The ‘Party Down’ revival is each bit the equal of the unique

Perhaps the toughest factor about reunions, previous getting them to occur within the first place, is convincing the world that the trouble was value it. Whatever pleasure information of a revival generates amongst followers is inevitably accompanied by the suspicion that it gained’t dwell as much as what made them love the unique. At the identical time, there’s the query of whether or not it will probably communicate to a brand new viewers in a world that’s moved on — is it simply replaying the previous hits for the sake of nostalgia, or does it have one thing contemporary to say? Is it a cynical money seize, a lazy recycling of mental property, or is it a real try and make one thing good, out of affection, or for enjoyable, or the sensation of simply not being completed?

It’s unlikely that anybody in a roundabout way concerned with the Starz sequence “Party Down” had been fascinated with a 3rd season, however we now have one (premiering Friday, once more on Starz), 13 years after the top of the second. And talking as a fan of what got here earlier than, what’s right here now appears very a lot well worth the effort, of a chunk with its splendid predecessor in type and humor — there aren’t any formal improvements for the sake of formally innovating — however not in any sense outdated. (Whether the youngsters will care, who can say? But they need to.)

A busy darkish farce cum social satire set amongst a workforce of L.A.-based caterers, “Party Down” was, and stays, a cell office comedy, every episode based mostly at a distinct type of occasion in a distinct location, the place issues inevitably go improper for the hosts, the company or the folks employed to serve them — not a lot a movable feast as a movable meals combat. Its unique forged, returning virtually totally intact, appears much more spectacular now, retrospectively a supergroup: Adam Scott, Jane Lynch, Martin Starr, Lizzy Caplan, Ken Marino, Megan Mullally, Ryan Hansen — solely Caplan is lacking from the brand new season, on account of a piece battle. Able new members Tyrel Jackson Williams and Zoë Chao present generational breadth, with Jennifer Garner coming in because the romantic curiosity for Scott’s luckless everyman, Henry.

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Created by Rob Thomas (who earlier introduced again his “Veronica Mars” on the again of a Kickstarter marketing campaign), John Enborn, Dan Etheridge and Paul Rudd, with Enborn as this season’s showrunner, it’s a comedy of failure, and rising to fail once more. (The most conventionally “successful” characters — that’s, those doing the hiring — are normally the least interesting.) No one besides Marino’s Ron, who’s about to take over the enterprise, is there for the love of catering; certainly, one would say they’re very dangerous at their jobs, typically disappearing to get excessive, make out or in any other case comply with their very own agendas.

As the brand new season begins, the characters, who’ve scattered to the wind, reunite at a celebration to have a good time the truth that Kyle (Hansen) has been forged in a superhero franchise. Only Starr’s Roman, a endlessly unpublished, constitutionally bitter author of “hard sci-fi” (“You make it big in this cultural void it only proves that you suck on some level. … I accept the possibility that I probably won’t be appreciated in my lifetime”), is, appropriately, after 13 years, nonetheless working for Party Down. Henry, a discouraged actor who was about to offer it one other go because the second season ended, has turn into an English trainer; Mullally’s impossibly optimistic, naive Lydia is managing the profitable movie profession of her daughter, Escapade (Kaitlyn Dever).

There are callbacks to the second season finale, by which Lynch’s Constance turned a bride, a widow and an heiress in the midst of half-hour; a particularly excessive Roman scribbled his “magnum opus” on a roll of bathroom paper, and Kyle’s band, Karma Rocket, carried out a track whose lyrics, unintentionally, got here off as an ode to Hitler. (“People just don’t get poetic rock lyrics,” muses Constance, “and that is sadly why the Doors never caught on.”)

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By the second episode, Kyle and Henry will likely be again sporting white shirts and bow ties, mixing drinks and serving hors d’oeuvres, and the randomly religious Constance, whose first thought is that they need to rent a shaman, will likely be a component proprietor of Party Down. Their new colleagues embrace Sackson (Williams), a maker of net content material, and Lucy (Chao), a lethal critical chef whose meals isn’t meant to style good, solely to create sophisticated emotions. For a shock celebration she creates “basic sheet cake done in on-sale store-bought style with a center of ripened Camembert. … You get an innocent childlike sweetness in front followed by an earthy whiff of decay. … It’s a rumination on mortality.”

While Caplan is missed — her character, Casey, has turn into well-known on “Saturday Night Live” — her presence would probably have meant one other season of issues occurring and off between her and Henry, which could have been a season too far. As Lynch’s departure after the primary season to work on “Glee” made room for Mullally, Caplan’s unavailability opens a door for Garner, as a movie government, bringing a glimmer of happiness for Henry — their relationship, in any case, lacks the poisonous uncertainty of that with Casey, which will be the most novel factor about this new season.

On essentially the most rapid degree, the enjoyment of “Party Down” has much less to do with narrative improvement — once more, it is a present about being caught, and the third season doesn’t actually really feel like an try and cap an unfinished story — as watching a pack of proficient actors taking good materials and working with it. (That they’re having enjoyable is clear.)
That is to not say that there aren’t small triumphs and genuinely emotional moments amid the disasters, and one thing of an arc to the brand new season; if there’s an issue right here, it’s that at six episodes it’s too quick — sitcoms want time to breathe. All the identical, as a revival of a 13-year-old sequence, it feels filled with freshman potentialities, and one hopes it doesn’t finish right here.