5 Reasons Why A 'Party Down' Movie Will Never Happen

by Kevin Jagernauth
April 21, 2011 2:15 AM
18 Comments
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First, don't get it wrong. We absolutely loved every second of "Party Down" during it's all too brief run on Starz. If you haven't seen the show, you have no idea what you're missing. Featuring an amazing ensemble of Adam Scott, Ken Marino, Jane Lynch, Jennifer Coolidge, Megan Mullally, Ryan Hansen, Martin Starr and Lizzy Caplan, the show chronicled the travails of an L.A. based catering company made up of actors and writers hoping to make it big, including one who had already had a brief taste of the spotlight. Created and written by John Enbom, Rob Thomas, Dan Etheridge, and Paul Rudd the show was both hilarious and tender, perfectly encapsulating just how hard, surreal and sometimes outright absurd it is to be chasing your dream while working a shit job. Scott toplined the show as Henry, an actor who tasted fame thanks to a beer commercial he'd rather never talk about again. His love interest was Caplan's Casey, a comedienne seemingly stuck in endless auditions. Led by their boss Ron, played to gung-ho perfection by Marino, each episode found the crew at a new theme party and allowed the ensemble -- including the airhead pretty boy Kyle (a hilarious Hansen), the geek Roman (Starr) and the rest of the crew to build out their stories. And the while show is now gone and the cast has moved on, movie talk has begun to creep up.

In a fantastic oral history of the show published in Details earlier this year, Thomas said "We're hoping to do a movie. We're talking about the happy ending for this show" while more recently Caplan told Huffington Post that thanks to the DVD, "People are finding out about it now, it seems like, which is great, because I think it will have legs and hopefully become more of a cult thing, which will encourage us to make a lovely feature film." And again, we love the show and everyone involved, but listen folks, this is never gonna happen. And here's why:

1. You didn't watch the show the first time around
Sorry, but that's the hard truth. The show had small ratings during its first season and even worse ratings during the second season. And while cult recognition might be nice, using that argument to convince suits that they should give a show that nobody watched even more money to make a movie will likely get you tossed out on your ear. All you have to do is look over at "Veronica Mars" (also created by Rob Thomas) which had one more season than "Party Down" and likely many more viewers. While Warner Bros. has tossed the faithful a bone by opening an email address where fans can officially petition for a movie, producer Joel Silver said last year that any chances of a movie were pretty much dead because no one bought the DVD sets. And what chance do you think a show that did even smaller numbers has of getting a movie?

2. Cult show fan campaigns almost never work
Again, with "Veronica Mars" and more recently "Roswell," fans of cult shows absolutely love whipping up a stir on the internet but rarely, if ever, does it actually translate into actual results. Remember that Donald Glover campaign to get him audition spot for "The Amazing Spider-Man" and remember how well that worked? (In case you don't remember, he didn't even get in the door). Hollywood doesn't listen or follow stirrings on fan pages and internet forums because they simply don't see it translating into something that will make them money.

3. No one is going to pay $13 to see Adam Scott topline a movie (at least not now)
Firstly, Adam Scott is the shit. Totally funny, a great straight man and he's totally killing it on "Parks & Recreation" right now. But he's the heart and soul of "Party Down," with his character arc of making peace with his past and more touchingly, finding genuine enthusiasm again for acting, being a huge part of what made the series so much more than simply a high concept sitcom. And while the biggest star of the cast is easily Jane Lynch, her character is hardly the central focus on the show. Go to the flyover states and tell someone there's a new Adam Scott movie coming out and then watch the puzzled expression on their face. Again, nothing against Scott (or Lizzy Caplan, Martin Starr, Megan Mullally and the rest of the team) but these guys are not going to headline their own movie. At least not now.

4. Ok, let's say a movie does happen -- where are they going to find time to make it?
Ok, let's say that for some reason, some producers come forward with $10-15 million and tell the "Party Down" team to go and make their movie. When is this going to happen? Let's assume this summer is a write off (unless something truly miraculous happens). Adam Scott, Jane Lynch and Ryan Hansen all have television shows that will keep them busy -- "Parks & Recreation," "Glee" and the likely to be greenlit "Friends With Benefits" respectively. Meanwhile, Ken Marino is busy around Hollywood writing major screenplays (he's currently re-writing "I Hate You, Dad" for Adam Sandler). We're not quite sure where everyone is going to have time not only to write the film, but to actually make it. All one has to do is look at the forever gestating "Arrested Development" that everyone keeps asking about but is nowhere closer to going in front of cameras due to a script not being finished and many of the cast members involved in other projects.

