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New Girl, Parks and Recreation See Party Down Reunion... Sort of

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We should have learned by now. Whether it was Deadwood or Arrested Development or Party Down, we, the audience, have hung on to the barely-there hope that we'll get some sort of resolution to the shows we grew to love before their premature cancellations.

Call me a cynic, but I'm pretty much done with it all. Michael Cera and Jason Bateman's big screen successes have all but guaranteed lucrative film offers that will sink any Arrested Development reunion, while Deadwood now feels like a long-forgotten relic of mid-2000s HBO excess.

But this week, as I watched some of network television's most popular comedies -- and I recognize that "popular" is judged on a sliding scale here -- I realized that even if I never get to see the Party Down catering company serve cheap wine at another Hollywood bat mitzvah, that show's legacy is as alive as it's ever been.

Maybe there is still hope.

On Tuesday night New Girl kicked off the second half of its inaugural season with probably its strongest episode yet. The show has struggled to find any consistency through its first 12 episodes, but there have been hints that the stellar ensemble could transcend the initial "adorkable" limitations of its pilot.

The introduction of Julia, played by Lizzy Caplan, figures prominently in the show's potential improvement. In Party Down, Caplan's character Casey was more than just the dry straight man (woman) commenting on the rest of the cast's zany exploits. That was Adam Scott's role. Casey was the idealist of the group, and Caplan perfectly captured the highs and lows of feeling like success is right around the corner, but still just a little out of reach.

Adding Caplan to the New Girl cast should have been genius casting, but her introductory episode didn't quite work. She was essentially playing Casey 2.0, and while her Bill-Cosby impression-stand-off with Jake Johnson's Nick was funny, nothing came close to rivalling her chemistry with Scott's Henry Pollard on Party Down.

Caplan's involvement is welcome in anything, but the similarities to her character on Party Down were more distracting than exciting.

Meanwhile, Parks and Recreation has been taking advantage of Party Down's cancellation for almost two seasons. First, it introduced Ben Wyatt, played by Scott, mere months after Party Down's finale. He was initially presented as a perfect foil to Amy Poehler's over-enthusiastic Leslie Knope, but he gradually became a believable love interest, and has since transformed into a surrogate for the audience's embrace of the Town of Pawnee's eccentricities.

The writers still play to Scott's strengths, but the character's spirited love of municipal government is far removed from Henry's general disillusionment towards life on Party Down.

Meanwhile Megan Mullally, who replaced Jane Lynch in Party Down's second season, has provided some of Parks and Recreation's best moments with her portrayals of Ron Swanson's maniacal ex-wife Tammy, a character whose over-the-top sexuality barely resembles her previous role.

Parks and Recreation's writers have played off the comedic strengths Scott and Mullally exhibited on Party Down (and used Paul Rudd, who served as an executive producer on that show, perfectly this week), but have created distinct and memorable characters within the Pawnee universe.

New Girl is still in its infancy as a sitcom and is still understandably finding its feet. As it continues to grow as a show, it hopefully will develop the same confidence as Parks and Recreation and create new challenges for the established actors and comedians who cameo in its world. It's just not quite there yet.

As much as I want to see the casts of my favourite shows reunite, I don't need to see the actors reprise essentially the same roles.

It only reminds me of what I miss.

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