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Just before the second season premieres this Friday on Starz, the half hour comedy "Party Down" was honored at the Paley Center for Media in Beverly Hills earlier tonight and our Jim Halterman was there to witness the festivities.
6:35 PM - It's an early start tonight as Vice President and Executive Director Craig Hitchcock says "We're all dressed up and going nowhere," which is the tagline for the Starz series "Party Down." He also gives us the first of many "Veronica Mars" shout-outs.
6:37 PM - Craig introduces Starz Executive Vice President of Programming Stephan Shelanski, who talks about how the show caught on with the media and critical buzz during year one and hopes the buzz continues into big ratings for season two.
6:39 PM - Tonight's moderator is Andrew Wallenstein, editor of HollywoodReporter.com and NPR commentator, who apparently said something not-so-positive about Charlie Sheen on his NPR broadcast last night. "If Charlie Sheen appears here tonight, you don't know me," he says. Citing how he usually gets the not-so-great leftover reviews from the higher-tiered reviewers at HollywoodReporter.com, Andrew admits to having lucked out when he was able to review last year's premiere of the show.
6:41 PM - Andrew brings "Party Down" Co-Creator/Executive Producer Rob Thomas to the stage to introduce the screening for tonight. First, Rob says "More than any show I've had the pleasure of working on, 'Party Down' was a labor of love... we got to write the show that our circle of friends would love and hopefully find others who would enjoy it as well." Rob introduces the second season premiere episode entitled "Jackal Onassis Backstage Party." [Damn funny episode to start the new season with, for sure!]
7:09 PM - Andrew returns and is about to announce the panel when he's told to hold it a moment so he vamps talking about how the departure of first season regular Jane Lynch (who went to a little show called "Glee") and arrival in the second season of Megan Mullally seems to have worked great in the first episode.
7:11 PM - Andrew finally gets the OK and calls tonight's panel to the stage. Dan Etheridge! John Enbom! Martin Starr (Roman)! Ryan Hansen (Kyle)! Ken Marino (Ron)! Lizzy Caplan (Casey)! Adam Scott (Henry)! Megan Mullally (Lydia)! And Rob Thomas!
7:12 PM - Andrew dives right in to the obvious observation of Lynch leaving and Mullally coming into the fold. Dan says they always knew Jane could leave on short notice due to "Glee" and when that happened "we got Megan Mullally who came in and made the show twice as good." Applause! Applause!
7:14 PM - Megan said she and her husband (actor Nick Offerman) stumbled upon the show last year and said "What the fuck?! This show is really good but it's on Starz? What's happening?" She said it took her a quarter of a second to say yes to join the show in year two before she knew what the role was.
7:16 PM - "At the beginning of a 'Party Down' season is the best thing you ever get to brainstorm which is what are our 10 parties this year," says Rob. One thing they laughed about was having a party centered on Steve Guttenberg's 50th birthday party. When they realized it could actually be the party for that episode, Rob wasn't worried about getting Guttenberg for the show since he had done a season of "Veronica Mars."
7:18 PM - Andrew asks if it's tough to "spread the wealth" in the cast in each episode. John says, "Yes, a script is 27 pages long and there are six cast members." He adds that in the Steve Guttenberg episode that Ken Marino got the smallest story, which was about a shrimp stuck in a fish tank. Ken stands and takes the first of several humble bows.
7:19 PM - "We all improvise a little bit but I think we're all lucky that we have these scripts which are incredible and perfect on the page so there's not really a need for improvisation although we all do screw around a little bit and sometimes it ends up in the show," says Adam, who adds each episode is 95-98% scripted. Martin interjects and says it's strictly 97. This is a fun cast.
7:21 PM - Adam is also a producer this season and gets ribbed by his cast mates but says he's glad to be learning from the other producers. "I think where my responsibilities ended up falling really were watching the cuts of the show and we'd all commiserate about different things that could change and give notes on different cuts, which I'd never done before and it was very interesting for me."
7:23 PM - When asked about what notes they get from the Starz executives, Rob admits that they do get notes but it comes from a place to make the show better but overall "it's been an ideal couple of years."
7:24 PM - The origins of the show started when actor Paul Rudd (who is also a co-creator and producer), John, Dan and Rob became huge fans of the original British version of "The Office." Rob says, "That is a show about people who sold their souls to the rat race and we would turn it around and do a show about people who refused to give up the dream and how long can you keep chasing the dream."
