Thirteen years after it originally went off the air, after two brilliant seasons with a spectacular cast in 2010, Party Down returns with a belated six-episode third season that manages to recapture the magic of the original two seasons thanks in large part to the fact most of the original cast, with the exception of Lizzy Caplan as Casey Klein (although she is mentioned in the premiere episode), returning for their roles
For the most part, season 3 of Party Down proves that the more things change, the more things stay the same. Henry (Adam Scott) is still an unenthusiastic and sarcastic asshole who is nowhere near where he wants to be. Ron (Ken Marino) is still the somewhat incompetent boss with medium-sized dreams. Roman (Martin Starr) is still a socially awkward and pretentious self-proclaimed genius, and Kyle (Ryan Hansen) is a somewhat dumb and deluded actor desperate for success. Lydia (Megan Mullally) and Constance (Jane Lynch) also make return appearances but are afforded less screen time than the other four.
The returning cast is joined by newcomers Sackson (Tyrel Jackson Williams) and Lucy (Zoe Chao), who are new members of the Party Down catering crew, and Evie (Jennifer Garner), who begins the season as a client of Party Down and becomes a love interest for the recently divorced Henry. In true Party Down fashion, they are joined by some stellar and memorable guest stars, including Nick Offerman as a neo-Nazi and James Marsden as actor Jack Botty who just happens to be Evie’s ex-boyfriend.
While some tv revivals like Arrested Development fail to recapture what made the show so great in the first place or, like That 90s Show, try too hard to replicate past successes, the shortened season 3 of Party Down manages to find the middle ground between old elements and new additions. It’s fun to see Henry, Ron, Roman, and Kyle all continue to fail in their own special ways while Sackson, Lucy, and Evie all add to the ensemble. Lucy is the standout for me, while Sackson has a few moments to shine. At first, Evie came across as simply a replacement for Casey as Henry’s love interest. Still, as the season progresses, she becomes a more fully realized character, especially in the latest episode where the entire Party Down crew (except Ron) takes mushrooms, and typical hijinks ensue. Her story arc of realizing she wants to do something different with her life and also supporting Henry in potentially getting back into acting is well-played out and actually, makes me like the character. With two episodes left, I’m curious to see where things go for both her and Henry.
Along with keeping the characters likable, Party Down season 3 also keeps the basic premise of a group of malcontents working in the California service industry pretty much intact. It allows for plenty of funny stories, like the whole crew taking mushrooms together, as I already mentioned. There is also the crew inadvertently catering a neo-Nazi gathering and catering a party for the Kyle, who is seemingly on the rise after booking a role in an MCU-like shared superhero universe, only for everything to fall apart for him. The new season does address some newer parts of our culture, such as the 2020 covid lockdown and Sackson being a content creator, but does so in a way I feel is not pandering to newer viewers or trying to stay relevant. Instead, they come across as an organic part of the story.
Overall I’m excited to see where the last two episodes of Season 3 take the Party Down crew, and while I feel a full-fledged revival isn’t necessarily needed, a new mini-season every few years that brings back most of the Party Down crew would be fun to see.