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Bad Actors: The Party Down Indoor Netball Team

Calum Henderson continues his series of really stupid yet incredibly entertaining Spinoff stories by imagining ace ensemble comedy Party Down as an indoor netball team. //

The thing about a good ensemble cast is that it can transcend space and time. You could transplant the casts of Friends onto a spaceship or Seinfeld into the current day (imagen!) and they’d mostly still work, right? Maybe this is why while re-watching Party Down I got to thinking about indoor netball archetypes.

Like indoor netball, Party Down is a bleak, embarrassing, and funny portrait of frustration. It arrived just ahead of the online television curve, and perhaps inevitably suffered poor ratings when it first aired in 2009 on relatively small-time cable station Starz. If released today it would surely be a ‘net sensation – its style and tone is locked down from episode one and at two 10-episode series it’s an undemanding yet incredibly satisfying watch.

I’m less concerned about lamenting its sad passing, though, than imagining the crew as a netball team. With a 4:2 male/female split the Party Down catering team would be ineligible for almost all indoor netball leagues, whose standard rules dictate at least three female players must be on the court at all times. All the same, the show’s motley crew of failed and/or aspiring actors-turned-caterers represent many of the key characters found sweating it out in netted cages across the land.

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As team leader, Ken Marino’s Ron Donald is clearly the captain. This is a bad job with little-to-no reward. Going to the effort of actually registering a team suggests the captain has the most to gain in terms of personal satisfaction, but also leaves him extremely vulnerable when people don’t turn up and he has to organise subs and the league threatens to disqualify the team if he doesn’t pay all outstanding fees. Like all managers Ron is a deeply tragicomic figure. He would play at centre in a fruitless attempt to implement some sort of rudimentary tactics.

Making a reluctant return to catering after accepting failure in his acting pursuits, Henry is the slacker. He derives little satisfaction but plays anyway ‘for the exercise’ and because he has nothing else to do. While in no way committed he is competent and as one of the more reliable team members finds himself a reluctant de facto vice-captain. He seems to always play as a shooter despite being the shortest member of the team.

Unlike the rest of the team, Casey has played before, and to a much higher level. She is the overqualified member of the team. She talks openly about how she might be joining a better team and will pull out of games for almost any reason. And her boyfriend plays indoor cricket at the same indoor sports complex on the same night and he is an absolute bastard. She holds down the middle of the court with Ron.

Roman has never played netball before but thinks that being tall and relatively athletic should mean he will be a good player. When reality doesn’t reflect this he becomes quickly infuriated. He is constantly called for fouls and is easily rarked up, inevitably ending up mouthing off to the ref and telling opposition players to “fuck off”. Roman is the tryhard. He plies his aggro trade as a shooter, jacking up ill-advised shot options and carrying a career shooting percentage of approximately .200.

Kyle has never played netball before either, but unlike Roman suffers no delusions of grandeur. He is simply the novice, and his lack of expectations from himself mean he is all the better as a player. Kyle plays as a defender, not realising that this is a bad position, obliviously dampening all aggro from opposition tryhards.

Constance is here for a good time, not a long time. She is the ringer. Like a true ringer she is no longer available after the first series (when Jane Lynch left to be on Glee) and is replaced by another ringer (Megan ‘Tammy Swanson’ Mullally – shit this show had such a good and funny cast!). They are both just happy to be there having a run around. What are the rules of netball? Who cares! It’s really important to have someone like this to remind you it’s just for fun and stop the whole team descending into some dark Friday Night Lights-type levels of intensity.

The Party Down corporate indoor netball team would play in the lowest tier of the Monday night mixed grade competition. They would struggle to put a team on the court week-to-week, but somehow sustain a surprising longevity, winning no less than two and no more than four games each and every season until the end of time, or organised social indoor netball – whichever comes first.

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