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Party Down: Everything You Need to Know Before Season 3

From romantic relationships to catering disasters, here’s our guide to the comedy’s original Starz run.
  • Clockwise: Ken Marino, Adam Scott, Lizzy Caplan, Martin Starr, and Ryan Hansen in Party Down (Photos: Everett Collection; Primetimer graphic)
    Clockwise: Ken Marino, Adam Scott, Lizzy Caplan, Martin Starr, and Ryan Hansen in Party Down (Photos: Everett Collection; Primetimer graphic)

    Pop on your crisp white shirt and pink bow tie, because the Party Down revival is almost here. It has been nearly 13 years since the last episode aired on Starz, and most of the original cast are returning to serve up more canapés and cocktails to an array of partygoers across Los Angeles. 

    Much to our delight, the trailer for the highly anticipated new season indicates that no bash will be a smooth ride for the reuniting Ron (Ken Marino), Henry (Adam Scott), Kyle (Ryan Hansen), Roman (Martin Starr), Constance (Jane Lynch), and Lydia (Megan Mullally). Zoë Chao and Tyrel Jackson Williams join the service industry squad and Jennifer Garner plays a pivotal role. There’s also a whole array of guest stars to match the famous faces who appeared the first time around, including James Marsden, Quinta Brunson, Liv Hewson, Bobby Moynihan, Nick Offerman, and Judy Reyes.

    Ratings for the series in 2010 were not great, which is why — despite critical acclaim — it only lasted for two seasons. However, over the last decade, word of mouth, critical praise, and cult status have seen the Party Down fandom grow as more people realized how special this witty workplace comedy was.

    In a crowded streaming landscape, it might be hard to carve out time to watch (or rewatch) the original 20 episodes, and while we would certainly recommend the earlier run (available now on the Starz app), we are also on hand to fill in any gaps — including why Lizzy Caplan’s absence will leave a big hole. Before the comedy returns to Starz on February 24, here is a refresher of recurring storylines, prominent relationships, pivotal plots, and hilarious running gags from the first two seasons. 

    Everyone Wants to Be a Star

    While it is unclear whether the returning characters have had any showbiz success in the last decade, the entire Party Down team (except Ron) has taken this job to earn money before they make it big in Hollywood. When the series started, some, like Henry, had already experienced a whiff of fame (and had quit acting), and seasoned auditioning pro Constance racked up more stories about being on sets than roles themselves. 

    Not everyone hustling to make a living wants to be an actor, as Roman aspires to become a hard sci-fi screenwriter, but so far only has a blog to show for their attempts. Casey (Caplan), a comedian auditioning for Judd Apatow, is always late for work. Meanwhile, Kyle is a triple threat of sorts, trying to land a role on a show called The Palisades and dabbling in modeling while also serving as the lead singer of Karma Rocket. Either way, pretty much everyone wearing a bow tie would rather be at one of these parties than working it.   

    Henry and Casey’s Romance

    When it was announced that Lizzy Caplan wasn’t going to return as sardonic queen Casey Klein (due to a scheduling conflict), it effectively ended the romance at the heart of the Starz comedy. Casey and Henry's on-again-off-again worktime hookup is fueled by hatred for their job and horniness for each other. Casey is on the cusp of something big as she tries to break into the competitive comedy scene, and when Season 2 ends, her goal is still elusive. They have already survived one breakup, but we don’t know what has happened in the ten years since we last saw them. Either way, Caplan and Scott’s chemistry is off the charts, and hopefully, there will be an update on Casey’s whereabouts — and maybe a cameo.

    Are We Having Fun Yet?

    Adam Scott has played memorable sweethearts and douchebags, and the apathetic Henry Pollard falls somewhere in the middle. He starred in a few low-budget movies, but the one piece of work he is constantly reminded of is a beer commercial with a memorable catchphrase. Sometimes it takes a while for a partygoer or colleague to clock exactly where they know him from, but a question quickly follows. “Are we having fun yet?” haunts Henry, yet it gives everyone else a genuine thrill.

    Henry’s acting career never took off, and the grimace on his face when he is forced to say his famous line doesn’t match the sentiment of the words. “Do you remember me from anything else?” he asks Casey in the pilot. No doubt, this commercial still lives on in the memories of people he encounters, and his dismay about that will be unchanged in the new season.

