Henry Pollard: The Audience Of His Own Show

1764 words - 7 pages

Although he is the main character of Party Down, Henry Pollard is far from the conventional protagonist. He is not concerned with actively pursuing some greater good, or fighting against some perceived antagonist. That is not to say that he is the antihero either; in fact, he does not seem to be altogether virtuous or wicked. Henry is merely detached from the situation in a way that most of the other characters featured are not. He manages to be an integral part of every episode without usually becoming directly involved in the plot. While the rest of his companions are seen in a near constant state of hysteria due to some mishap of their own doing, Henry is often level-headed and uninterested in the development at hand. He is the wisecracking commentator who mainly intervenes later on to do damage control on the destruction that his fellow cast members have wrought. This damage control is not generally any more effective than that of his coworkers but he at least does not often end up being detrimental to the cause. The show tends to spend a great deal of time focusing the camera on his face (much more than any of the others) as he visibly processes a variety of emotion. By providing a character that watches and reacts to the episodic developments for much of the time rather than someone who is constantly involved, the creators (Fred Savage, Dan Etheridge, and Rob Thomas) balanced out what may have otherwise been a far-fetched and exasperating series with someone that the audience could relate to on a more personal level.
The most obvious indication that Pollard is a spectator are the frequent close ups of his dumbfounded facial expressions after a particularly disturbing exchange. The camera zooms in as his eyes bug out with a mixture of disbelief and confusion and the viewer knows that this is something he does not support, agree with, or even fully understand. His baffled expression mirrors our own and validates our reaction as an audience. This forms a connection between Henry and the show’s viewers by allowing them to empathize with him on a more personal level than we can with any of the other characters. The audience can identify with him because he is the most sensible and stable of the group, his judgment and interpretation of events can be trusted. Were he to nod his head in agreement or display some other expression that did not protest the exchange, he would be seen as just as irrational as the rest and we would be left relying solely on our impression of events. This way, we are given a constant reminder of the ludicrousness of the plot without anyone having to repeatedly verbalize it, which would undoubtedly grow redundant over time. This simple technical aspect resolved a large amount of the issue of keeping Party Down in a believable environment. Knowing that at least one of the characters was bothered by the happenings of the show meant that the same societal rules were applicable in this setting.
During an interview, a...

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