In Depth

'Party Down': Hollywood's Hippest Entourage

It's almost the Fourth of July—and that means it's time to declare your independence from subpar television.

All this week, TVWeek.com is turning the spotlight on some of the small screen's most promising new series, young shows with breakout potential. We'll tell you what the critics are saying, what episode you simply can't miss and what to expect when new episodes return.

We're calling these shows the Buzzmakers. You'll call them signs of intelligent life in a TV universe dominated by summer reruns and reality retreads.

When & Where: Reairing on Starz channels and On Demand.

Premise: A group of hoping-to-breakout actors and writers work as cater-waiters. Each episode focuses on a different event, where the wannabes serve appetizers while checking their messages to see if they got the part.

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Standout Star: It's hard to chose from such a large and talented ensemble cast (see below), but we're going to go with Martin Starr for his deadpan, sarcastic turn as Roman. He keeps his love for Casey hidden by rating her a 6.8 or 6.9 on a scale of 10 and strikes out with an adult film star because he gets angry when she mistakes fantasy for hard sci-fi.

The Buzz: With a dream cast featuring regular Judd Apatow players (Martin Starr, Jane Lynch, Ken Jeong), numerous cult film and TV stars (Ken Marino, Lizzy Caplan) and a gaggle of regular cast (Ryan Hansen, Adam Scott, Marino) and guest stars (Kristen Bell, Jason Dohring, Enrico Colantoni) from co-creator Rob Thomas' canceled fan-favorite “Veronica Mars,” each cast member of “Party Down” brings his or her own built-in fanbase. We're willing to bet more than a few people subscribed to the pay channel just to check out this show. What they saw when they tuned in was a comedy about trying to make it until you breakthrough, which has been called “one of the most reliably enjoyable comedies on television” by the Chicago Tribune's Maureen Ryan and “a cutting social satire of the wannabe Hollywood set” by the popular TV blog Televisionary.

Must-See Episode: Thomas recommends “Pepper McMasters Singles Seminar” because it “feels like the one where we started nailing the tone of the show.”

We also like “Taylor Stiltskin Sweet Sixteen.” The Party Down crew caters a Sweet Sixteen party for the spoiled daughter of a film producer (J.K. Simmons). Unfortunately, the guest of honor won't come out of her room because only the outcast kids showed up to the party. Caplan's Casey and Lynch's Constance try to coax her out with differing opinions of what matters most in high school. Meanwhile, Hansen's Kyle tries to score with the girl's mom (Joey Lauren Adams) for a part in her husband's film, but his recently bleached teeth hurt too much to kiss her.

What We Like: Have you seen the cast?

What's Ahead: Season 2, which doesn't have a premiere date yet, will stick to its one event an episode premise, but will change things up a little when Party Down owner Alan Duk (Jeong) throws a company picnic and hires rival Valhalla Catering for the event.

“When the season picks up, Henry is serving as team leader,” Thomas says. “Casey is back from her cruise ship gig, but working on a different Party Down team, and Ron is reeling because, despite his Soup'R Crackers location's success, the entire franchise goes belly up. When we first find Ron in season two, it's at a backstage party for a Marilyn Manson-esque rock star, and he's trying to get his new young girlfriend in to meet him.”

And as for Kristen Bell's Uda, the uptight leader of Valhalla who left quite an impression?

“We learn that Henry has been in a safe, if a bit unsatisfying relationship with Uda,” Thomas says. “We're hopeful, but by no means certain, that Kristen might reprise this role for one episode.”

Other “Veronica Mars” vets Thomas would like to get on the show: Steve Guttenberg, who would play himself, Chris Lowell and Max Greenfield. Thomas also hopes to reteam with Bobby Cannavale, who starred on Thomas' “Cupid” remake and is a fan of the show, and is “excited about the possibility of getting Amanda Peet in the show.”

Meanwhile, the fate of Lynch's Constance remains unknown as Fox has first dibs on the actress, who is a regular on “Glee.” Thomas hopes to get Lynch back for an episode and mentioned talk of a Constance's Wedding episode. The show plans to introduce a new character—“a divorced stage mom who brings her tween daughter to L.A. to make her a star”—to fill the void left by Lynch.

Filed under: Party Down, Rob Thomas, Starz, The Buzzmakers