Three and a half stars
9 tonight on Starz
9:30 tonight on Starz
Starz has come up with a couple of winning series that affectionately celebrate the plights of losers.
"Party Down" begins its second season about wannabe stars that pay the bills by putting on pink bow ties and catering the kinds of events they'll probably never be invited to.
Jane Lynch was the No. 1 reason to catch the first season of "Party Down," as a free-spirit whose career highlight was "Cannonball Run II." But now that she's embraced the dark side on "Glee," she's been replaced by the magnificent Megan Mullally, an oversharer who babbles on about her daughter, Escapade. The rest of the original crew is back, in varying degrees of denial, cluelessness, incompetence and narcissism. They have been missed.
The creators of "Veronica Mars" are behind this gem, and they've enlisted guest appearances by Kristen Bell, J.K. Simmons, Loretta Devine, Thomas Lennon and . . . Jane Lynch. If you watch only one episode of "Party Down" - or any other series, for that matter - don't miss the fifth episode, which is set at Steve Guttenberg's house. A classic.
"Party Down" has been paired with an intriguing newcomer: "Gravity," a series about people who have attempted suicide . . . and failed. That's the kind of thing that really does a number on your psyche.
For instance, Ivan Sergei ("Crossing Jordan") plays an ophthalmologist who can't get over his wife's death from cancer. Despairing, he drives his car over a cliff - and directly into the swimming pool of a passing gay cruise ship. He survives, only to become a joke on YouTube known as "the suicide dummy."
He's forced to join a support group run by a former baseball player named Dogg (Ving Rhames) who's now in a wheelchair. Rachel Hunter is a regular, as is Krysten Ritter ("Breaking Bad"), an actress so startlingly vivid she could be a cartoon.
With nothing left but the possibility of trying suicide again, the group clings together and develops a dark sense of humor about the whole thing.
Co-creator Eric Schaeffer ("My Life's in Turnaround") plays an obsessed cop who's a vegan/gambler/yoga enthusiast. Schaeffer's come up with original, fascinating characters who, as Dorothy Parker would say, might as well live.
If you don't subscribe to Starz, check out a couple of the new episodes online at starz.com. Or get chummy with somebody whose cable is fully loaded.