The Starz comedy Party Down aired from 2009-2010 and remains a cult classic today. The series chronicles the lives of a small band of Hollywood wannabes and has-beens who have no choice but to work for a catering company, Party Down, to make ends meet.
The hapless team is led by gung-ho aspiring entrepreneur Ronald "Ron" Donald (Ken Marino) who is saddled with a completely ambivalent staff all of whom, to Ron's chagrin, do the bare minimum (like their wages) to get by. Party Down elevates the mundanity of toiling away at a dead-end job and elevates it to the absurd. Here are 10 things Party Down gets right about working in the food service industry.
10 The Staff Makes Fun Of You
In between delivering food and drinks and laughing at cheesy jokes, waitstaff are judging and making fun of their customers. This is even more likely if the objects of ridicule are deserving of rueful scorn. Good examples are a guy throwing an orgy, young Republicans who take gifting Cuban cigars way too seriously, a screenwriting gangster, or a porn star.
It's not always personal, there's a surprising abundance of downtime when the job amounts to standing around and anticipating the needs of others. But since tips are usually a worker's last best hope at earning any real cash, the sucker who is the butt of a joke will never be the wiser.
9 Everyone Eats And Drinks On The Job
When in Rome. Shifts can be long, breaks aren't guaranteed and very rarely do employers subsidize snacks. So, yeah, the buffet may be a bit lighter, or there's a blank space on a plate where some beef tenderloin used to be. Unlike on Party Down, the person manning the spread won't usually snack right in front of a partygoer's face but never say never.
As for booze, that's just common sense. There aren't many people who will pass up free alcohol, and there are numerous tricks any bartender knows to disguise a Coke filled with rum. How else can Henry (Adam Scott) wash down that Vicodin without a splash of vodka?
8 Connections In The Workplace
Casey (Lizzy Caplan) and Henry aren't the only ones coupling up. Workplace romances are pretty common in the service industry. All those late nights and hours of forced confinement can ignite sparks.
Some people may prefer to draw a firm line in the sand between themselves and the help, but others don't let social hierarchy and socio-economic status get in the way of a good time. In the very least, hardcore flirting is pervasive.
Finding a life partner at a draft party is unlikely although that doesn't stop Lydia (Megan Mullally) from trying. For the Romans (Martin Starr) of the world, no amount of booze can mask the smell of desperation or a really bad personality. For everyone else, a job in service does have its perks.
7 Public Humiliation Is Inevitable
There are innumerable ways a job in the food service industry can lead to embarrassing situations. A good place to start is with uniforms which tend to range from unflattering to completely ridiculous.
Unless you've fled across the country—and sometimes even then—servers can count on running into someone they know. These reunions rarely occur at a time when the person handing around the tray of h'ordeuvres is feeling the best about their life choices. There's also tripping, falling down, breaking trays, throwing up, crying, rejection, and the list goes on and on and on.
6 Most Everybody Wants To Be Doing Something Else
There are a ton of masochists like Ron whose sole purpose in life is to serve others. Not that there's anything wrong with running a successful franchise like Soup R' Crackers or leading a catering team of total slackers (sadly, Ron does both badly).
But for most, the food service industry is like a roadside rest area, an undesirable stop on the way to a better destination: comedian, actor-singer-model, writer or manager. For others, their cars break down until they get a shot to star on Glee or Parks and Recreation.
5 Revenge Is A Dish Best Eaten By A Jerk
Every aspect of the universe is unknowable except for the fact that it's never wise to be nasty to someone who handles your food and/or drinks. Maybe some offenders believe this form of retribution is an unspeakably horrible act that nobody would sink to, but those people would be wrong.
Servers have no shortage of body fluids that come in very handy when other forms of retaliation just won't do. Things don't always go according to plan as fans of the show remember when Roman tries to serve pee-laced champagne to his former writing partner. But even the idea of servers using their powers for good instead of evil should encourage customers to err on the side of courtesy. It is contagious.
4 The Money Is Terrible
This one really goes without saying. Tipped employees don't generally make minimum wage, so that tip jar is like the Holy Grail. Luckily the Party Down gang doesn't rely on tips since they can't even parlay an open bar into more than 14 bucks. The most unrealistic thing about Party Down is that any of the team can afford to live in Los Angeles and not somewhere really horrible like ... the Valley.
As for luxuries like healthcare, dental and an apartment with a view of a Taco Bell, those are totally worth selling out for.
3 The Boss Taking It Way Too Seriously
The entire food service industry would fall apart if there weren't some responsible adults running the show. Ron takes his Ron Donald dos very seriously: politeness, professionalism, perfectionism, proactive and be on time. It's a flawless system with one exception: Ronald's dos aren't easily extrapolated from his don'ts, aka "RDDs." But those in charge are blessed with the wisdom to know you've got to break a few eggs.
2 Slacking Off Should Be Part Of The Job Description
Everybody has time to lean, and very few make the choice to clean. Most people who work in food service are desperate to find any excuse to escape their duties even just for a few minutes. Time suckage is an art form and those who master this skill can make any menial task last long enough to hinder actual productivity. Time theft may not be as lucrative as actual theft, but there's an undeniable sense of satisfaction for a job not well done.
1 All Good Things Come To An End
There's a reason there aren't senior citizens waiting tables or tending bar: everybody gets out of the biz eventually. In the case of Party Down catering, it's because of low ratings. For people in the real world, their food service careers may end because they get a "real job," they marry well, their bodies give out from years of abuse, or they wind up in jail or dead. The point is that nothing lasts forever.