'Party Down' preps for Season 2

'Glee's' Jane Lynch to return for season finale

Is "Party Down" nearing its end?

Not if co-creators and executive producers Rob Thomas ("Veronica Mars"), John Enbom and Dan Etheridge have anything to say about it.

Talk of the upcoming season, the theoretical future, new additions and potential departures of cast members were discussed at Wednesday night's panel moderated by THR's Andrew Wallenstein at Beverly Hills' Paley Center for Media.

With Season 2 premiering Friday on Starz, viewers will notice one distinct change: Jane Lynch, who played an integral role on the catering crew in the half-hour comedy's first season, is no longer a regular thanks to the success of her other gig, a little show called "Glee."

"We knew going in that Jane was already signed up to do 'Glee' and we were just waiting for when that would happen," Enbom said. "We were very lucky to get eight [episodes in Season 1] out of the deal instead of three or four."

Replacing Lynch is comedy veteran Megan Mullally, who sports a convincing wig as stage mom Lydia. In creating her character, the producers incorporated aspects of Lynch's Constance to maintain a similar dynamic between the caterers.

According to producers, attracting Mullally -- who fell in love with the show after stumbling across it during its first season -- to the project wasn't difficult at all.

"There was a serendipitous moment when we heard that Megan liked the show at the same time we were crafting the stage mother character -- they literally happened on the same day," Etheridge explained.

But Lynch's departure won't be the only one, should the series resume for a third season.

Leading man Adam Scott (Henry) recently signed on for NBC's "Parks and Recreation" as an unwelcomed state arbiter, causing many to believe that the upcoming sophomore season may be "Party Down's" last. Also, Ryan Hansen (Kyle) was cast in a NBC comedy pilot "Friends with Benefits" and Lizzy Caplan (Casey) is committed to CBS' "True Love" project.

Could "Party Down" go on with three to four main characters potentially leaving by season's end?

"It's catering. People come and people go," Enbom said. "We never had the money to go, 'You're in a 10-year deal!' "

"We love our cast, but I think it's a show that can survive," Thomas added. "In the real world catering is not a career choice for most people, so it would make sense that new people would come into the show."

"I get run over by a tractor, spoiler alert," Scott deadpanned after Mullally mentioned that he was available for three episodes in a hypothetical Season 3.

The most exciting part about outlining the series is at the start of each season, when the producers map out the party settings for the year, Thomas shared.

One idea, set at actor Steve Guttenberg's 50th birthday party, was a concept that they thought would be fun to do but wasn't sure would be possible. When things began falling into place, it was "serendipitous," Enbom said. ("Steve Guttenberg plays an off-version of Steve Guttenberg," Thomas teased.)

With a large ensemble cast and less than half an hour to tell a story, Enbom said that it was difficult to "spread the wealth," citing an example where co-star Ken Marino (Ron) had the smallest arc in the Guttenberg episode. Marino's storyline centered on a shrimp being trapped in a fish tank.

When the panelists were asked about chances for improv, Scott took the reins. "We all improvise a little bit ... [but] there's not really a need for improvisation. We do screw around a little bit and sometimes it ends up in the show," said Scott, who estimated that each episode was about 95-98% scripted.

For now, outlining or even brainstorming plot points for a third season is moot.

"It's tough in our situation because actors have one-year deals, so we're not sure exactly who we'll have, so it's hard to play until we know what our cast is," Thomas said.

When asked about the guest stars from the first two seasons, which have included Ed Begley Jr., Steven Weber, Kristen Bell, J.K. Simmons, Terry Kinney and several "Veronica Mars" alumni, Scott made a joke about the show living and dying by them.

As for their wish list, the panelists offered up co-creator Paul Rudd as their most desired guest star, which prompted heavy laughter.

The crowd cheered when it was revealed Lynch would be returning for the Season 2 finale, which was also directed by Marino. (Marino rose from his chair to take a bow to the crowd. The multihyphenate did this several times throughout the evening.)

The obligatory question was raised about the status of a "Veronica Mars" movie.

"Every time I answer the question, I don't want to stoke hope or stomp on it," Thomas said. "Kristen [Bell] wants to do it. I've got new agents who are putting some real effort into making it happen. We all want it to happen but it's [about] finding someone who will pay for it."

When "Party Down" first debuted last April, it originally acted as a complement to "Head Case." Moving forward though, Thomas hopes "Party Down" is a part of Starz's future plans, whatever that may entail.

Additional panelists included Martin Starr (Roman).
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