‘Party Down’ Is Back. Did You R.S.V.P.?

‘Party Down’ Is Back. Did You R.S.V.P.?


The cult cater-waiter comedy got abysmal ratings when it was canceled in 2010. Now a six-episode revival is one of the most anticipated shows of the year.

From left, Jane Lynch, Martin Starr, Adam Scott, Megan Mullally, Ryan Hansen and Ken Marino, below.Credit…Chantal Anderson for The New York Times

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By Alexis Soloski

The invitations have been sent, the appetizers plated, the bottles opened. Rows of glasses gleam like baby stars. And somewhere, on the fringes of the celebration, a cater waiter is about to do something very wrong.

This was the template of “Party Down,” a Starz comedy that ran for two 10-episode seasons, debuting in the spring of 2009. Canceled just as critics and niche audiences were beginning to catch on, the show followed the disaffected employees of a mid-tier catering company as they moved from party to party, one per episode, filching booze, seducing guests, snorting coke,  flirting with Nazism and accidentally poisoning George Takei.

The original 20 episodes never included a surprise party. But get your streamers and party blowers ready. Because in a surprise to just about everyone — most likely including the folks at Nielsen, who once awarded the show’s finale a 0.0 rating among 18- to 49-year-olds — “Party Down” is back. A six-episode revival will premiere on Starz on Feb. 24, with new episodes arriving weekly.

Martin Starr, a returning cast member, seemed to genuinely marvel at the development.

“This was the only show I’ve worked on where people came to work when they weren’t working,” he said in a group video call. “It’s crazy that we get to come back and do it again.”

“Truth be told,” his co-star Ken Marino said, “the reason I came back to set when I wasn’t working is I was between homes.”

Starr: “I do remember you were finding places to go to the bathroom that maybe didn’t have your name.”

Marino: “I still do. I’m going to the bathroom right now.”

Is this the same “Party Down” that failed to dominate cable television over a dozen years ago? Mostly. The show’s original creators, John Enbom, Dan Etheridge, Rob Thomas and Paul Rudd, remain, as executive producers, and Enbom oversees a small staff of writers. The party-a-week structure also endures, as does the original cast — with the exception, based on the five episodes provided in advance, of Lizzy Caplan.

“All of us, for the entire 13 years since we stopped shooting the show, all we wanted to do is make more ‘Party Down,’” the show’s lead, Adam Scott (“Parks and Recreation,” “Severance”), said in a separate interview last month. “We all would have been there for free.”

But the world has changed in the dozen or so years since the original run was canceled. So have the actors. Unknowns or barely knowns when the show debuted, most have since become household names. (The others? Depends on the household.) And they’ve all seen the current crop of disappointing reboots and reprises. “Party Down” could just be the rare show to get it right, mixing the perfect cocktail of star power, nostalgia, growth and gags.

Then again, the characters never put a lot of muscle into bartending. So here’s a Zen koan for a deeply un-Zen show: Can you throw the same party twice?

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