    Roman and Kyle’s Rivalry

    Kyle’s confidence, good looks, and himbo comments are an affront to everything Roman holds in high esteem. Kyle skates by on his face, never struggling with anything other than becoming a star. Petty digs back and forth are common during party prep, which sees them both landing jabs — even if Kyle’s aren’t always intentional. Roman is loath to admit that sometimes he needs Kyle’s help, and he even resorts to sabotage, like when he tricks Kyle into shaving off his eyebrow. It is all wonderfully juvenile, and no doubt when the two are back together, Roman will emanate the same level of disdain.

    Surprise Birthdays, Political Events, Afterparties, and More

    A Los Angeles catering company gets its fair share of glittering industry bashes that could lead to a big break for any one of the hopefuls, whether it’s a birthday party for Steve Guttenberg or celebrating selling a script. There are afterparties for adult entertainment awards, a rock star concert, and a community theater opening night. It isn’t all bright lights as other events include a sweet sixteen for a movie mogul’s child, a college conservative union caucus soiree (Arnold Schwarzenegger is on the guest list), a homeowners association bash, and a fancy preschool auction. Anything that requires trays of sliders and a manned bar is a welcome addition to the Party Down roster — no matter how humiliating or awkward.

    Ron Donald’s RDDs (Do’s and Don’ts)

    Ron mostly fails at whipping his team into shape, but this doesn’t mean he isn’t going to try. Part of his incentivizing strategy is a confusing points system that can earn the staff an RDD if they do something wrong. He even claims that he can dock their pay, but it doesn’t seem like he has that much power, and no one takes these threats seriously. “Politeness, professionalism, perfectionism, proactive and be on time” is a sensible list that hilariously whiffs on the last entry. Ron is keen about receiving a positive comment card from a client and for his team not to conduct personal business on company time, neither of which happens too often.

    Momager Lydia

    As we have established, only some people who work in the Los Angeles service industry want to be a star. For Mullally’s Lydia, she is trying to shape her daughter Escapade (Kaitlyn Dever) into the next big thing. At every opportunity, she tries to network with Hollywood figures who could make it happen or who have invaluable advice (hello, Steve Guttenberg). Lydia is an enthusiastic and good-natured stage mom who doesn’t always understand euphemisms, which leads to snorting coke in the bathroom (she thought she was simply going to powder her nose) or calling herself a cougar. The momager did score her daughter a local commercial, and soon we will discover whether Escapade is the star her mom dreamed she would become — and if Dever will reprise this role.

    Ron Donald’s Mishaps 

    No one is more prone to workplace injuries than Ron. His extreme earnestness often leaves him open to unfortunate incidents, and his list of injuries is as long as the regrettable situations. In the first two seasons, he gets maced, hit in a very delicate area more than once, vomits his body weight while catering his high school reunion, pees his pants, and is accused of pleasuring himself. The latter incident takes place in the pilot episode — Ron is innocently trying to clean his pants, which he maybe shouldn’t have been doing in a client’s daughter’s bedroom. Going into private areas is another important rule that everyone breaks — even Ron.

    Constance’s Wedding Reception

    Before Constance left the service industry at the end of Season 1 (when Lynch had a scheduling conflict with Glee), she was a treasure trove of affirmations and out-there stories from an unsuccessful acting career. Constance had a name drop and piece of advice for any entertainment-related scenario and was always keen to help Kyle prepare for an audition — even when Ron forbade this on company time. When hiring caterers for her wedding to a rich, aging producer at the end of Season 2, there were no other possibilities. Kyle’s band Karma Rocket performs at the reception, and unfortunately, the lyrics to “My Struggle” sound antisemitic rather than about breaking into Hollywood.

    Drinking on the Job

    It seems obvious that the Party Down team shouldn’t be drinking (or eating) supplies, but this team has little care for those rules — or the threat of an RDD. Often, Henry will pour himself and Casey a drink while he is tending the bar, and he has been known to wash down a Vicodin with vodka. They aren’t the only ones, as Roman has wine poured directly into his mouth by the cast of Not on Your Wife at their opening night afterparty. Even Ron succumbs to downing a bottle of whisky at his reunion (which Party Down is catering). He also got high on the job, which is rich, after he previously admonished Constance and Henry for doing the same. Lydia accidentally snorted a lot of cocaine, and Henry and Casey mistime their ecstasy high while on the clock. They might hate their jobs, but it is never a dull bash when the Party Down team is on service.

    Emma Fraser has wanted to write about TV since she first watched My So-Called Life in the mid-90s, finally getting her wish over a decade later. Follow her on Twitter at @frazbelina

    TOPICS: Party Down, Starz, Adam Scott, Jane Lynch, Ken Marino, Lizzy Caplan, Martin Starr, Megan Mullally, Ryan Hansen