On screen, most of the characters in “Party Down,” a cringy comedy about catering staff in Los Angeles, hated their jobs. They could barely get through an event — passing appetizers and slinging drinks to Hollywood’s elite — without someone on the staff doing something inappropriate, unsanitary or unprofessional, earning them meaningless demerits, poor reviews and an empty tip jar.
The cast, including Adam Scott, Ken Marino and Jane Lynch, loved the experience of working together so much that 13 years after the show’s cancellation, they would fit time into their schedules to return for a six-episode third season, debuting Friday on Starz. (The first two seasons are streaming on Hulu.)
“It was just this little show and we didn’t know if anyone would see it, but we didn’t care,” recalled Scott, who plays Henry Pollard, a retired actor-turned-bartender whose claim to fame is a one-liner in a beer ad (“Are we having fun yet?!”) that no one can forget. “We were making it for ourselves and for each other and just had so much fun.”
At a time where reboots and revivals of TV shows and movies are all possible, the idea for more “Party Down” has floated for years. One of its creators, Rob Thomas, was an early pioneer of the trend. He launched a Kickstarter campaign in 2013 to raise money for a movie continuation of his other little show that could, “Veronica Mars.”
In the case of “Party Down,” though, so much time had passed since the series ended that Marino began to accept it wasn’t in the cards.
“Anytime anybody asked me, I would say, ‘Yeah, I think something’s going to happen. I don’t want to jinx it, but I think something’s going to happen,’ said Marino, whose character Ron Donald strives for perfection and customer satisfaction as the team leader of Party Down. “I did that for about eight years and then finally I came to terms. I think I probably looked at myself in the mirror like, ‘It’s not going to happen, Ken.’ As soon as I sort of let it go, it came. We got an email, ‘Hey, are you available at the beginning of January 2022 for six weeks,’ I couldn’t believe it.’”
Scott believes there’s a sentimental attachment to the characters because 13 years ago they could all relate to their predicament. “We had been chasing our dream in showbiz. Success was just beyond our reach and (we) kind of maybe grasped it once or twice, but it slipped out. It was just varying degrees of that same story and that same feeling.”
As the actors themselves have gone on to achieve success and fame (Scott, for example, was nominated for an Emmy last year for “Severance”), the writers knew they couldn’t pick up the story immediately where it left off, with the cast a decade older, all working at Party Down and still floundering.
“It’s no longer a show exclusively about young people hoping for their big break. It’s now people who have lived a lot more life,” said John Enborn, showrunner and a co-executive producer. “We put a lot of creative energy into that space between what your dreams are and what your reality is.”
Jennifer Garner, Zoë Chao and Tyrel Jackson Williams are new additions. One cast member who wasn’t available to return is Lizzie Caplan, who played Casey, an aspiring actor/comedian who had no problem taking phone calls from her agent while on the job and had an on-again, off-again relationship with Scott’s character, Henry. The actors say they would make more episodes to work with her again.
“I know how much she wanted to be there,” said Starr, who plays Roman DeBeers, an aspiring screenwriter with a chip on his shoulder whose passion is science fiction. “I hope for a season four, if for no other reason than that we can all properly get back together as the group.”
The hardest part of their reunion was also the best part — the actors had to deliver lines without laughing. Scott says he’s learned to never look Marino in the eyes.
“I have to look at either the spot between his eyes or just to the right or left of his eyes, because if I lock eyes with him, I will laugh and we will not finish the scene.”