5. Can't we just let it die?
Okay, so this isn't a reason, but more of an opinion, but can't we all just move on? "Party Down" was brilliant while it lasted, something special that happened that, given the landscape of TV comedy these days, is somewhat of a miracle to not only be as funny and original as it was, but last two seasons as well. There is something strange in this culture where people can't simply enjoy what they had, instead clamoring for more with the assumption that capturing the lightning in a bottle again is simply a matter of putting all the same people together in a room again at the same time. Read that Details oral history. As the cast and filmmakers recount making the series, there was a sense they were getting away with something coupled with the excitement of knowing they were doing something truly special that undoubtedly informed the final product. But Ken Marino says it best, telling the magazine, "I would have loved to do maybe one more season. 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.'"





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18 Comments

  • E. Blair | April 22, 2011 7:30 AMReply

    The "Strangers With Candy" movie disappointed me.

  • You don't know Jack | April 22, 2011 4:01 AMReply

    First off, fantastic article. Sure, I would spend money to see a Part Down feature film, and I've done my damndest to spread the word (which has been mildly successful, everyone I've told loves it), but it's just not financially realistic. Movies based on TV shows usually disappoint anyway, even if they have the entire cast back. Although the series ended somewhat unfinished, I just feel fortunate enough to have given it a chance. I will never forget Steven Weber staring down Adam Scott. Absolutely classic. By the way, this is the best site of it's kind. Koodos!

  • Andrew Stephens | April 22, 2011 3:55 AMReply

    Case in point Reno 911 had how many seasons? The Reno911 movie was a flop. A Party Down movie is less likely than an Arrested Development movie. A terrible truth. I loves me some Party Down.

  • TheoC | April 22, 2011 1:52 AMReply

    Geat show but a movie would be a stretch even with all the parameters in place.

    Have they cast Abe Lincoln in Abe Lincoln Vampire hunter? Adam Scott would be brilliant or he could be Edgar Allan Poe...

  • Diana | April 21, 2011 12:39 PMReply

    I'm totally with Ken Marino here.

    This was a brilliant show that succeeded in telling a hilarious and deeply moving story in only 20 episodes. And now the story is over.

  • LA2000 | April 21, 2011 12:20 PMReply

    "Party Down" isn't a movie. But that doesn't mean it should die.

    Netflix just committed $100 million for a complete shot in the dark original series called "House of Cards." Great pedigree. But who knows.

    If Netflix really wanted to get into programming and not lose their shirt, the smartest thing they could do is wade in slowly and pick up some of the other networks' castoffs that have a loyal and dedicated following. Shows like "Party Down" or "Rubicon." Back in the day, "Arrested Development" or "Family Guy" (after its initial cancellation) would have been ideal candidates. These shows have the benefit of a built in audience, building awareness, a pre existing infrastructure, and cost less per episode than "House of Cards."

    They are turn key shows and known quantities.

    They also draw their audience from viewers who currently pay for cable, cable being a competing format to the Netflix' superior(and cheaper) on demand streaming model. So it would additionally afford Netflix the opportunity to shift viewers away from the competition.

    "House of Cards" is going to take a mountain of money just to promote and who knows if it will translate into enough additional subscribers to offset the cost.

  • bill | April 21, 2011 5:47 AMReply

    I'm just spit-balling, but here's a couple reasons why I think it could get made:

    1) A Party Down movie would be super cheap to make and if they get someone like David Wain (who directed an episode of the show) then it would be super easy.

    2) Just like every movie that comes out nowadays, a PD movie would have a built-in brand. Sure, no one really watched the show, but studios would be more than willing to make a movie about a pre-existing property than an original idea.

  • Ryan | April 21, 2011 5:16 AMReply

    Thanks, and thanks for all you guys do here. I spend way too much time on this site, but it's always time spent reading great pieces.

  • Kevin Jagernauth | April 21, 2011 5:06 AMReply

    Ryan, nicely done. I tip my hat.

  • Ryan | April 21, 2011 4:53 AMReply

    @ Kevin I couldn't find that New York Times Magazine profile (which I would love to read), but I've read numerous things over the years stating how much the fans helped get the album released. I like the Jon Brion versions, but, here's a number of quotes from a Today Show piece on the issue:

    "'As great as they are, '[Fiona] says of the [Jon Brion]songs, 'as proud of them as I am, they kind of lean toward more being a Jon Brion record because I wasn’t able to pick out things.'

