The ‘Party Down’ reboot has run out of fake superhero names
Showrunner John Enbom talks about the Starz show’s on-screen reunion happening and wants Lizzy Caplan back for Season 4.
(Editor’s note: Included in the following spoilers for the first episode of “Party Down” Season 3.)
Here’s some context on how long it’s been since “Party Down” disappeared: The final episode of the original series aired while “Iron Man 2” was still in theaters.
Now the show has returned to a very different entertainment landscape, not only in the way people look at things, but also in what dominates the culture it’s a part of. Of course, with the show returning almost 13 years after disappearing from Starz’s schedule, comic book movies are a major theme for Season 3. In the first episode of the series reboot, the old Party Down crew reunites at Kyle’s (Ryan) party. Hansen), was recently cast as the newest member of an unnamed extended cinematic universe. Throughout the season, the cast has thrown around superhero movie names from the familiar (Megan Mullally was born saying “Guardians: Infinity Sticks”) to the bizarre (Jennifer Garner’s reference to “Manputer” is one moment she confirms she’s the belongs to the cast of the show).
As showrunner John Enbom describes it, coming up with nicknames for fake IP addresses turned out to be a more difficult task than he and the show’s writers ever imagined.
“That was actually the hardest part of it all. When we started diving into that world, we found that literally every superhero idea that seemed funny already existed and was copyrighted and untouchable,” Enbom told IndieWire. “We’ve created a list of thousands of silly names. It’s not as fleshed out as I’d hoped because it took a huge amount of effort to get a character. I think we literally had a list of five names that we could use. So they are scattered throughout. There’s a universe out there.”
A lot may have changed during the time the show was dormant. After returning to the set and seeing the familiar elements and jewels of the old “Party Down” sets, Enbom and the team were back to work on the first day of filming.
“The first thing we shot this season was a classic ‘Party Down’ script. It’s that bustling club kitchen, people sitting in their little white shirts and pink ties. From the first moment everything came together and everyone walked into their wardrobe, we were like, “Oh boy!” Enbom said. “Bringing in Zoë (Chao) and Tyrel (Jackson Williams) as new members, seeing how easily they fit into everything, that was the second shoe that kind of dropped. There’s the wonderful feeling of the band being back together, but also the new stuff. So we had a good time and were happy about where we were going.”
Credited to Enbom and fellow “Party Down” executive producer Rob Thomas 2019 VultureFest convention like a spark that lit the fuse for a comeback show. Making sure the “old friends meet again” chemistry translated to these new six episodes meant figuring out a way to bring everyone together that made sense.
Courtesy of Colleen Hayes/Starz
“We gave Starz a whole package. “Everyone has been here for the past 12 years. Here’s what they did. Here’s the pilot, here’s all the episode ideas,” Enbom said. “We spent a lot of time and energy trying to figure out how to get them back together. The first thing we decided was that we didn’t want everyone to keep doing the same job. We were worried that he would be sad and cross the line. We have planned a lot in advance, how we will try to play everything. In fact, that’s how the first seasons went. We were lucky that after we introduced Starz to the show and showed them this little backyard pilot that we did, they picked up the full 10 episodes. So that’s where we started the races. We kind of did the same thing this round.”
The Season 3 premiere concludes with a real-life game that shows Ron Donald’s (Ken Marino) optimism crashing to the ground when live events cease for most of 2020. In subsequent episodes, some of the guests wear masks. While some shows pretended Covid never happened, Enbom knew it made sense to include the epidemic in the new season.
“We jumped right into it because we felt that this huge, global misfortune was a very ‘party down’ thing. The idea of this thing coming out of nowhere and blowing up your life and blowing up your plans seemed like something we didn’t want to pretend didn’t happen. Part of the show is how you roll when things don’t go your way,” Enbom said. “At the end of the day, it’s been useful for us to imagine why people are still on this track. We didn’t know where it would lead when we started writing. It had been affecting our lives for a year now, so it was pretty real that we knew it was bound to throw some people off track. So we used that as part of the storytelling.”
The first episode gives several on-screen acknowledgments to Casey Klein (Lizzy Caplan), the original protagonist, who will not be returning as a Season 3 regular. But just as Jane Lynch was able to return to the team after “Glee” took her away from most of the show’s second season, Enbom hopes Casey can return sometime in the near future.
“There was a bit of a curveball in that Lizzy became unavailable during the process, so we had to re-find a certain amount of stuff,” Enbom said. “We love working with Lizzy, we love her character and we’re not dismissive in any way. We’re still intrigued by the idea of their relationship. So we wanted to imagine that with him in the show, Henry still has his own feelings about their relationship, and so does everyone else. We wanted that part to remain. In Season 4, we’re going to make sure he doesn’t work again and make sure he’s in it so we can explore things.”
“Party Down” airs Fridays at 9 p.m. on Starz.
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