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16 Celebratory Facts About Party Down

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Party Down—not to be confused with reality show Party Down South—is a hilarious sitcom that ran for 20 episodes on Starz, from March 2009 through June 2010. Created by Rob Thomas, Paul Rudd, Dan Etheridge, and John Enbom, Party Down follows a group of Hollywood-based cater waiters who aspire to be something more than the pink bow ties they’re forced to wear. Henry (Adam Scott) gave up acting, while Kyle (Ryan Hansen), Casey (Lizzy Caplan), and Roman (Martin Starr) seek out acting and writing opportunities, and their boss, Ron (Ken Marino), wants to open an all-you-can-eat soup restaurant.

Jane Lynch (Constance) left the show near the end of the first season because of a contractual obligation to Glee, but Megan Mullally joined the cast in the second season as Lydia.

Each episode focuses on a different party and catering gig, with hijinks always ensuing. Because it aired at 10 p.m. on Fridays, hardly anyone watched the show. Through the power of DVD and Netflix, people slowly began to discover it, and Party Down eventually developed a cult following.

Despite the producers attracting esteemed guest stars like J.K. Simmons, Starz cancelled Party Down on June 30, 2010. Since the cancellation, rumors of a Party Down movie have been batted around, and a few cast and producer reunions have occurred. Here are 16 facts about the misanthropic series. Are we having fun yet?

1. IT WAS INSPIRED BY THE OFFICE.

Rob Thomas’s ex-girlfriend hooked him into watching Ricky Gervais's original version of The Office. “It changed everything I had thought about television comedy,” Thomas told Details in an oral history of the show. “So I started calling my friends over, because I wanted someone to tell me that I wasn’t crazy and this was the greatest TV show that had ever been done. The guys I called over were the guys who ended up doing Party Down: Dan Etheridge and John Enbom and Paul Rudd.”

Thomas and friends met every week to watch the show, and then developed some ideas for their own series. “One of the very first ideas was, what happens to the ‘Can you hear me now?’ guy when that campaign dries up? What do you do if you’re 30 years old and you can’t get a job, or don’t even know if you want to do that anymore?” Rudd said. 

“If The Office is a show about people who have really given themselves over to the rat race, let’s do a show about people who’ve chased the dream for far too long,” Thomas said.

2. ROB THOMAS FILMED THE PILOT IN HIS BACKYARD.

In 2007, when Veronica Mars's episodes got reduced (and the show got canceled), Thomas found himself with a free month, so he called his friends to come to his house and film the Party Down pilot. He hired Adam Scott, Ken Marino, Ryan Hansen, and Jane Lynch, all of whom he had worked with on Veronica Mars.

Etheridge, Enbom, and Thomas co-directed the pilot and paid the actors $100 a day. The only casting differences were that Andrea Savage played Casey and James Jordan played Roman. The pilot was used as a demo and never was meant to be aired on TV. “We knew it could never be broadcast,” Thomas said. “We had a whole neighborhood Oscars scene in which we used plastic Oscar statues—just that scene alone meant it could never be aired because there is no one more protective of their brand than the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. We also used music that we didn’t pay for.”

Thomas initially sold Party Down to HBO, with Rudd slated to play Henry and Steve Carell as Ron. It didn’t work out with HBO or with the actors, so Thomas shopped the pilot around town. Starz wanted to get into comedy, so they signed on.

3. A POOR ECONOMY HELPED THE SHOW GET MADE.

In 2008, the world was in a financial crisis, and the Writers Guild of America had been on strike (it lasted 100 days). This allowed for many of the actors to be available. “I think it worked in our favor with the economy going to sh*t because that was one of the reasons why so many amazing actors [appear on the show],” Starr told /Film. “It made it much easier, because people were glad to be working at all and our show offered something much different.”

4. NO, IT WASN'T IMPROVISED.

“People ask all the time, ‘Was the show improvised?’ And I just take that as a huge compliment to the writing, to the performance, and also to the visual style,” Fred Savage, one of the show’s directors and producers, told Details. “Ninety percent of what you’re seeing is all scripted. The 10 percent that’s improv is some of the best moments.”

