The Return of ‘Party Down’

When I was 15, I worked for a caterer, answering phones and making vinaigrette by the gallon. I wanted nothing so desperately as to join the ranks of the cater-waiters, the older kids whose driver’s licenses allowed them to pilot a van full of chafing dishes to glamorous fetes at large, forbidding houses where they would sneak wine and look through medicine cabinets.

“Party Down,” the cult comedy series about a Los Angeles catering crew, most of whom have Hollywood aspirations they never quite realize, originally ran for two seasons, from 2009 to 2010. It returns this week for a very long-awaited third. If you didn’t watch the show, you have plenty of time to catch up on its original run before Friday’s premiere.

I didn’t have to revisit the old episodes because I’ve been rewatching them regularly since the show went off the air. It’s not only that they scratch my unrealized catering itch (I was fired before my ship came in), but also that “Party Down” is the most reliable sort of comfort TV.

I would like to take a course that uses the “Party Down” cast as the basis for its syllabus, that traces the career trajectories of each cast member and comes up with some comprehensive thesis about the state of comedy in the 21st century. (I don’t know what that thesis is; I’ll leave it to the professor.)

We’d begin with the Adam Scott unit, watching “Parks and Recreation” and “Severance.” For Jane Lynch, obviously we would watch “Glee,” the show for which she left “Party Down.” The Ken Marino part of the semester would include “Childrens Hospital” and “The Other Two.”

I haven’t gotten to Megan Mullally, Martin Starr, Ryan Hansen and Lizzy Caplan — this might be a two-semester course, maybe an entire major. Miraculously, most of the original cast has returned for the new season. (Caplan was busy filming “Fleishman Is in Trouble.”)

My colleague Alexis Soloski described the show’s appeal perfectly: “It has the DNA of a workplace comedy in that it brings together people who would never know each other otherwise. But it’s also a hangout comedy in that the waiters work as little as possible. Because each episode takes place at a different party, it avoids the stasis, visual and otherwise, that workplace comedies induce. In just 20-odd minutes, the writers create an entire small world.”

It’s a world to which I’m excited to return.

For more

From Rolling Stone, how the revival came to be.

“He has this understanding of how strange it is to be normal,” Ben Stiller told Alexis for this profile of Adam Scott.

“Try cooking 1,400 lamb chops to a perfect medium-rare at the same time, using nothing but sheet pans, Sterno and an upright aluminum cabinet on wheels called a hot box.” From 2019, a look inside the world of catering.

THE WEEK IN CULTURE

Bizarre conversations with Microsoft’s artificial intelligence chatbot freaked out tech reporters and many others. The Times’s Cade Metz explained why chatbots sometimes act weird.

Microsoft will limit conversations with the new chatbot in its Bing search engine to five questions per session.

The chatbots are replicating human creepiness, New York magazine writes.

The CNN anchor Don Lemon apologized for saying on air that women older than 40 are past their “prime.”

The actor Bruce Willis has a form of dementia.

Louis Vuitton’s next men’s wear designer will be the rapper Pharrell Williams, who is succeeding Virgil Abloh in a role that has transcended design.

Ryan Seacrest is leaving “Live With Kelly and Ryan” after six years.

Raquel Welch, who died this week at 82, maintained her bombshell status into her old age, Rhonda Garelick writes.

“Ant Man and the Wasp: Quantumania,” the newest Marvel movie, is “busy, noisy and thoroughly uninspired,” the Times critic Manohla Dargis writes.

Rihanna fans savored her return to the spotlight with a Super Bowl halftime performance and a British Vogue cover.

The rapper Trugoy the Dove, who was famous for his freewheeling rhyme style, died at 54. Listen to 10 of his best songs.

The Chilean poet Pablo Neruda may have been murdered, an investigation found.

New York Fashion Week just wrapped. See the weirdest and the most wearable items from the shows.

Celia Cruz, a Cuban American singer known as the Queen of Salsa, will appear on the U.S. quarter.

THE LATEST NEWS

Senator Rick Scott, Republican of Florida, backtracked from a widely criticized plan as his party sets aside an approach to government spending that would cut Social Security and Medicare.

The U.S. called off the searches for two of the unidentified flying objects that the military shot out of the sky.

The rate of accidents on Norfolk Southern’s railway increased in recent years before the derailment in Ohio that caused a toxic chemical spill.

Politicians are praising Senator John Fetterman for his openness about his depression. But the stigma around mental health remains strong, especially in politics.

