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Party Down 

Party Down plays like a wry middle-finger rebuke to Entourage.

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Party Down plays like a wry middle-finger rebuke to Entourage. Where Entourage’s five bros slacked and smirked their way through the sweet life of Hollywood success, Party Down’s crew of caterers each week watch their dreams of fame or fortune or mild existential satisfaction get methodically thumped to death.

These wannabe writers, comedians and actors schlep away at jobs they hate, all in the pursuit of goals that they don’t have the talent, drive or luck to ever achieve.

This is not the world of Mark Wahlberg, in other words. It’s the world of the rest of us, where attempts to impress are washed away in waves of flopsweat, where the pretty girl always goes home with someone else, where we always get drunk at the wrong time and vomit in the wrong place.

The only victories in Party Down are small ones, meant merely to make the fall back into despair hit all the harder. Be cautious, take wild risks, suck up to your boss, insult him, try hard, don’t try it all — doesn’t matter. The status quo is inescapable.

Generally, comedies of discomfort just seem cruel. But these moments of humiliation don’t require the “the cat broke the septic tank” illogic of Ben Stiller movies or the “my boss is a cartoon idiot” contrivances of The Office. 

Instead, Party Down’s best episodes are masterpieces in farce. Each character in the brilliant ensemble copes with their pathetic life uniquely. Some are optimistic and oblivious; others are bitter and cynical, snarky and resigned, or desperate and stupid. Each character’s quirks, ignorance and selfish goals harmonize together, in glorious symphony, to result in every single one receiving an unhappy ending. 

Of course, here’s the irony: After this season, Party Down, a show about the failure of wannabe stars, may fail because of the success of its stars. Jane Lynch is now evil cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester on the hit show Glee. Adam Scott is tapped for next season’s Parks and Recreation, while Lizzy Caplan and Ryan Hansen are on new pilots.

Too bad. The hilarious Party Down, like great wine, gets better and better the longer those inside remain trapped, suffocating.

TIVO-WORTHY

Hulu
The corporate overlords behind Hulu, the too-good-to-be-true legal streaming television site, have finally decided that, hey, perhaps we should make money. Soon, all but the five most recent TV episodes on Hulu will be hidden behind a pay wall. That means, unless they want to chip out $9.95, fans will be left with no way to watch old television shows on the Internet — except for NinjaVideo, SurfTheChannel, SideReel, CastTV, MegaVideo, Vimeo, Youku, Justin.TV,  LimeWire, RapidShare or BitTorrent.

Gravity
Theoretically, you could make a very funny dark comedy revolving around a suicide support group. But here’s the thing about joking about things like suicide: If you miss, you’re left standing in front of angry stares in a silent room, looking like the world’s biggest jerk. Gravity misses by miles. (Starz, Fridays, 9 pm)

Happy Town
Hoping to resurrect the spirit of Twin Peaks, the ain’t-David-Lynch-weird mystery show, ABC gives us another tale of a small town that seems perfect. ‘Cept for all the disappearing children. Of course, in that small-town-terrible-secret genre, nothing will ever match Hot Fuzz. (ABC, Fridays, 10:30 pm)

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