And I don't even mention the fact that McLovin is in the episode, which he is.
Celebrities playing themselves in a manor that pokes fun at their image is a joke grown increasingly weary to me. It's beginning to feel more like a way for famous people to gain good PR then something that serves comedy in any useful way. For me that trick works best when the person playing themselves gives a performance of some kind rather then taking a few soft hits and coming off like a whole new person.
But it worked wonderfully in Steve Guttenberg's birthday, mostly perhaps because its not a series of cheap gags about how lame and outdated Guttenberg is, how he only made bad movies things like that, instead pointing out that us smart-ass cynics will never know an inch of the success Guttenberg had, and he acts as almost a hurricane of positivity to Party Down's regular cast of people who hate the world in one way another, and by making such a mockable celebrity a kind of zen like optimist interested in helping everyone he ever meets, reminding our cast, particularly failed actor Henry, that the dreams they've al given up on might be worth pursuing after all. It also very fucking funny, whilst similarly retaining the sadness that pervades the show and makes it the rich experience it is.
I think what makes this episode stand out against the rest though, and season two of Party Down set a very high standard indeed, is the two scenes where the caterers read Hard sci-fi (Techno-babble that purposefully avoids any kind of heart or humanity) enthusiast Roman's script aloud. In part because it lent a depth to Roman's character who spent most of the series believing he was too good for the world rather then the other way around, and for the way it contrasted the two readings, the first a sarcastic lifeless washout, and the second an unexpectedly intense, unexpectedly awesome scene, in which Henry being so good only lends more to the tragi-comic elements of the show. Adam Scott has always been an under-rated actor, but what he did in this episode has made me a fan for life, its a terrific performance in every sense of the word. Him screaming ' What do you know about Life!' as 'Slave girl' dies in his arms is simultaneously one of the funniest and saddest scenes of the year. To put it in the show's words, 9 times out of ten, if you've got the talent, you make it. But what about that one guy?
A lot of comedy revolves around people failing, but in the world of Party Down its explored in a very different way. It doesn't hide from the darker elements of seeing people dreaming of success and heading inevitably toward humdrum monotony, yet it the Steve Guttenberg's birthday frames this against someone whose got everything they want. If it wasn't so funny this would be the saddest show on TV. Perhaps it still is. Well, if it wasn't cancelled anyway. Genius.