of my all-time favorite TV shows only lasted for a couple seasons (or less) before getting canned, making way for inferior shows. Among those are Firefly, Freaks & Geeks, Undeclared, and Arrested Development. Now I have a new show to add to that list: Dead Like Me.

This isn’t a show I would normally watch, chiefly because the premise sounds so cheesy (though coincidentally, Reaper, a show with a similar premise, is also among my favorites). This show chronicles the adventures of Georgia “George” Lass, an 18-year-old girl who is killed in the pilot episode when a discarded toilet from the MIR Space Station survives re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere and strikes our protagonist while on her lunch break. Through cosmic chance, she is “chosen” to become a Grim Reaper, and proceeds to take the souls from the living right before they are destined to die.

Generally, when a show with a premise as wacky as this winds up on TV, the supernatural elements of the story take the forefront, and “non-essential” things like character development and decent story editing are tossed aside. This show puts a 180-spin on that TV convention, and focuses almost solely on developing the character of George. In fact, I would say this show is as much about being a youth in transition to adulthood than it is about death.

A great thing about this show is that it can tackle morbid and macabre themes (death, adultery, divorce, mental instability, being stuck in a dead-end job, etc.) and still keep the pacing and comedy surprisingly upbeat. Much of this can be accredited to the excellent writing and acting in this show. Like Party Down, each character (though one-dimensional in the early episodes) brings something different to the show, and as the subplots progress through the two seasons, each character makes a major arch that is both compelling and satisfying to the audience (or at least to me).

…Not to say the show is perfect. There are plenty of plot devices in this show that are either unnecessary, or aren’t adequately explained. For example, the “gravelings” (who act as harbingers of death in the show) serve absolutely no purpose. They don’t entertain, they don’t have an interesting backstory, and their existence in the show’s universe tends to raise more questions than answers. Other elements in this show (particularly surrounding the “reaping” activities of George and the gang) have massive plotholes that remain unexplained through the entirety of the show; this is fairly significant, considering “reaping” is the main driving force that keeps the main characters together.

This is small potatoes, though, when compared to the rest of the series. The show’s plotholes are nowhere near enough of a deterrent to hinder someone watching this otherwise well-written, well-acted and well-directed show. Though the show was canceled by Showtime in 2004, lasting only 2 seasons, the show is available to rent or buy on DVD, and the show is able to be Watched Instantly on Netflix. A series of straight-to-DVD movies are also in the works, one of which has already been released.

For more info about this show, check out the official website.

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