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Sun Eggs and George Takei: The Horrors of the Stennheiser-Pong Wedding Reception on the Season Finale of Starz's "Party Down"

Was it just me or was Friday evening's season finale of Party Down ("Stennheiser-Pong Wedding Reception") absolutely hysterical and poignant in equal measure?

Throughout its first season, Party Down--which will return for a second season sometime in 2010--has proven itself to be a cutting social satire of the wannabe Hollywood set as it explores the morals and motivations of a group of cater-waiters hoping to move up a rung on the ladder of fame and fortune.

In episodes scripted by co-creator/executive producer John Enbom, this has typically taken a dark turn and Friday night's episode ("Stennheiser-Pong Wedding Reception"), which guest starred the always delightful Kristen Bell (Veronica Mars) as Ron's catering nemesis Uda Bengt, was no exception, offering an installment that not only shocked and saddened but also made me giddy with excitement.

While Party Down attempted to cater a gay wedding this week, they discovered that they weren't the only caterers assigned to the event and soon had to contend with the Valhalla Catering Company, a group of attractive, black-garbed model-esque waiters overseen by the rigid and icy Uda Bengt (Kristen Bell). (Yep, butter wouldn't melt in her mouth.) But that's not the only problem. Ron is a total mess, having gone off the deep end and reverted back to his old habits of drinking, Roman is stuck directing guests' attention to the restroom sign and latches onto wedding guest George Takei, Casey awaits a call about a gig that could end her relationship with Henry, Bobbie (Jennifer Coolidge) is high on magic mushrooms (her description of lemons as "sun eggs" had me rolling on the floor), and Kyle is desperate to pitch himself to a producer at the event.

All of which leads to poor Henry having to take the reins of Party Down and keep everyone on track. Season One has largely been about Henry's path from former actor ("Are we having fun yet?") to full-time caterer, a move that he's been largely resistant to, even as he can't quite veer from this inevitable destination. But Henry does step up, organizing the color-coded appetizer trays, preventing George Takei from dying, keeping Ron under control and largely out of site, and shielding his employer from the suspicions of Alan Duk (Ken Jeong). And just like that, Henry suddenly is thrust into the role of responsible member of society, a team leader. In essence, Henry has now become Ron.

For everyone else, the party provides a bit of an escape, a last hurrah before their lives change forever. Casey accepts a six-month stand-up gig aboard a cruise ship (shudder), Kyle is so willing to do anything to get a role in a feature film that he agrees to do, well, anything (wink, wink, nudge, nudge), and Ron finally gets the seed money from Duk to start his very own Soup R' Crackers franchise. It's a series of changes that beautifully sets up a second season of the series and allows some actors to come and go.

I'm hoping, however, that they all--including Jane Lynch--return for another go-around as I'd hate to lose any of them. I think that it's pretty safe to say that Ron's Soup R' Crackers franchise will fail (especially now that Ron is back on the sauce) and he'll have to return to Party Down, likely reporting to team leader Henry, and Casey will return from what's bound to be a horrific cruise gig as well. Jennifer Coolidge's Bobbie St. Brown has been a fine fill-in for Jane Lynch's Constance Carmell but I'm hoping that Lynch can find time from her busy Glee-filled schedule to reprise her role as Constance next season.

Meanwhile, I have to say what a thrill it was to see Kristen Bell again on the small screen, particularly in scenes with her former Veronica Mars sparring partners Ryan Hansen and Ken Marino, the latter of whom played the despicable Vinnie Van Lowe on the short-lived Rob Thomas series. Bell brought a severe iciness to the role and we felt--painfully--just how much Uda manages to ruffle Ron's feathers. (Personally, I could see an entire series filling in the backstory between Uda and Ron when they worked together at Party Down.) And the way that Bell kept up her arctic demeanor even when hitting on Henry? Priceless. (Is there anything we can do to lure Bell back to a weekly series again? Anyone?)

All in all, this week's episode of Party Down was a fantastic season closer to a ten-episode run that has cemented Party Down as one of the hilarious and moving comedies on television today. I'm going to miss the deliciously loopy gang at Party Down and hope that Rob, John, et al can bring them back to the small screen sooner rather than later. In the meantime, I see a sun egg that requires my attention.

Party Down will return with a second season next year on Starz. Missed the first season? It's currently available for streaming on Netflix's Watch Instantly.


The CineManiac said…
Loved the episode, and as you know I'm a huge K.Bell/V.Mars fan so it was great to have her back on the screen with her old nemesises (nemesi? nemesies?)

Personally I am kind of hoping she shows back up next season maybe as Henry's F-Buddy! And yes her hitting on him, while still being so cold was hysterical.

But do I really have to wait until 2010 to see 3 of my favorite series return? Chuck, Lost, and Party Down can't come back soon enough, yet I have to wait at least 7 months for all of them, it's almost enough to send one into a spiral of depression. (Luckily I currently have Greek, and soon will have the returns of Burn Notice, Psych, and Monk to keep me sane!)
Bella Spruce said…
Kristen Bell was hilarious as Ron's catering nemesis and I also hope that she pops up again next season.

I'm thrilled that the show is coming back and have my fingers crossed that everyone, including Jane Lynch, will return. Jennifer Coolidge is deliriously funny (literally) but I do miss Lynch and her bizarre antics.
El PresiBENte said…
Speaking as a Filipino fan of the show, it just irked me how the casting director couldn't find someone better to speak proper Tagalog. (Note to Hollywood: Just because Spain conquered us 300 years ago doesn't mean we ended up LOOKING Mexican.) No offense to Derek Bacso (Assuming that WAS him, as an online search of his image didn't match the face of the actor that played "Filipino Sous Chef" in the show)
Brad said…
Great episode (and write up).
One quibble: wasn't the rival catering company called Valhalla Catering, not Adonis?
Jace Lacob said…

You're right, it is Valhalla. I think Adonis was what it was originally called in the script but it was changed to Valhalla in the aired episode. Good catch!
Unknown said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Savvy Veteran said…
Great episode. I too hope that Kristen Bell will return at some point, but to be honest her character sort of felt like a one-off to me. It's been a good year for new comedies so far, and I'm glad that Party Down was able to go out on such a high note. I would say that it's one of the top-5 funniest shows on the air right now, which is a terrific accomplishment for a show that has only had one season of ten episodes.
Anita said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anita said…
I'd love if KBell could reprise her role as Uda for an episode or two next year. I also saw that Enbom and Rob mentioned having Francis Capra on the show and if in S2, Jason Dohring can do 1 or 2 episodes, same with KBell and they have Francis and maybe Rico again, it would be fantastic.

I absolutely love the main cast and I actually hope Francis would be asked to join as a regular, but the VM alum guest stars are definitely icing on the cake!

I also agree that Jennifer Coolidge is fine, but she's definitely no Constance, so if FOX doesn't let Jane Lynch do PD, even though it doesn't interfere with her commitments to Glee, that will be a big hole to fill. Kyle and Constance's interactions are one of my favorite things about the show.

(I wish Blogger had an edit button, instead of just preview for those of us that are typo happy.)
pau said…
The cinamaniac Uda can't be a fuckbuddy she is cold, rigid and certainly frigid ! And definitetly not Henry's type, he seems disturbed when she hit on him (hilarious so) but to Ron and Casey kick her ass would be so cool !!! I love to hate her yeah !
But i rather like to see other VM alumn (Weevil,Mac,Wallace).

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