You know what they say about showing a gun in the first act–it had better make someone wet his pants in the third act.
Party Down can be very funny–Pancake Lady does in fact sound a little like a whore–but the combination of self-centered, icky people rich enough to afford to boss around catering staff with a catering staff that is very slightly more sympathetic almost entirely because they aren’t bright enough to have the money to boss around a catering staff can get tough to watch. It’s reminiscent of the British version of The Office in that respect, where the balance between the humor and the discomfort has to be almost perfectly calibrated to work. When that calibration is even a tiny bit off, playing “Spot the Veronica Mars Alums” is the thing that keeps me watching (this week: science teacher/egg-dropping competition facilitator Mr. Wu [Martin Yu] and the wonderful, glorious, possibly best reason to watch VM, bottom-feeding lawyer Cliff McCormack [Daran Norris]).
The most obvious strategy for trying to make a show palatable while maintaining the intentional rough edges is to build genuine affection among the main characters, and “Investors Dinner” does just that. As much contempt as Henry and Casey have for Ron and his sell-out paths they fear they will follow, they don’t hesitate for a second to spring into action to protect him from being bilked out of his Souper Cracker savings. Even more touching is Kyle choosing crazy Constance–she’s mooing at this point; that’s how crazy she is–over a connected jackass he would probably enjoy partying with and who might be able to get him a break, but who uses Constance and her unshakable belief that she’ll break back into acting for sport. We have to like these characters enough to show up week after week, and little connections like this make the fact that said characters are stealing Vicodin and literally wetting themselves more palatable.