Due to its anthology nature, Room 104 can be very limiting. Unlike a short film which is free to work in any setting, the HBO show has certain guidelines. The seventh episode is a great example. “Foam Party” sees a group of friends rent the room for a party. Because this is an extra special night, it is going to be a foam party. When the night takes an odd turn, the party goers have to find a way to leave.
One thing viewers have come to accept from anthologies is some episodes will be weaker than others. Since the audience has this knowledge going in, they are willing to be more accepting. Things that are done right will potentially mean more. In the case of “Foam Party”, it has an engaging opening that seems to give enough goodwill for the entire episode.
The MTV-like opening title card announces the episode is going to take place in the 1990s. The first few minutes of Room 104 are a nice jolt of nostalgia. The music sounds like something that would have topped the charts during that decade. Meanwhile, the people at the party look and act like kids from the time period. It is a little heavy handed, but it is all good fun.
Once, the rising action kicks in, the episode loses its way. The performances become erratic at this point. It is hard to tell if the revelers are scared by what is happening or think it is funny. It is hard to take the danger seriously when the people involved do not seem to. The story also never quite explains itself. There are hints about the episode being about friendship and belonging, but it all ends up going nowhere.
Whether it was the structure of the show or the episode itself, “Foam Party” ends up falling flat. The early 90s-centric moments are well done and will bring a smile to the faces of anyone who lived during that time. The song is absolutely perfect, for example. The lack of story quickly becomes apparent. The rest of the show feels erratic and forced.