7:26 PM - They shot the original pilot at Rob's house with most of the cast (minus Lizzy Caplan) involved and shopped it around on a DVD.
7:28 PM - Megan says the show has a secret weapon in the love story and everyone laughs because Ryan and Martin sneak coy glances and take each other's hands (she was actually talking about Adam and Lizzy's characters).
7:29 PM - Andrew asks Martin and Ryan about approaching the comedy that is done in the show in consideration of the distinct rhythm and tone. Martin deadpans "Same old, same old, really." More big laughs.
7:30 PM - A number of the cast currently have commitments to other pilots so Andrew asks the producers if they'd scramble the cast again next year if they get a year 3. John says in the catering business people do come and go. Rob confirms "Yes, it is a show that can survive. I think in the real world catering is not a career choice for most people so it would make sense that new people would come into the show."
7:33 PM - Could "Party Down" exist as it is now on broadcast TV? Rob answers, "Even if we changed the language, it's a pretty dour, misanthropic comedy and I think there's a history of that not working on broadcast television."
7:34 PM - "I feel really blessed. I feel the future of television is moving towards cable. Cable and the Internet are the future right now because nobody really knows what's going to happen with the networks anyway; it's all changing. I feel like there's a pioneering spirit and it's really fun to be on the ground floor of that with shows like 'Party Down.'" - Megan on joining the show.
7:36 PM - Ken says it's great that the show shoots 10 episodes in 10 weeks. Adam interjects that you know you're in a good situation when actors show up on the set on their days off.
7:37 PM - "It's tough in our situation because actors are on a one-year deals so we're not sure exactly who we'll have so it's hard to play until we know what our cast is," says Rob when asked about plans for Season 3.
7:38 PM - Great guest stars last season and this one include Ed Begley, Steven Weber, Kristen Bell, JK Simmons, Terry Kinney and, returning for one episode, Jane Lynch, who appears in an episode directed by Ken Marino who, of course, rises again and bows for the crowd.
7:41 PM - On John not being daunted by writing 80% of the scripts. "Like Rob, all of us started out doing hour-long shows so a half hour script is extraordinarily short to us. It's like half as much as work!"
7:42 PM - "Obviously ready for things to wrap," Martin says, gesturing the audience, "I'm sure these people have things to do." Big laughs but it does prompt Andrew to segue to the Q&A segment and the cast starts shouting out questions like "How do you learn all those lines?" to each other. The first audience member who stands up offers Lizzy a Claritin or Nyquil (she's been sniffing and wiping her nose all night - allergy season in LA!)
7:44 PM - On his character Ron, Ken says, "He's a guy who thinks he means well but is his own worst enemy and gets in his own way all the time. For me, it's exciting to play that guy because in this town I haven't gotten to play a guy like that so it was fun for me to play a guy with such ambition and such big dreams in his life and he's the guy who completely fucks it up all the time."
7:47 PM - Asked if anyone had catering experience and Lizzy says she did and hated it. Ken also pulls out the 1987 National Bartending School license that his Mom had just sent him.
7:51 PM - Since several of the actors on the show also appeared on Rob's "Veronica Mars," how has it been to work with other cast members who appear, like Kristen Bell. Before anyone can answer, Lizzy groans "Another excuse to talk about 'Veronica Mars!'"
7:53 PM - Ken and Megan have worked together four times including when Ken appeared on "Will & Grace" as an ill-fated date of Grace's who happened to have six toes on one foot. Ken stands again and takes a bow.
7:54 PM - The question that won't die - what's the update on a "Veronica Mars" movie? Rob says he doesn't know. "Every time I answer the question I don't want to stoke hope or stomp on it. Kristen wants to do it. I've got new agents who are putting some real effort into making it happen. We all want it to happen but it's finding someone who will pay for it. There's no big news but it's an on-going battle."
7:57 PM - Rob shares that "Party Down" was originally created as a companion to Alexandra Wentworth's series "Head Case" but really just hopes that whatever the plans are for Starz programming, he hopes "Party Down" is a part of it.
The second season of "Party Down" premieres this Friday at 10:00/9:00c on Starz. Jim will be back tomorrow night for the "Psych" event at the Paley Center for Media.