The other big point in the favor of this season is that its six episodes are all roughly 30 minutes long. So many new streaming comedies feel adjacent to the concept of making the audience laugh, and often approach the length of network TV dramas in the process, but “Party Down” winds up having propulsive pacing. (All episodes excluding the season finale have been made available to critics.) Pacing aside, the most notable addition to the cast is Jennifer Garner, as Evie, a Hollywood producer who Henry runs into during the first episode, and quickly connects with on a personal level. (Evie inevitably recognizes Henry from his decades-old commercial featuring the infamous tagline “Are we having fun yet?”, but they’re able to move past that quickly.) Garner slips right into the larger ensemble, proving to be as charming and funny as ever, with particularly fun chemistry with Scott. Those who may be more familiar with Adam Scott through his recent starring role on the Apple TV+ series “Severance” will be unsurprised by the intense emotional depths he’s able to plumb in certain scenes of this mostly raucous comedy. But his byplay with Garner recalls his character’s romance on “Parks and Recreation,” which is a nice throwback, too.
As was the case with the original “Party Down,” there is not a weak link in the cast. Starr is as snappish as ever, bouncing off Hansen’s himbo Kyle as much now as he did in the first two seasons. And Ken Marino once again gets to display his flair for physical comedy that’s as hilarious as it is uncomfortable; Ron Donald, in short, continues to debase himself as much as humanly possible in the hopes of impressing those around him and often coming up short. With the season being so short and tightly focused in terms of character arcs, there are admittedly a few performers who get less to do (Lynch stands out here — for reasons presumably due to the actress’ career, Constance only appears in a couple of the episodes in person), but the various ways in which Enbom is able to concoct new and immensely awkward situations for the Party Down crew to navigate, from catering a far-right-wing event to handling post-pandemic parties (yes, the pandemic happened in this show’s world too) are invariably clever and witty. And as before, the handful of notable guest stars, from one of Scott’s “Parks and Rec” co-stars playing very much against type to an A-Lister doing a riff on Robert Downey, Jr., are as funny as the regulars.
“Party Down” returning more than a decade later ought to be a recipe for disaster. Simply based on the history of other revived series, from the extended return of “Arrested Development” on Netflix to new episodes of “Full House” and “Roseanne”, this show should have stumbled from the outset. And yet, there is a novel and precise quality to why “Party Down” is back, and the writing staff does not shy away from acknowledging and even embracing the downbeat aspects of a story about people struggling to become famous and how they’re … still struggling. And most important of all, “Party Down” is still riotously funny, sharp, and savvy about its world and its characters. Welcome back.
“Party Down” season 3 premieres Friday, February 24 on Starz.