There are so many new series premiering these days across numerous broadcast networks, cable channels, and streaming services that it’s hard to keep track. But it also means that there are many platforms for all different kinds of tastes and allowing for longer runs for shows that might have been too niche to attract a sizable audience back when there were far fewer outlets for programming. Among those canceled too soon was Starz’s Party Down, which aired two ten-episode seasons in 2009 and 2010 and now returns for a triumphant and enticing third round of six episodes with nearly its entire original cast.
A decade after the original series, Ron (Ken Marino) is still struggling to run the Party Down catering company, which has not done well during the pandemic. The original members of the team converge at an event, with Kyle (Ryan Hansen) now a hit actor, Henry (Adam Scott) a teacher, and both Constance (Jane Lynch) and Lydia (Megan Mullally) on to bigger and better things. As their fortunes ebb and flow, Ron finds himself with returning help as he continues to pursue his dream of operating a profitable and successful company of his own.
Bringing an ensemble back together more than a decade after the end of the original series is no small feat, and yet this show has managed to do it, with the one unfortunate exception of Lizzy Caplan, who recently appeared in FX’s Fleishman is in Trouble and will soon be seen in the Paramount+ series Fatal Attraction. It’s a treat to see Lynch and Mullally together given that the latter was called in to replace the former when she got a plum gig on a small show called Glee, and it’s also great to see Scott and Martin Starr back in these roles while they are also appearing on current TV hits Severance and Tulsa King, respectively.
The tone of this show and the general attitude of the characters hasn’t changed much since the original show, with most of them operating with no clue of how the real world works. Kyle finds his meteoric career torpedoed by resurgent footage of his accidental Nazi-invoking musical performance, while Henry asks whether a check engine light is akin to a suggestive reminder to call your mother rather than an urgent warning. The show’s new characters help modernize things while reminding the old timers that they are just that: Sackson (Tyrel Jackson Williams) is a budding vlogger-influencer, while new chef Lucy (Zoë Chao) emphatically believes people are too concerned with food tasting good and should instead value an intense cathartic eating experience.
As it did over the course of its first two years, this show knocks its guest spots out of the park. Jennifer Garner is a delightful recurring presence as a client who hires Party Down and has specific rules about where the catering staff shouldn’t go, and Calum Worthy and Nick Offerman are superbly cast as key players putting an on event whose focus should probably have been a red flag to Ron when he took the job. Other great guests in the first half of the season include James Marsden, Fran Kranz, and Quinta Brunson.
This show has lost exactly none of its rhythm, which makes the best of every moment of each half-hour. What might have originally just been Roman (Starr) making fun of Kyle and him attempting to come up with an adequate retort and either Constance or Lydia saying weird things has now turned into a set of fantastic interactions among the entire cast, with more than a few colorful personalities around to keep things interesting. It’s often maddening to watch this show because its characters are typically terrible at keeping their own lives in check, but that’s also part of what makes this show, which should return for more than just this short reprieve, a worthwhile part of any network’s regular lineup.
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New episodes of Party Down air Fridays at 9pm on Starz.