5. ADAM SCOTT TRAINED TO BE A BARTENDER.

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To play a bartender on the show, Scott had a bartender friend give him some tips. “They actually did come in handy, because especially in season one, I had so much dialogue while I’m making drinks, that if it didn't look like I at least sort of knew how to make a drink, it would just be distracting,” Scott told Details. “And I really had to make those things. I mean, they weren’t accurate. It was just pouring things into a cup. But I had to do it without looking like a complete dipsh*t.”

On the other hand, Hansen didn’t do any training. “I think we were supposed to be kind of sh*tty caterers anyway, so I’m like, ‘You know what? I’m not going to take that bartending class,’” he told Details.

6. LIZZY CAPLAN LIKED THAT THE SHOW CATERED TO COMEDY SNOBS.

“Our fans, even though we didn’t have huge numbers, were exactly the type of people we were hoping to impress: smart and vocal and funny and almost snobby about their comedy preferences,” Caplan told HitFix of the series's fan base. “You look at hugely-rated shows like Two and a Half Men that get like a gazillion viewers—I have the sneaking suspicion that not one of them watches Party Down. I think if a girl who liked Party Down found out that her boyfriend liked Two and a Half Men, she would break up with him.”

Caplan wished the show would’ve reached a bigger audience, but that wasn’t the point. “It always sort of felt like the appeal for our fans was that the show felt like it was theirs,” she said. “It belonged to them, and they discovered it, and they told their circles of friends. It was like a secret club of people in the know. Of course, secret clubs don’t usually lead to TV show pick-ups.”

7. HANSEN DESCRIBES PARTY DOWN AS A “VERY DEPRESSING COMEDY.”

Hansen's character, Kyle, was based on the stereotypical Hollywood actor/musician/model who uses his good looks to get by. “Our show definitely captures the realistic side of what people have to go through, in order to make it in L.A. and do their dream,” he told /Film. “It’s realistic, definitely, but it’s also very depressing. This is very depressing comedy. Which is funny.”

Thomas and the other creators came up with the phrase “crealism” to describe the show—comedy realism. “How far can you push the universe and yet still believe it exists in the real world?” Thomas told Details. “Most comedies on prime-time television exist in a comedy universe. I’m an enormous 30 Rock fan, but that is a comedy universe. We tried to keep Party Down in a universe people recognize, because it makes the pain and the humiliation all hurt a little more.”

8. SCOTT DIDN’T CARE IF ANYONE WATCHED THE SHOW.

Not a lot of people watched the show when it aired—the second season finale drew just 74,000 viewers—but that didn’t bother Scott. “I think part of what was so special about it was us not knowing if it would ever be seen, or if people would ever be into it, or if it would ever even be as good as it was feeling to us,” he told Interview Magazine. “So we had this sort of gang mentality of it being us against the world. Who gives a sh*t if anyone ever sees this? So there was something really fun about that—that no one was paying attention to it, so we could do whatever we wanted.”

9. AN ADULT FILM-THEMED EPISODE LED TO AN AWKWARD ENCOUNTER WITH THE POLICE.

After filming the adult video film awards episode, “Sin Say Shun Awards Afterparty,” the prop person had a lot of adult paraphernalia in her car. She got into a car accident, and when she arrived at the hospital, the cops discovered the props. “And when the cops showed up to check out her car, her trunk was completely full of dildos and sex toys and whatnot,” Enbom said. “She was in no position to explain what was going on.”

10. THE CAST REALLY DID BOND.

In an interview with Details, Jane Lynch explained how spot-on the casting was, and how everyone “adored each other.” “We had such a good time,” she said. “I started smoking. Everybody was smoking. Except for Ryan. We would go out afterwards, and I never do that. I never fraternize with my coworkers."

