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. The siblings all have to take over the restaurant. 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: Played straight with Julia and Griffin.
- Amicable Exes: Julia and Justin after season 2. Charlie and Kirsten for a while.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Child Prodigy: Claudia.
- 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.
- Drunk Driver
- Dysfunction Junction: The whole Salinger family.
- Everyone Loves Blondes: Daphne fits the description. Alexa from season 6 also.
- Fail Polish: Sarah was initially shown as a little mousy and awkward but eventually shown as attractive and fashionable.
- Finagle's Law: Everything that can possibly go wrong does. And hilarity doesn't ensue.
- Five-Man Band: The Hero: Charlie
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.