‘Party Down’ – ‘James Ellison Funeral’: Kyle sings the blues

Senior Television Writer
05.14.10 14 Comments

A quick review of tonight’s “Party Down” coming up just as the names drop subtly…

One of the advantages of the “Party Down” premise is that every episode takes on a different feel, depending on what kind of party the team is catering, who the guests are, etc. The downside, though, is that the series tends to be qualitatively more uneven than a show with a static setting and style like “Parks and Recreation” or “Modern Family.” Some episodes are “Celebrate Ricky Sargulesh”-level brilliant, some work in spots but not as a whole, and every now and again there’s one that just doesn’t work at all like last year’s corporate retreat episode.

“James Ellison Funeral” falls somewhere in that middle group, I think – stronger than the premiere or the preschool auction episode, but a bit of a comedown after the orgy night (and before the Guttenberg-tastic next episode, which many of you have streamed on Starz’s website, and which we’ll wait until next week to discuss).

On the positive side, it was a great Ron episode, nicely following up on the pathos and pathetic comedy of last year’s high school reunion show with his proposed eulogy for himself  – “Here lies Ron Donald. Repeated first grade because he couldn’t figure out scissors.” – and then locking himself in a coffin while high. Very good work from Ken Marino throughout, selling the jokes while still letting you feel sorry for Ron. And the running subplots about ultra-white Kyle trying to learn the blues and Roman trying to prove his racial expertise (correcting the definition of “jungle fever,” and later all the stuff about Jesus being black) were both very funny.

But Henry and Casey seemed oddly marginalized, and this was another episode where Lydia seemed less a member of the team than some weird lady with a pink cast wandering around and saying wacky things. Later episodes will better integrate Megan Mullally into the group, but this wasn’t one of them.

What did everybody else think?

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