11. STARZ ENCOURAGED THE PRODUCERS TO ALLOW FOR SOME NUDITY.

“Let’s put it this way: We were asked by the network, and not in an offensive way, to explore premium content, and part of that was some nudity if it was possible,” Dan Etheridge said. “It made us all flinch a little bit. Porn awards [“Sin Say Shun Awards Afterparty”] was born from trying to take that request and figure out a way to do it that will enhance the show. Failed orgy [“Nick DiCintio’s Orgy Night”], similar thing.” According to Caplan, “[Starz] loved boobs. I think it was coming from high up. There were just random boobs flying around in our show sometimes.”

12. MEGAN MULLALLY BROKE HER WRIST DURING THE SECOND DAY OF FILMING THE SECOND SEASON.

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As she was driving to work, Megan Mullally got into a car accident. “I broke my wrist,” she told Details. “The other person was fine, thank god. I’ve never had a broken bone, but it wasn’t a horrible tragedy or anything. Apparently, when Dan and John got the call that I’d been in a car accident, that’s all the information they got. They didn't know if I was, like, dead, or fine, or anything. And then apparently the thought crossed their mind that I was just trying to get out of being on the show and it was all a big ruse.” The writers quickly wrote her broken wrist into the script.

13. KEN MARINO LIKED ENDING THE SHOW AS IS.

“I would have loved to do maybe one more season,” Marino told Details. “But there’s that feeling now that the show is contained in these five, six hours of story, and how much more story do you need to tell? There’s something quite nice about that. You watch it, and you’re done, and you say, ‘Oh, I like that nice piece of TV.’”

14. SCOTT DIDN’T LEAVE PARTY DOWN TO PLAY BEN ON PARKS AND RECREATION.

It may seem like Scott departed Party Down for the better opportunity to star on a hit show, but that’s not how it went down. In 2009 Chris Albrecht took over Starz and left the cast and crew hanging. “There was a misconception out there when the whole thing happened that I was leaving an active show,” Scott told Details. “They were in the process of killing Party Down when I took the Parks and Recreation job. What I did was go to Starz and say, ‘I’m getting an offer from one of my favorite shows. I would love to do it, but if you want to keep me around for Party Down we can have that conversation.’ And they said, ‘Have fun on Parks and Recreation.’ The message was very clear to me.”

However, Scott felt conflicted for “leaving” the show. “Ken and I had this long heart-to-heart on the phone where I realized halfway through I was kind of calling to get his blessing,” Scott said. “He was basically telling me, ‘You need to do this. It’s time to say goodbye to the show.’” In June 2010, Starz officially announced there would not be a third season.

15. CHILDRENS HOSPITAL HAD A MINI PARTY DOWN REUNION.

Ken Marino and Megan Mullally both star on the show Childrens Hospital. During the end credits of season 3 episode 13, from August 2011, Casey, Kyle, Lydia, Roman, and Ron—sporting those signature bow ties—appear to be catering a “Jew mitzvah” at the hospital.

16. A PARTY DOWN MOVIE IS PROBABLY NOT HAPPENING.

Since the show went off the air, Rob Thomas and cast members have constantly been asked about a Party Down movie. In a 2015 interview, Thomas said he hoped it would still happen. “I would say that if you were to ask every producer on the show and every actor on the show, everyone would love to do it,” he told Variety. “The problem is they all became big stars and have their own shows and trying to schedule that … everyone is doing too well for us to be able to schedule a Party Down movie.”

When HitFix asked Adam Scott about it in December 2015, he responded with: “I kind of doubt that’ll ever happen. I mean, if anything were to ever happen, it would probably be some more episodes, but I don’t know. I feel like it’s been a little while. It would be super fun, but I also feel like maybe it's best to kind of leave it. Like, why screw something up? Or why take the risk of screwing something up? On the other hand, if everybody else was into it, I would totally do it.”

But if the movie did get off the ground, Thomas has an idea. “We talked about structuring it like Four Weddings and a Funeral,” he told Collider in 2011. “We don’t envision the movie as one long party. We think each act would be a new party and we’d stretch it out over the better part of a year so we’d be able to see the growth and do long arch stories for our characters and get some finality to some of the existing storylines.”

