Series: Party of Five

Party of Five is a teen drama that aired on FOX from September 1994 to May 2000.

The main plot focuses on the five kids of the Salinger family who have been orphaned after their parents are killed in a car accident. Charlie (Matthew Fox), an irresponsible 24-year-old worker of odd jobs has to step up and be the new man of the house. The second oldest is Bailey (Scott Wolf), a 16-year-old responsible team mom (at least for the first few seasons), despite not being the oldest...or a woman. 15-year old Julia (Neve Campbell) is sensitive, and 11-year-old Claudia (Lacey Chabert) is a child prodigy. The fifth is Owen, barely a year old. During the series, they deal with issues like alcoholism, cancer, abuse, and death.

It was Un-Cancelled after having a poor run with audiences and a favorable reception with critics the first season due to a small pool of loyal fans protesting cancellation.

It generated the unsuccessful Spin-Off Time of Your Life.

Tropes used by the series:

  • A-Cup Angst: Claudia, an episode even involved her buying a special padded bra for this very reason.
  • The Alcoholic: Bailey
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Julia seemed to gravitate towards these sorts of boys. Her first beau on the show was a guy from a troubled home called PK. One of her long time flames Griffin fell into this category but eventually moved past it. After Ned, Julia seemed to learn. She ends up with Nice Guy Justin in the end.
  • Amicable Exes: Julia and Justin, and Charlie and Kirsten for a while. Both couples end up back together by the end of the series. Julia and Griffin eventually become this.
  • Ascended Extra: Owen of course wasn't really featured in early seasons, due to being a toddler. In the last two seasons he gets more attention.
  • Babies Ever After: Kirsten learns in Season 1 that she can't conceive children. Her arc in Season 6 has her and Charlie eventually conceiving.
  • Back for the Dead: Julia's friend Libby makes two appearances in season 1 and then reappears in a season 3 episode where she ends up killing herself.
  • Betty and Veronica:
    • Present with Bailey's two Season 1 girlfriends. Kate is the Betty while Jill is the Veronica. He ultimately chooses Jill until she dies.
    • In season 2 Julia has Justin (Betty) and Griffin (Veronica).
    • Season 3 gives Bailey Sarah (Betty) and Callie (Veronica).
    • Season 5 sets Julia up to have Josh as the Betty and Ned as the Veronica but subverts it by just going with Ned, Josh not really getting a chance.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The series ends with the four siblings parting and going off to live their own lives, realising that they won't be as close as they were before. Nonetheless they resolve to stay in touch and always visit.
  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: Claudia (brown), Julia (black) and Kirsten (blonde) fill these roles. Sarah also counts. There's also an episode in which three different women ask Charlie out for a date and they all meet up at his house. One is a blonde, one a brunette and the other a redhead.
  • Blond Guys Are Evil: Ned.
  • Brainy Brunette: Julia and Sarah.
  • Brother Chuck: Nina, Julia's friend from the first season. She makes one appearance in season 2, and is only given a few brief mentions before disappearing completely in season 3.
  • Breakout Character: Sarah Reeves, Jennifer Love Hewitt's character, was enough of one to get her own spinoff show.
  • Brick Joke: The episode before Charlie and Kirsten were to be married in Season 2, Claudia rented what she thought was An Affair to Remember for her and Kirsten, but it turned out they had been given a porn movie by mistake. Near the end of the episode, at Charlie's bachelor party, we see the guys are watching that copy of An Affair to Remember.
  • The Bus Came Back: Although Will is Put on a Bus after Season 2, he returns for a few guest appearances before becoming a regular again in Season 6.
  • Cerebus Call Back: The Halloween Episode opens with Sarah trying to convince Bailey to buy a pair of Snow White and Prince Charming costumes. After he cheats on her with Callie, he buys the costumes as an attempt to make things up to her.
  • Characterisation Marches On: Kirsten develops a slightly wacky side in season 2 (particularly when her parents are around) - and gets a lot of Not So Above It All moments. Season 1 presented her as a straight up Nice Girl.
  • Child Prodigy: Claudia.
  • Citizenship Marriage: Will has to marry Holly in Season 6 to prevent her from being deported. It's doubly awkward because she's dating his best friend.
  • Coming-Out Story: Claudia tries to set her violin teacher Ross up with a waitress at the restaurant, but he reveals he is gay. Claudia is initially shocked, but she gets over it.
  • Continuity Nod: Justin makes a couple of appearances after his and Julia's breakup. Also the mother's old co-worker Avery from season 1 shows up in a few season 3 episodes.
  • Convenient Miscarriage: Julia's.
  • Dead Guy Junior: Charlie and Daphne's baby is named after Charlie's mother Diana.
  • Driven to Suicide: Kathleen overdoses on pills after Charlie breaks up with her. She gets better - and then tries to seize the family restaurant.
  • Drunk Driver
  • Dysfunction Junction: The whole Salinger family.
  • Everyone Loves Blondes: Daphne fits the description. Alexa from season 6 also.
  • Expository Hairstyle Change: Griffin goes off to military school and when he next appears, his normally long hair has been cut short. By Season 3 when he's no longer at the school, his hair is back to its original length.
  • Fail Polish: Sarah was initially shown as a little mousy and awkward but eventually shown as attractive and fashionable.
