The drinks were red, served by shirtless male waiters with vampire fangs hanging over their lower lips. The food was devilishly spicy, but the guests, you could say, eagerly wolfed it down.
The occasion was a True Blood party, hosted by a Toronto woman to coincide with the debut of season six of the hit vampire TV show, which aired on HBO last Sunday.
Rachel Kerr, whose Red Staffing company provided the event with its waiters, says that TV-themed parties are on the rise.
“We’ve had requests for Mad Men cocktails parties and Downton Abbey tea parties,” Kerr says. “TV-inspired themes allow guests to have a more involved role in the party and it also allows for a more creative planning process. People really get into it.”
According to a recent British survey looking at people’s TV viewing habits, a third of adults under the age of 35 have attended a TV-themed party in the past five years, and the entertaining industry has been quick to respond.
Cookbooks such as the recently published True Blood: Drinks & Bites, written by Dawn Yanagihara in collaboration with HBO writers and producers and containing dozens of vampire-inspired cocktails and appetizers, are geared to the viewing-party set.
For Downton Abbey aficionados looking to recreate an early-20th-century high-British spread for guests, there is the e-cookbook Abbey Cooks Entertain by Canadian culinary historian Pamela Foster, who has adaptated for modern-day hosts 220 period-specific dishes, several of which have been featured in the show.
“It’s a means of spicing up a girls’ night in,” says Elana Kochman, co-owner and director of special events for the Toronto-based Toben Food by Design Catering company, who has also catered parties themed around movies and books (at a Fifty Shades of Grey party, an aphrodisiac-heavy menu featured champagne, oysters, lobster, red wine and chili.) “These parties are more fun, more playful and less serious than your average dinner party.”
But even the most escapist soirée must be well-organized to work its magic, Kochman says. Here are her tips for making a small-screen girls’ get-together a big success.
Simplify the menu
Since guests will be gathering around the television, serve one-bite appetizers that are easy to handle while seated on the couch. As for drinks, offer wine, beer and one or two signature cocktails that can be prepared in advance and set out in pitchers so guests can help themselves. When throwing a Mad Men-themed party, for example, mix up sixties-style cocktails that have appeared on the show such as vodka gimlets or old fashioneds.
Set the scene
Purchase or rent decor items that bolster your theme. When throwing a True Blood -inspired party, for instance, red and black throw pillows, stemware, plates and cocktail napkins will establish the right mood – and, of course, dim the lights.
Get guests involved
Create a fun activity for guests to participate in. At a Bachelorette season-finale party, for example, ask guests to vote on the last man standing, then reward the winners with a prize. Alternatively, ask your guests to dress in costume -- party dresses and red lipstick, for example, for a Mad Men do.