    ...So she reached out to Mike Elizondo...But according to Apple, Sony was hesitant to bankroll that new direction. She was told her she would have to work on one song at a time and let the company hear each one before it would go further, she says."

    I think what may have happened is that the label convinced her not to be so vocal about this point in future interviews. I saw an interview with her where she said that fans thought she was out there trying to get the record done, but she was really just watching "Columbo" re-runs on her mom's couch.

    The label denies this:
    "(Epic spokeswoman Lois Najarian denies this: 'Things were definitely miscommunicated to her during the time period when Fiona was switching producers, and unfortunately she was led to believe that the label was only allowing one song at a time. That surely was not the case.')

    In any case, Apple felt powerless and confused.

    'I really did want to redo the songs,” she remembers. '(But) I thought that it was at the cost of my integrity.'

    So she quit. She called her manager and told him to inform Sony, unplugged her phone and retreated to Venice.

    ...After the issue caught the mainstream media’s attention and became a rallying cry on the Internet, Apple says Sony told her that she could do whatever she wanted with the album (though Sony maintains they would have released the album anyway).

    And she credits freefiona.com for helping her get to that point.

    'I’m totally in awe of them. I’m in awe of a small group of people that organizes to get something done,' she says. 'Look at me — I can’t even tell you what I’ve been doing for the past six years, and it’s my album!'"

    Sorry for the long post, the few parts I didn't cite are here: http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/9601227

  • Pierre | April 21, 2011 4:46 AMReply

    re: Ghostbuster 3

    So many people seem to want it to happen, but why? Why now? Personal greed from fans and financial greed from studios do not a good movie make.

  • Emily | April 21, 2011 4:13 AMReply

    Adam Scott is the shit.

  • Kevin Jagernauth | April 21, 2011 4:07 AMReply

    Oh yeah, I totally welled up at the last episode. Fantastic ending.

  • Kevin Jagernauth | April 21, 2011 4:05 AMReply

    Ryan, "Extraordinary Machine" had nothing to do with fan campaigns at all. Jon Brion recorded the first version of the album with Fiona Apple which the label hated and it never got an official release (though you can easily find it on the web and the production is great).

    Fiona Apple would re-record most of the disc and it was later spun that she didn't like what she did with Jon Brion, but I don't particularly buy that. The official release sounds totally studio driven -- much more glossy and less adventurous than Brion's take. More Fiona Apple-esque. And the story certainly doesn't make sense considering Apple has worked with Brion since a number of one off singles as well.

    All of this was covered in a pretty great New York Times magazine profile a few years ago before the album came out. You should seek it out.

  • Leah Zak | April 21, 2011 4:05 AMReply

    Tough talk, Jagernauth, but as much as I love this show, I can't see it as a feature length either. The last episode is perfect and I might or might not have welled up at the ending (I welled up.) Let's everybody just let it lie? Allow it to go out on the very high note that it did?

    Also, this clip: http://youtu.be/FQkDMT50lZY

  • Ryan | April 21, 2011 4:01 AMReply

    Also, it's agreed that those cult campaigns never really work, but Fiona Apple fans sent apples (get it?) to Sony music in 2005 and almost as a direct result, they let her re-record her album. So it does work sometimes (though, of course, not very often).

  • rabiman | April 21, 2011 3:48 AMReply

    6. Not that good of a show.

  • Ryan | April 21, 2011 3:01 AMReply

    A very well-argued piece. I think the "Can't we just let it die?" question would apply to not writing pieces like this.

    If you guys want to write it, which you obviously did, more power to you. I guess it just makes me sad because I love the show a lot and I think unlike other shows ("Arrested Development", for example) "Party Down" would really lend itself to a big screen adaptation--there's a lot we never learned about the characters' personal lives, would be cool to see them outside the work environment, etc. It could be made on a budget. Tim and Eric are doing a movie (granted Zach Galifianakis is in it)

    I totally agree with you guys that a "Party Down" movie won't happen, but I don't think it's constructive to make a list that any studio executive can grab and say, "Yo, Rob Thomas--THIS is why we're not doing it." Not that they would, they'll just say, "No," but this still makes me sad.

    Very well-written, well-argued piece though. I'm not trying to "hate."

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