Mini-Results in the Age of Mass Media.

In this age of mass communications, I’m intrigued when work disseminated through major media conduits, which ought to attract an audience of a certain heft purely by default, manages to attract an audience the minuteness of which defies belief.

You wouldn’t think a movie released by a major studio (Idiocracy, 2006, Twentieth Century Fox) or featuring a major actress (Tilda Swinton, Julia, 2009) could fail to do at least a million dollars of business. You’d think that would be the default level of commercial failure — that at $10 a ticket, whatever the film, there’d be at least 100,000 people willing to see it just to get in out of the rain. But Idiocracy took in only $439,000 over its whole run, and Julia an astonishing $64,000. If you saw Julia, it turns out that you belonged to a club that had only 6399 other people in it in the entire world.

Now the Hollywood Reporter says that Party Down — a funny ensemble sitcom on Starz, about a Los Angeles catering crew made up of aspiring actors and screenwriters — drew an audience of 126,000 in its Season Two premiere. How is it possible for a show on a nationwide cable channel to attract only that many viewers? A test pattern should draw twice that many.

If you care to make it 126,001 on the next episode, you won’t be sorry. Each week the crew works a different uppercrust L.A. event, so while we follow the individual storylines of the continuing characters from week to week, we also get new, smart satirical observations of life in different slices of LaLaLand. Produced by (among others) Paul Rudd, the show features a talented troupe of improv-trained actors like Adam Scott, Lizzy Caplan and Megan Mullally. New episodes play on Fridays at 9 Central, with repeats through the week.


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