Can Megan Mullally End Her Career Drought with Party Down?
The plight of actresses who seek to escape saucy supporting character roles ("soubrettes," as Moliere would call them) is dicey; unless you're Marla Gibbs, who parlayed her success on The Jeffersons into a starring role on 227, the path from brassy ingenue to bankable marquee figure is fraught with dire history. No one knows this better than Megan Mullally, who hopes to end her post-Will & Grace drought by signing on to replace Jane Lynch on the Starz series Party Down, about a klatch of dysfunctional caterers. But does Mullally have what it takes to outlive the confines of the role that earned her two Emmys?
When Will & Grace ended in 2006, Mullally won her own talk show The Megan Mullally Show, which was canceled after only a few months due to low ratings. Whoever pitched or approved this idea severely misunderstood Mullally's appeal; we liked her on Will & Grace, but casting her as our real-life confidant is bizarre. You wouldn't buy a Kim Cattrall book about enlivening your sex life, would you? Of course not.
After the talk show flopped, Mullally signed on to the stage musical adaptation of Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein, filling the legendary, Madeline Kahn-originated role of Dr. Frankenstein's wife Elizabeth. The venture was a critical disappointment, but not because of Mullally -- the kink in the gears here was a pedestrian-paced song list and story. Then, this year, Mullally took on a starring part on the poorly promoted ABC comedy In the Motherhood alongside Cheryl Hines and Horatio Sanz, which led her to Party Down, a critically approved series that could still stand to develop a fervent following.
One could argue that it's a is a harrowing gig to fill the shoes of Jane Lynch, arguably the female face of improvisational comedy in the new millennium. Still, actresses who've had the most success when replacing series stars work best when they do their own thing (Kirstie Alley and, hell, Sandy Duncan spring to mind). Perhaps it's because of her beginnings in theater, or just the inevitable variety in her 30-year acting career, but (Will & Grace aside) Mullally has always seemed comfortable in less screechy, more humane roles, and that bodes well for her tenure on Party Down. Take a gander at this In the Motherhood clip and damn yourself for not petitioning to save what was a solid, special sitcom. (Start at around the 2:00 mark for Mullally's appearance.)