In “Pepper McMasters Singles Seminar,” things are settling into a rhythm. The format of Party Down is becoming clear–every episode takes place over the course of a Party Down-catered event. Henry settles into the tedium of bartending, Casey argues with her husband telephonically, Kyle plots revenge on Roman, Constance comes to term with her age, and Roman is a real, real sleazeball.
The Party Down team is catering a singles seminar for seniors hosted by Pepper McMasters (Marilu Henner), a sex/relationship counselor geared toward the elderly. Pepper’s book, Seniorlicious, is made up of chapters with titles like “Sexy Time.” Pepper exudes a faux-exuberance and adopts an intensely enthusiastic persona to persuade old folks that they can have just as much fun as youngsters.
Constance and Kyle are immediately uncomfortable, not having known that the singles seminar was for seniors. They are grossed out by the very thought of old people “doing it,” a feeling that is only intensified when Ron tells them a detailed story about having walked in on his grandparents as a small child.
It turns out that Constance used to see one of the seniors attending the party–a stoner named Bruce, played by Ed Begley Jr. in a very Ed Begley Jr. performance. Thinking about her time with Bruce puts Constance on edge, as it means she must acknowledge that she, too, is getting up there in years. It’s certainly a good episode for Jane Lynch, who makes Constance’s age-related self-consciousness emotionally affecting where it could have been an obligatory, throwaway arc for a character who hasn’t had much to do yet.
I credit this almost entirely to Jane Lynch, because I think this is one of the more lazily-written episodes of Party Down. Not that it’s terrible or anything (in fact, it contains my favorite monologue in the whole series), it’s just–I feel like I’ve seen the whole “look, old people dating, it’s hilarious!” thing a few too many times. The same applies to Kyle and Constance’s disgust at the old people dating.
Some of the best things about Party Down are the inventive events that frame each episode. Yet the singles seminar for seniors in this episode isn’t particularly creative. As a result, many of the episode’s jokes are stale and uninspired.
One of the better elements of the episode is the Kyle-Roman storyline. As revenge for convincing him to shave his eyebrow off, Kyle borrows a Viagra pill from one of the old men at the event and puts it in Roman’s drink. Every time I watch this episode I expect the prank to backfire on Kyle, for Roman to figure it out and switch their drinks. This is how the story would play out in any other sitcom.
Luckily, the Party Down writers are a smart bunch, so they completely deviate from the traditional sitcom plotline, instead waiting for the episode’s tag, when all of the episode’s main arcs have concluded, and then they hit us with the punchline of the Viagra prank. It’s a great moment, and a bright light in an otherwise relatively unremarkable episode.
There’s some major plot development in “Pepper McMasters Singles Seminar:” Casey decides to get a divorce from her husband, and then she and Henry kiss. This is another thing that I like about Party Down–it doesn’t tease us with the will-they won’t-they of it all. We’re in episode three and the show’s primary sources of sexual tension are already making out on the kitchen floor. I do think that the writers kinda bungle the Casey-Henry relationship a bit down the road, but for now I appreciate the fact that their relationship is on a fast-track and that the show isn’t shying away from having a couple at its center.
There’s a lot that can be appreciated in even a not-great episode of Party Down. All of the actors are consistently on their A-game (especially Jane Lynch, as I said before, and Adam Scott, who is particularly funny when he’s playing Henry stoned). There are excellent lines, and a painfully, horribly funny monologue by Roman which makes all of the “gross old people” stuff worth it.
“Pepper McMasters Singles Seminar” Rating: 6.5/10
Soup’r Crackers Quote Corner
“Actually I found out later it was the same girl. She put a sweater on.” – Kyle, on a rumor that he slept with twins
“Ugh. My grandma is not cruising around like a skank.” – Kyle
“Only four things in life that are important. You’ve got friendship. Love. Sex (Bada Bing)…I forgot the other one.” – Bruce, stoned in the bathroom with Henry
“I’m not the kind of guy who’s gonna be like, ‘Oh, her brain is a nine. What about her tits?’ I mean, don’t get me wrong, she’s got nice tits. I’d give ‘em a six. And her face is decent–I’d give that a six or a seven. Body–go to the gym. Once in a while. Tone up the stomach. Overall right now, like a six or seven body. Eyes are really nice, but y’know some makeup would be nice to kinda bring them out a little more. And then her hair, brown, nice. Like the ‘brown carpet.’ I prefer linoleum. But overall, it’s a six point eight. Six point nine. Six point eight point nine. That’s what I’d say.” – Roman, unprovoked, about Casey. To Henry’s general consternation