It seemed like only a matter of time until Party Down returned. Canceled after two seasons in 2010, fans were clamoring for the show’s return almost immediately, and with other fan-favorite shows like Arrested Development, Gilmore Girls, and Veronica Mars—among many others— announcing revivals in the 2010s, it always felt like we hadn’t said goodbye to the adventures of this catering team. It’s just a shame we said goodbye to the series when we did. After a first season that often felt like The Office at extremes, Season 2 found a nice combination of dark cringe comedy, regret, and in the end, optimism for the future. After nearly 13 years away, Party Down is finally back, and it hasn’t missed a step.

The Party Down reunites in the first episode, “Kyle Bradway is Nitromancer,” as Kyle (Ryan Hansen) will be starring in an upcoming superhero film. With this group back together (well, except for Lizzy Caplan’s Casey Klein), the dynamics are largely the same. After taking a group photo of all the old crew, Roman (Martin Starr) dryly says that a Party Down reunion is “just what everyone is dying for.” Ron Donald (Ken Marino) is still the team leader and as uncomfortable as ever, and regardless of his circumstances, Henry (Adam Scott) always seems slightly dissatisfied with where life has taken him. And while Season 1 gave us Constance (Jane Lynch), who was then replaced by Lydia (Megan Mullaly) in Season 2, both actresses get to be a part of this revival.

The Party Down team also has new teammates, like “content creator” Sackson (Brockmire’s Tyrel Jackson Williams), and Lucy (Zoe Chao), the new chef who likes to try out inventive and questionable new foods. Also new to the cast is Evie Adler (Jennifer Garner), a movie producer that becomes close with the Party Down squad. Williams and Chao both feel like a natural fit alongside the old cast members, and Garner is especially charming in a role often much more playful than how we’re used to seeing her, which almost asks her to play the realities of modern romantic relationships in a really charming way.

Image via Starz

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Party Down—especially in its first season—was a fairly defeatist show, presenting aspiring actors who the series often presented as chasing after their futile dreams. Yet Season 2 ended with a bit of hope, that fighting for your dreams might be worth a damn. Granted, Season 3 still has its moments of dark humor (where would Ron Donald be without the world consistently dumping on him?), but there’s certainly more hope to be had in this new season. While it’s unclear how the third season ends, as only five of the six episodes were available for review, this season gives these characters hope that was often missing, and makes their journey for something greater less like a meaningless quest for the impossible. In a way, this glimmer of something more places Party Down less in the often bleak comedies of the 2000s that this show was borne out of, and into the slightly more optimistic sitcoms of today.

And despite the different careers and paths these characters have gone down over the last decade or so, Party Down manages to have this concept still make sense in the various ways it gets this group back together. More importantly, like in Season 2, Party Down makes it so that depending on the party itself, we learn different things about these characters, and the parties themselves help provide the character evolutions in a way that is charmingly effective. For example, in “Kyle Bradway is Nitromancer,” we see how the success of Kyle affects everyone else, whether through waxing nostalgic about a past where stardom felt like a real possibility, or motivating others to fight for that success and power that they’ve long been reaching for.

Martin Starr, Megan Mullaly, Ryan Hansen, Jane Lynch, Ken Marino and Adam Scott in Party Down Season 3
Image via Starz

But maybe most importantly, Party Down Season 3 is just as funny as ever, and part of that is finding the right tone for this series in 2023, while also still having something to say through these characters. Some of Season 3’s episodes are right up there with the best episodes of the first two seasons. In particular, the fourth episode, “KSGY-95 Prizewinner’s Luau” is a tremendous episode that throws these characters into unexpected scenarios and surprising realizations that break them out of the usual serving mundanity that they’re used to in order to have some great fun. Without spoiling what makes the episode so great, “KSGY-95 Prizewinner’s Luau” does everything a great episode of Party Down should do, providing an excellent concept for a party, allowing our usual cast to run amok with their individual senses of humor and dreams, and all with a great collection of guest stars.

Speaking of which, Party Down has always been great with guest stars, and Season 3 is no different. While there are certain guests like Nick Offerman, Reboot’s Calum Worthy, and Bobby Moynihan, who have time to play in this environment, other guest stars aren’t quite as lucky. The first episode introduces Quinta Brunson as Kyle’s agent, and yet, she really doesn’t have much to do. Even worse is improv genius Seth Morris, who shows up in a later episode, only to pop in, say goodbye, and leave. Especially with these two guests, it seems like they were meant to have much more time in the show and maybe just got cut for time, but these seem especially egregious given such impressive cameos.

But Party Down Season 3 proves that there’s still a lot of life left in this party. The show, created by John Enbom, Rob Thomas, Dan Etheridge, and Paul Rudd, manages to update itself to 2023 perfectly while furthering these characters in a way that feels natural, never seeming like it exists solely as fan service. Scott, Starr, Marino and the rest of the cast are just as hilarious and self-deprecating as ever, and the new teammates are right at home among these tried-and-true caterers. Party Down Season 3 is a welcome return that makes one wish this show never went away in the first place.

Rating: B+

The first episode of Party Down Season 3 premieres on February 24 on the Starz app and streaming platforms, and will debut later that night on Starz. New episodes will premiere every Friday on Starz and streaming.

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