  • The Fellowship Has Ended: The finale has each of the siblings going their separate ways. Julia takes a job in DC, moving in with Justin. Bailey goes to business school in Boston, relinquishing custody of Owen to Charlie. Claudia decides to go to Juilliard in New York. Charlie meanwhile sells the house to pay for all of this. With Will moving back out to the East Coast and Sarah in New York searching for her father, the series effectively ends with most of the main cast scattered around the world.
  • Finagle's Law: Everything that can possibly go wrong does. And hilarity doesn't ensue.
  • First Girl Wins:
    • Although Charlie is a notorious womaniser when the series starts and he and his first major love interest Kirsten have their problems they are Happily Married and expecting a baby by the end.
    • Julia's Serial Romeo tendencies don't stop her from ending up with Justin, her Victorious Childhood Friend.
    • Averted with Bailey whose first girl Kate does not appear past the first season. And his major love interest is actually his third in the series.
  • Five-Man Band: The Hero: Charlie
  • Generation Xerox: Claudia is a prodigy on the violin like her mother.
  • The Ghost: Nina gets demoted to this in Season 2, only being referenced offscreen.
  • Good Adultery, Bad Adultery: It's revealed that their mother Diana may have had an affair with a fellow musician Avery. It's later revealed that their father was an alcoholic around this time, so she's treated sympathetically. Of course since the character is dead, we never hear her defend herself and it's mostly the children trying to work it out. However the parents did ultimately stay together.
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Subverted with Julia, who intends to get an abortion but ends up having a miscarriage
  • Halloween Episode: In the third season.
  • Hand-Hiding Sleeves: Sarah Reeves from wears the "cute" variation of this trope, and even helped popularize them in America.
  • Happily Married: It's what we initially think about the parents. However as the series progresses, we find out that things weren't completely harmonious - namely the father's alcoholism and the mother's affair with a fellow musician.
  • Hard-Drinking Party Girl: Bailey seems to have a thing for these girls, judging by his season 1 girlfriend Jill and his season 3 fling Callie. Daphne from the last two seasons starts out as this.
  • Head-Tiltingly Kinky: Kirsten's reaction to the porn tape Claudia accidentally rents for her. See Brick Joke above.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Bailey and Will.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: A mutual occasion in season 1. Bailey and Kate are a couple but he starts dating Jill after she goes away to college. When she visits, their last conversation has her talking about a guy she thinks fancies her. She asks Bailey if he thinks she should date him and he replies yes, mutually agreeing that their relationship is over and they're free to pursue other people.
  • Important Haircut: After recovering from cancer, Charlie decides to get blond highlights.
  • Irony: A rather sad example. Justin writes a story about a happy couple whose lives get disrupted by a weed that grows in their house - that causes all sorts of problems in their relationship. It serves as a metaphor for the trouble he and Julia are going through. His first draft ends with the couple finding a magic potion that gets rid of the weed forever. When he shows this story to Julia, she calls that ending a cop-out - oblivious to the fact that it's really about her.
  • Ivy League for Everyone: Played with. Sarah's mother says she's considering attending Brown but she decides not to. Likewise since the show is set in San Francisco, there are a couple of episodes involving characters considering going there. However Julia's college is not named and she later transfers to a fictional writing school. When Claudia applies for colleges, we don't hear the names. She does get accepted to Juilliard but since she's presented as a Child Prodigy, that's at least believable. Holly is also attempting to get a degree at Stanford.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Charlie and Bailey, though in Bailey's case the Jerk part usually cancels out the Heart of Gold part.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Coupled with a bit of Fridge Brilliance. Julia has a habit of stealing other people's boyfriends or entering relationships through cheating. Guess how they all turned out? Justin (stolen from Libby) unplanned pregnancy and miscarriage, Griffin (started while still seeing Justin) failed marriage among a lot of other things, Ned (stolen from Maggie) he ends up hitting her.
  • Last Het Romance: Sarah's relationship with Elliot in Season 4 turns out to be this for Elliot.
  • Lovable Jock: Will.
  • Lovable Alpha Bitch: Nina in season 1 and Alexa in season 6.
  • Man Hug: All the time. Those boys aren't afraid of getting affectionate.
  • My Fist Forgives You: Will when he finds out Bailey wants to get back with Sarah.
  • Not Allowed to Grow Up: Averted. The kids grew over the 5 years.
  • Not So Different: Charlie points this out about Kirsten and her mother. She is not amused.
  • Oblivious to Love: Bailey towards Sarah's affections in season 2. He thinks she's helping him with class president elections because she's really passionate about school spirit.
  • Once a Season: After both leaving the main cast after season 2, Justin and Will each appear in at least one episode (sometimes more) the following seasons.
  • Plucky Comic Relief: Claudia fell into this role in early seasons, mostly due to Children Are Innocent. Will filled this role whenever Claudia needed to get dramatic.
  • Posthumous Character: The parents. We find out lots more about them as the show goes on - namely that the father was an alcoholic and the mother had an affair with a fellow violinist.
