Life of the ‘Party Down’: How Adam Scott and John Enbom Revived Starz’s Cult Comedy 13 Years After Its Cancellation
“Party Down” was an underdog show about underdogs — out-of-luck caterers who dreamed of one day rubbing shoulders with Hollywood rainmakers rather than serving them hors d’oeuvres.
In the series, which ran on Starz for two seasons (2009-10), an ensemble cast led by Adam Scott and Ken Marino paraded around Los Angeles, working funerals, orgies and everything in between. The scrappy comedy got creative with a small budget, centering episodes around a corporate picnic or a one-man birthday party, which didn’t require hiring extras. Showrunner and co-creator John Enbom says the team wouldn’t pitch a “dog wedding,” for example, because they knew they “couldn’t afford to hire 20 animal trainers.”
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“Party Down” drew a cult following and critical acclaim — but also low ratings, so it was canceled by Starz, the underdog premium cabler. Since then, the show has enjoyed a second life on Hulu, picking up viewers who were too young during the original airing. Scott says fans approach him about “Party Down” as much as they do his Emmy-nominated role on “Severance” or his years on the beloved “Parks and Recreation.”
For more than a decade, Enbom and co-creators Rob Thomas, Dan Etheridge and Paul Rudd tried to revive the series, and even developed a film script. Scott tells Variety that when the film idea fell apart, he felt a “pang of relief,” still holding on to the hope they’d get to do more episodes instead.
That opportunity arose in 2019, when new Starz CEO Jeffrey Hirsch publicly said he missed “Party Down.” That prompted Thomas to call the cable executive and propose a lunch meeting, at which Hirsch said, “We’re ready to go if you ever want to do more.”
Soon the co-creators and executive producer Scott, who plays Henry, a sardonic failed actor, were meeting weekly on Zoom to plot the futures of the characters they’d bid farewell to years ago. From there, the “Party Down” team worked on getting the bow-tied band back together. “Getting everyone interested was easy,” Enbom says. “Getting everyone in the same place at the same time proved to be a challenge.”
The third season, which premieres Feb. 24, picks up a decade after Season 2 ended, with the Party Down crew at different stages of their lives. Ron (Marino) is now running the operation, Henry has a modest career, Kyle (Ryan Hansen) is on the verge of superstardom and Roman (Martin Starr) is… exactly where we left him, working as a caterer. (The only main cast member who didn’t return was Lizzy Caplan, who was fully booked filming other projects.)
There are new faces, too, like aspiring content creator Sackson (Tyrel Jackson Williams) and head chef Lucy (Zoë Chao), whose food is far too pretentious for the guests she’s feeding. And in a casting coup, Jennifer Garner steps in as Evie, a love interest for Henry.
“For Evie, we were talking about a Jennifer Garner-type person — someone with poise and sophistication and who is super funny — never considering that we would actually get Jennifer Garner,” Scott says. “It seemed absurd. But after talking about her so much, we thought, ‘Maybe we should just throw it her way and then when she passes we’ll figure out who’s gonna play the role.’ She shocked us.”
In bleakly portraying the service side of Hollywood — the dreamers on the outside looking in — “Party Down” never gave its workplace “family” the same saccharine glow as, say, “Parks and Recreation” or “The Office.” And with most of the characters still stuck where we left them in 2010, Season 3 adds a new layer of dolefulness. While most series track the hard-earned victories and devastating losses of their protagonists, “Party Down” is all about those who wait in complacency for a miracle to happen.
Yet as Henry, now 42, begrudgingly clips on that pink bow tie again, he still has a glimmer of optimism about new romantic and professional prospects. In fact, Henry’s arc mirrors that of “Party Down” itself, gearing up for a long-deserved second chance.
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