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The Mystery Science Theater 3000 Turkey Day Marathon Is Back
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For many fans, Mystery Science Theater 3000 is as beloved a Thanksgiving tradition as mashed potatoes and gravy (except funnier). It seems appropriate, given that the show celebrates the turkeys of the movie world. And that it made its debut on Thanksgiving Day in 1988 (on KTMA, a local station in Minneapolis). In 1991, to celebrate its third anniversary, Comedy Central hosted a Thanksgiving Day marathon of the series—and in the more than 25 years since, that tradition has continued.

Beginning at 12 p.m. ET on Thursday, Shout! Factory will host yet another Mystery Science Theater 3000 Turkey Day marathon, hosted by series creator Joel Hodgson and stars Jonah Ray and Felicia Day. Taking place online at ShoutFactoryTV.com, or via the Shout! Factory TV app on Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire and select smart TVs, the trio will share six classic MST3K episodes that have never been screened as part of a Shout! Factory Turkey Day Marathon. Here’s hoping your favorite episode makes it (cough, Hobgoblins, cough.)

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11 Bite-Sized Facts About Cannibal! The Musical
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Back in their film school days, the creators of South Park made a twisted tribute to Rogers and Hammerstein. Cannibal! The Musical is (very) loosely based on the life of Alfred "Alferd" Packer, an American prospector who resorted to eating his travel companions in the harsh winter of 1874. Below, you’ll find a buffet of bite-sized facts about this weirdly upbeat black comedy. Bon appétit!

1. IT ALL STARTED WITH A GAG TRAILER.

In 1992, Trey Parker was studying film at the University of Colorado, Boulder, where pretty much everyone knows all about the legend of Alfred "Alferd" Packer. Indeed, when a new restaurant opened up on campus in 1968, the student body chose to name it after this famous man-eater. The restaurant’s slogan? “Have a friend for lunch.” As a joke, Parker rounded up some of his fellow film majors and spent three days shooting a phony trailer for a nonexistent movie called Alferd Packer: The Musical. Included in the ensemble was Matt Stone, with whom Parker would go on to create South Park.

Once the Alferd Packer promo was finished, those who worked on it weren’t sure if they could turn this concept into a feature-length picture. Fortunately, the trailer was a huge hit. “People thought it was really funny,” Parker told The Denver Post, “so we went around … and said, ‘So do you want to invest?’” Thanks (for the most part) to donations from a few CU grads with wealthy parents, Parker and his co-stars amassed a $100,000 budget.

2. LIANE THE HORSE WAS NAMED AFTER TREY PARKER’S EX-FIANCÉE.

At age 21, Parker was all set to marry his high school sweetheart. “We had plane tickets, the dress was bought, the church was paid for,” Parker shared on the DVD commentary. Then, about a month before the wedding, he caught his bride-to-be with another man. Devastated, Parker broke off the engagement and came up with an unusual way to get even. “I really wrote this movie for her,” he said.

A major character in Cannibal is Liane, Packer’s beloved horse, who leaves him for another rider. The two-timing equine was named after Parker’s former fiancée. Some artistic license was taken here, as there’s no proof that the real Packer ever owned a horse named Liane—or that he ever wistfully sang about being on top of her.

3. AN AVANT-GARDE LEGEND WAS CAST IN A MINOR ROLE.

World-renowned for his experimental filmmaking, the late Stan Brakhage taught off and on at the University of Colorado, where he met Parker and Stone. The two convinced him to appear in Cannibal! as George Noon’s father, who gets about two minutes’ worth of screen time.

4. PARKER’S DAD WAS IN IT, TOO.

Just like Stan Marsh’s dad in South Park, Trey Parker’s father, Randy, is a geologist. In Cannibal! The Musical, he portrays the Breckenridge judge who sentences Packer (played by Trey) to death.

5. “SHPADOINKLE” WAS MEANT AS A FILLER WORD.