  • Promoted to Opening Titles:
    • Season 2 promotes Michael Gorjian (Justin).
    • Season 3 drops Scott Grimes (Will). Alexondra Lee (Callie) is promoted midway through and dropped after the season is over.
    • Season 6 promotes Jennifer Aspen (Daphne) and reinserts Scott Grimes.
    • Paula Devicq (Kirsten) is a regular for most of the series, but does not appear in the credits for Season 2 and 3 episodes when her character is Put on a Bus. She's promoted back to regular in Season 5 and remains that way for the rest of the series.
    • Jeremy London (Griffin) is part of the credits in Season 2 but listed as a guest star after Griffin goes to military school. He alternates between regular and guest star for the rest of the series.
    • Jennifer Love Hewitt (Sarah) is in the credits entirely from Seasons 2-5, and for the first three episodes of Season 6. She's removed from the credits when her character is Put on a Bus to star in her own spin-off.
  • Promotion to Parent
  • Put on a Bus: Sarah in season 6, so she could star in the spin-off.
  • Rapunzel Hair: The mother Diana is said to have had long hair down her back which her husband wouldn't let her cut.
  • Real Song Theme Tune: "Closer to Free" by the Bo Deans
  • Relationship Upgrade: Julia and Justin. They still remain on good terms after a break-up and They Do by the end of the series.
  • Romantic False Lead: Will acts as this for Bailey and Sarah in Season 2.
  • Runaway Bride:
    • When Charlie and Kirsten are to get married in season 2 Charlie freaks out before the wedding and gets cold feet. He eventually decides to go through with it - but then Kirsten calls off the wedding. The season 2 finale also has Charlie convincing Kirsten to run out on her wedding to another man. Since she was marrying the guy only a couple of months after the break up it was probably for the best.
    • Averted with the characters as Kirsten marries Paul in season 4 and they stay together for about a year. Charlie and Kirsten get married for good in season 6.
  • Serial Romeo: Julia. Every season is guaranteed to have a plot where Julia has relationship trouble.
  • She Is All Grown Up: Compare Claudia season 1 to Claudia season 6.
  • Shout-Out: The name of the Salinger family is a shout out to the author of The Catcher in the Rye J.D. Salinger.
    • In one episode, Bailey and Julia are arguing about who gets to move into a spare bedroom, and Justin and Sarah are reminded of an episode of The Brady Bunch.
  • SORAS: Owen who is a toddler when the series begins and gets aged up faster than he realistically should. He should be about six or seven when the series ends but his third actor Jacob Smith was ten by the end.
  • Stripperiffic/ Sex Sells/ Fanservice Pack: In-universe. The new manager at the bar Julia works at changes the uniforms to be even skimpier - more like Xena's costume. The fun starts when Julia arrives home from work (still wearing the outfit) to find their social worker there.
  • Teens Are Short: At the height of 5'1 (at that time), Lacey Chabert was shorter than all of the adult cast members.
  • There Are No Adults
  • Title Drop: Joe says it at the end of the first episode when the kids sit down for dinner at Salingers.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Claudia is the tomboy and Julia is the girly girl. Changes once Claudia becomes a teenager.
  • The Unfair Sex:
    • Justin calls Bailey out for using this trope when Julia gets pregnant. Specifically Bailey is acting as if Julia is the only victim in the situation.
    Justin: Just once it would be nice if someone asked if I was okay. This is my kid we're talking about too.
    • Mostly averted whenever a character cheats. Male or female, expect them to face some form of consequences. And either gender will sometimes be treated sympathetically.
  • Very Special Episode: Though the show was a drama there were two that could qualify, since the show's opening credits weren't shown in either. The first was a season 2 episode where Julia discovers she is pregnant and spends the episode debating what to do with the baby. The second was a season 3 episode where the family try to get Bailey around for an intervention.
  • Walk On The Wild Side Episode:
    • In the third episode, straight-A student and bookworm Julia convinces her friend to start going to parties during the week. The friend eventually has enough and disappears from the show but Julia keeps on with this new lifestyle and her grades start slipping. Her brothers try to convince her to go back to her goodie-two-shoes persona but she eventually finds a balance.
    • Pops up as a joke in the second season where Charlie tells Kirsten she's a lot like her mother, prompting her to fret that she doesn't always make plans.
      Kirsten: You know what, I was supposed to call the man about the invitations today. And you know what? I didn't. (claps hands) What the hell!
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Josh, a guy Julia had a flirting thing going on with at the start of season 5, promptly vanishes after the Halloween episode so that the Julia and Ned storyline can progress. No explanation is given. After a Maybe Ever After ending in season 5, he's nowhere to be seen the next season - and Julia moves on to her next romantic plot.
  • What If?: The show's 133th episode shows an alternate reality where the parents never died.
  • Will They or Won't They?: Charlie and Kirsten. They split up and get back together three times over the course of three seasons. Things level off for a bit before They Do for good in season 5.
  • Woman Scorned: Kathleen in season 2. Charlie breaks up with her and she tries to buy out their restaurant.

Alternative Title(s):

Party Of Five