Thursday, July 01, 2010

structure, and fucking discipline



So they canceled Party Down.

If you didn't watch Party Down, get thee to Netflix streaming and watch both seasons. Get your $10 a month worth. It's a small, funny, well-written show which stars a lot of people who are famous already (whatup Jane Lynch) or are going to be (Adam Scott and Lizzy Caplan, look forward to seeing more of yall around, especially you, Lizzy!).

The first season was entertaining, if formulaic, but the second season turned into a weird, quiet discussion of success, failure, the American dream, showbiz and self-delusion. In the later episodes of the second season, almost every disaster turned into a major opportunity, and by the season (now series) finale, it looked like even the most hard-headed (by which I mean rational and reasonable) Hollywood strivers had gotten the message: not everyone gets their break, but you have to play the game to win. Also, getting mad about others' success is a non-starter, and getting back up after failing is as important as succeeding. In that, Party Down is also a microcosmic commentary on America, as these are the qualities that make us both wildly prosperous and totally inane. Rap music wouldn't exist without it, but it also turned the genre into the gay Young Republicans conference which it is today.

(No shots, just sayin.)

The central lessons of Party Down are especially near and dear to me, as I struggle to pay my rent as a DJ and producer, and constantly see people close to me, or at least friendly acquaintances across the country make big moves. Any movement is progress and there is almost no such thing as failure. And it's much better to be Kyle than Henry or Casey, because Kyle's ego is so big he doesn't even process bad news.

But I digress.

What I really wanted to talk about is why Party Down failed from a business standpoint. First off, who the fuck has Starz? Is Starz part of your average premium package? A lot of my friends (myself included) don't even have cable. I watch everything on Hulu and Netflix. And I would go so far as to say "Netflix streaming" and Party Down were damn near synonymous. I had a lot of conversations which began with one and ended with the other, either "oh you have Netflix? you should watch this show" or "you haven't seen this show? it's on Netflix!" and thus the connection was made.

I have a minor obsession with the gigantic generation gap between pre-internet and post-internet culture, as it is applicable to literally every topic. My father and I had an hour long conversation about the arrogance of doctors a couple weeks ago, in which we concluded that my generation's "tell everyone you know about everything" mentality could reform modern medicine by fostering a generation of medical professionals who aren't afraid to ask for help and collaborate on tough cases. And this is a development that came around in the last five years.

Similarly, I have to wonder how much Starz is keeping tabs on Netflix viewership, or if they simply write it off because of an old-world mentality that TV ads rule the world. And if Party Down had been on a network with a little more relevance (or a rich corporate parent, like FX), if we would still have a show. Even if America will never learn to love 30 Rock and its litany of inside jokes with the liberal elite, NBC will keep it around for prestige. HBO knows risky, creative shows take time to grow, and that keeping a low-profit critical darling around for a few seasons while it gathers buzz can reap huge rewards on the back end with DVD sales (or, y'know, more prestige). But Starz, with little going for it other than being the reason I can watch Wall-E on Netflix, I suppose doesn't have the luxury of catering to the nerds, at least not until they find their Sopranos or their Sex In The City. A network cannot live on Lizzy Caplan's glorious rack alone! (Especially after they changed her look in the second season, what was up with that?)

So what we are left with is one of those shows, like Freaks and Geeks which will launch the careers of a handful future stars (on both sides of the camera?) but didn't really do shit for its patrons.

Starz: as a fair-weather Pittsburgh Pirates fan, I need to tell you this is not a great strategy. My team has spent the last two decades grooming players for bigger markets, the Jason Schmidts, the Aramis Ramirezs, the Brian Giless, the Jason Bays. At some point you need to go for the gold. I don't know nearly enough about the inside workings of TV to complete this analogy but I will say someone on your team was smart enough to greenlight this show, albeit apparently tentatively. Give that person a raise and tell them to go look for something a little dumber and a little more marketable.

EDIT: just found out the show was on at Friday night at 10 PM? are you fucking kidding me? a) what the hell else is Starz showing all week and b) what show has ever done any kind of numbers at Friday night at 10 PM? SMH.

Anyways. RIP to a great show. I leave you with Karma Rocket's accidental Aryan nation anthem "My Struggle":