The disappearance of a 45-year-old woman in an English village has led to headlines and rampant speculation on social media.

Satin heels and glittering gowns: When a gunman killed 11 people at a California dance studio last month, he also shattered a ballroom dancing community with a rich history.

CULTURE CALENDAR

By Gilbert Cruz

📺 “Formula 1: Drive to Survive” (Friday): In the past couple of months, Netflix has debuted two big sports documentary series — “Full Swing,” about golf, and “Break Point,” about tennis. Both sit in the shadow of the streaming service’s big kahuna, this hit about F1 drivers entering its fifth season. When I asked an editor on The Times’s Culture desk why she likes the show, she said: “It’s like a sports reality show that’s absolutely perfect. There are clear villains and everyone is beautiful and very rich.”

📚 “Oscar Wars: A History of Hollywood in Gold, Sweat, and Tears” (Tuesday): When it comes to the Academy Awards, some years are memorable for what happens at the ceremony (see: last year’s slap) and some find their drama in behind-the-scenes shenanigans. This book by Michael Schulman, a prolific profiler of celebrities for The New Yorker, gives us stories of both, and in time for this year’s Oscars, which air March 12.

RECIPE OF THE WEEK

By Melissa Clark

Herbed White Bean and Sausage Stew

The best defense against the February blahs is to have a pot of something savory bubbling away on the stove. On weekends, I think the longer something can simmer, the better, until it fills your kitchen with fragrant billows of garlic and herbs. My recipe for herbed white bean and sausage stew, made from dried, unsoaked Great Northern beans, sweet Italian sausage (pork or turkey) and plenty of vegetables, takes upward of two hours to reach the perfect velvety texture. But it’s passive time: Inhale the aromatic, meaty steam while doing something else entirely. Then, ladle this into big bowls and eat it, by itself or with some sharply dressed salad greens on the side to cut the richness, as we inch our way toward spring.

REAL ESTATE

Separate bedrooms: Sex therapists and marriage counselors have doubts.

Sustainable power: Electric water heaters and smart thermostats can make your home more energy efficient.

What you get for $950,000: An Edward Durell Stone house in Montclair, N.J.; a two-bedroom condominium in St. Paul, Minn.; or a 1928 Tudor Revival home in Kansas City, Mo.

The hunt: They wanted to live in Greece full time. Which home did they choose? Play our game.

LIVING

Celebrating connection: Love can be big, deep and platonic.

Butterflies: What you’re actually feeling in your stomach when you’re nervous.

Notes of pasta water: Savory scents are being turned into luxury candles.

Just chill: An argument for hanging out.

Psychedelics: They’re a promising therapy, but some people should take extra caution.

ADVICE FROM WIRECUTTER

Stop hitting snooze

Waking up is hard, which is why so many of us fall victim to the snooze button. Experts agree that a few tweaks can break that habit. Light cues your brain to awaken, so consider enlisting a sunrise alarm clock to subtly nudge you awake, or smart window blinds, which you can program to open at a certain time. Wirecutter has also tested sleep-tracking apps that wake you at an optimal time. If all else fails, try asking your favorite morning person to give you a wake-up call.— Dorie Chevlen

Sign up for more rigorously tested product reviews, weird tips and tricks, and exclusive Sleep Week deals from Wirecutter.

GAME OF THE WEEKEND

N.B.A. 3-point contest: The highlight of N.B.A. All-Star Weekend used to be the slam dunk contest, a thrilling combination of athletic creativity and crowd-pleasing spectacle. But lately, the participants have gotten more obscure. For real star power, try the 3-point contest, where superstars like Jayson Tatum and Damian Lillard will compete against some of the league’s best young players. 8 p.m. Eastern tonight on TNT

For more

The Athletic breaks down the competition for the 3-point contest.

In The Times Magazine, Katie Heindl makes the case for the dunk contest’s campy pageantry.

NOW TIME TO PLAY

The pangrams from yesterday’s Spelling Bee were biplane and plebeian. Here is today’s puzzle.

Take the news quiz to see how well you followed this week’s headlines.

Here’s today’s Wordle.

Thanks for spending part of your weekend with The Times. — Melissa

Lauren Hard, Lauren Jackson, Claire Moses, Ian Prasad Philbrick, Tom Wright-Piersanti and Ashley Wu contributed to The Morning. You can reach the team at [email protected].

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