What happens when a group of moderately successful American actors all find out that the sitcom pilot they were involved in has been cancelled? Well, apparently they start a web chat show and invite on all their more famous actory friends.
Bitter, Party of Five is that chat show. Featuring 5 vaguely recognisable actors, Bitter Party of 5 is a chat show which is more about the hosts than the guests. The “Bitter Five”, Jason Antoon, Mary Birdsong, Greg Cromer, Tricia O’Kelley and Romy Rosemont invite more recognisable faces on the show, largely so they can tap them for jobs or career advice, or to simply stare at them enviously. The backstory about the cancelled pilot was real, but the characters are clearly exaggerations of themselves. Living up to the show’s title, the five hosts’ gnawing insecurities are the star of the show. Each host in turn oozes desperation as they ask their guests questions which are often thinly veiled attempts to get work, or simple outbursts of jealousy. The awkward brilliance of the five performers during these parts is the real strength of this show.
At it’s best, Bitter Party of Five is a great example of cringe-worthy embarrassment comedy. The guests, being already successful actors, play the straight guy with aplomb, their obvious discomfort is very funny to watch, but it’s their moments of unexpected eccentricity that are the nicest surprise. The episode featuring The West Wing’s Allison Janney finds her both put off by the hosts’ behaviour, but also suprisingly open about her preference for sex toys and Martha Plimpton from Raisng Hope seems to like to rub her emmey win in their faces. The hosts’ characters, whilst all united by their collective bitterness, have some nice personal quirks too (as well as their own preferred drinks – my favourite is Mary Birdsong’s cocktail glass full of milk with a cookie on the side). Jason Antoon is both alarmingly naive and very sexually forward with the guests, Romy Rosemont is overwhelmed with jealousy at her (real life) husband Stephen Root because he gets more work than her and Greg Cromer is endearingly ignorant about pretty much everything.
Done differently this show could easily have been a vapid chat-show parody replacing funny moments with “outrageous” behaviour being thrust upon bewildered guests, but fortunately it’s been a bit more clever than that. The guests are often just as self-involved as the cast – the way the cast behaves varies from guest to guest, from open jealousy, to mean comparisons to one of their own to outright obsessive fan behaviour. This makes for a surprisingly varied and enjoyable show, despite the cringe-y humour (that’s not to say the humour’s bad, but I tend to find that kind of humour physically tiring after a while, my face can only contort for so long guys). Occasionally the episodes go on for longer than they really need to, but it’s not so much that it harms the overall experience.
Bitter, Party of Five is, at it’s best, fun, hilarious and deliciously awkward. At it’s worst it’s slightly repetitive, but really that’s only a minor quibble from the mind of an obsessive critic. So really, if you like comedy about grasping, over-ambitious actors, you should really get on and watch this show, it’s hilariously awkward and great fun, and with YouTube views growing into the 10s of thousands, it’s getting to be kind of a big deal.