In addition to penning the Cannibal! script, Parker also wrote the film’s musical numbers. The first of these is “Shpadoinkle Day,” an offbeat tribute to “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning” from Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! Parker knew that the first verse had to include a positive, three-syllable word, but couldn’t think of any that fit. So he used the made-up term “Shpadoinkle” to plug the gap until he could come up with an alternative. However, the creative team liked “shpadoinkle” so much that it stayed put and became one of Cannibal’s running jokes.

6. THEY SHOT IN THE COURTROOM IN WHICH PACKER WAS ACTUALLY TRIED.

On April 6, 1883, Packer was put on trial at the Hinsdale County Courthouse in Lake City, Colorado. Over the next few days, he admitted to dining on two of his dead travel companions—one of whom he supposedly killed in self-defense (the other died of natural causes). Packer was found guilty of murder, but avoided the hangman’s noose by fighting for a second trial, which took place 30 miles away in Gunnison. This time, he was charged with five counts of voluntary manslaughter and sentenced to 40 years in prison. However, while Packer languished behind bars, public opinion slowly turned in the cannibal’s favor. Under near-constant pressure from The Denver Post, Governor Charles S. Thomas pardoned Packer in 1901.

More than 90 years later, Parker filmed the trial scenes of Cannibal! The Musical at the still-standing Hinsdale County Courthouse. About halfway through the movie, the judge delivers a big speech in which he sentences Packer to death. His on-screen monologue was copied word-for-word from the court transcript of that 1883 Lake City trial.

7. AS THE MINERS SING “THAT’S ALL I’M ASKING FOR,” YOU CAN SEE PARKER MOUTH THE WORD “CUT.”

It goes by fast, but you can see Parker call "cut" to end the shot at the 3:06 mark in the clip above.

8. PARKER USED A PSEUDONYM FOR THE OPENING CREDITS.

Parker billed himself as "Juan Schwartz" in the cast of Cannibal because, according to the movie's website, "Trey doesn't like seeing one person's name plastered all over a movie's credits." Since he is properly credited as writer and director, he likely felt the additional acting credit was a bit too much. Incidentally, Packer called himself “John Shwartze” while evading the law before his arrest.

9. A FEW SONGS WERE DELETED.

The original cut of Cannibal! The Musical ran for two and a half hours, but thanks to some major-league editing, the runtime was reduced to a breezy 93 minutes. “There were fights about that from the get-go, but I give credit to Trey for being the toughest critic,” producer Jason McHugh told MovieMaker Magazine. “He had the maturity to know that a musical comedy about cannibals can’t be two and a half hours long.”

In the streamlining process, two musical numbers got the axe. The first was a quick little dirge called “Don’t Be Stupid,” wherein some nameless miners tell Packer’s group to postpone their journey until springtime. The other was “I’m Shatterproof,” a rap/funk song that Packer, hardened by his recent ordeals, delivers during a bar fight. Also deleted was a reprise of “When I Was On Top of You.”

10. COMEDY CENTRAL WOULDN’T BROADCAST IT.

Cannibal! was distributed by Troma Entertainment, an independent production company best known for creating The Toxic Avenger series. When South Park began to emerge as a major player on cable TV, Troma’s co-founder, Lloyd Kaufman, assumed that Comedy Central would jump at the chance to air some of Parker and Stone’s earlier work. Instead, the channel flatly refused to air Cannibal.

Kaufman was sent a rejection letter from Comedy Central, which read: “Thank you for submitting and re-submitting Cannibal! The Musical, but it is simply not up to our standards for broadcasting.” Troma forwarded a copy of this dispatch to Parker. Today, it’s prominently displayed in his office—at Comedy Central!

11. IT HAS BEEN TURNED INTO A STAGE MUSICAL ON MANY OCCASIONS.

Can’t get tickets to The Book of Mormon? Perhaps you can catch a live reenactment of Cannibal! The Musical instead. Since 1998, the movie has been seen more than 60 stage adaptations. There’s no “official” version of the theatrical show. As such, acting troupes that might be interested in performing Cannibal! have to write their own scripts based on the original movie. 

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