‘Party Down’ Review: Over A Decade Later, Funnier Than Ever

The cater waiters — now including a would-be TikTok star — are older but no wiser, and the long-delayed revival recreates the quirky, cringey sweetness that made the original seasons so compelling.

From left: Tyrel Jackson Williams, Ryan Hansen, Zoë Chao, Martin Starr, Adam Scott, and Ken Marino in ‘Party Down.’ Colleen Hayes

Fans of Party Down have mourned the loss of the two-season comedy series for years. The show, created by John Enbom, Rob Thomas, Dan Etheridge and Paul Rudd, aired on Starz from 2009 to 2010 before being unceremoniously canceled, with nebulous reasoning from the network. Devotees have watched and rewatched those two seasons and the quirky, laugh-out-loud vibe has also earned the series a surge of new viewers in the years since. When a six-episode revival was announced, it was greated with both excitement and skepticism. 

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Fear not. The third season of Party Down is just as funny, if not funnier, as the earlier episodes. The characters, now older but not at all wiser, are true to their original versions. For a viewer, new or long-held, watching the updated Party Down feels like returning to a world that has been there all along. 

Season three opens in early 2020. The ambitious but hapless Ron Donald (a brilliant Ken Marino) is still running Party Down, a Hollywood catering service that employs struggling actors. Roman DeBeers (Martin Starr) is the company’s long-standing employee, but everyone else, including Adam Scott’s Henry Pollard, Megan Mullally’s Lydia Dunfree and Jane Lynch’s Constance Carmell, have moved on. The characters find themselves reunited at a party celebrating Kyle Bradway (Ryan Hansen, who should be cast in far more things), now a successful actor. Antics ensue, as usual. By the time the second episode opens, it’s post-pandemic and many of the former Party Down employees have returned to their old jobs working for Ron. 

The success of Party Down lies in its format, which drops the characters into a different party for each episode, and in its sincere ridiculousness. The Hollywood in the show is a slightly heightened and exaggerated take on reality, but it aptly skewers everything that is bizarre about the entertainment industry and its wealthy inhabitants. The new episodes introduce James Marsden as famous actor Jack Botty and Jennifer Garner as Evie, a movie producer who becomes a love interest for Henry (Lizzy Caplan’s Casey was written out due to scheduling conflicts). But the highlight is Tyrel Jackson Williams playing a content creator named Sackson, who is working for Party Down while he grows his TikTok following. 

Adam Scott and Jennifer Garner in ‘Party Down.’ Colleen Hayes

Each new episode is a delight in itself. The Party Down team, who can never quite get their shit together, cater a surprise birthday party, a launch event for what appears to be a group of Nazis, a fake prom and a Hawaiian luau. Ron is continuously eager to please, going to great lengths to promote Party Down. Henry, our defacto hero, is, despite his past acting successes, still not having fun yet. Like in the first two seasons, the characters often come face to face with struggle—and defeat. When they do get a win, it’s even sweeter, and these are people you want to root for. 

It’s yet-unannounced whether these six episodes will be a standalone season or whether Starz plans to continue Party Down, which they should. The show has a singular tone and voice that could carry through season after season, like The Office or It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia. The possibilities for the world and characters of the show seem limitless. Not all revivals work—most don’t, in fact—but this is an example of one that not only recreates what made the original seasons so compelling, but expands it. Give us more.  

 

 

‘Party Down’ Review: Over A Decade Later, Funnier Than Ever