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Series / Party of Five

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Party of Five is a American Teen Drama TV series 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 the death of their parents in a car accident. From oldest to youngest, the Salingers are:

  • Charlie (Matthew Fox), an irresponsible 24-year-old worker of odd jobs who has to step up and be the new man of the house
  • Bailey (Scott Wolf), a 16-year-old with a rebellious past who serves as a responsible Team Mom-like caretaker (at least for the first few seasons)
  • Julia (Neve Campbell), a sensitive 15-year old
  • Claudia (Lacey Chabert), an 11-year-old musical Child Prodigy
  • Owen, barely a year old.

While categorized as a show with a teen-to-young-adult audience, the events of the series showed the siblings dealing with mature issues like alcoholism, cancer, substance and domestic abuse, teen pregnancy, mental illness, and the long-term effects of parental loss.

Despite the show debuting to critical praise, its first and second seasons drew low ratings, leaving its fate in question. However, after winning the Golden Globe for Best Television Series — Drama in 1995, the show received a boost in popularity and ratings for the majority of the rest of its duration. Notable co-stars included Scott Grimes and Jennifer Love Hewitt, the latter in her breakout role as Bailey's on-off girlfriend Sarah. Hewitt's character was also the center of a Spin-Off series titled Time of Your Life that was ultimately canceled after one season.

A reboot of the series was ordered in 2018, and began airing in January 2020. This series centers around a Latino family, and changes the premise so that the children's parents have been deported to Mexico instead of killed. In April 2020, the series was canceled after one season.

Tropes used by the series:

  • A-Cup Angst: Claudia, an episode even involved her buying a special padded bra for this very reason.
  • 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.
  • Big Sister Bully: While Charlie and Bailey are both prone to their fair share of Jerk with a Heart of Gold tendencies throughout the entire series, Julia has a tendency to flip-flop rather frenetically in earlier seasons between The Bully and the Cool Big Sis, namely in regards to Claudia. Whereas Charlie and Bailey have more of a Sibling Rivalry in Season 1, Julia has a tendency to see Claudia as more of an Annoying Younger Sibling with No Sense of Personal Space from time-to-time. Nevertheless, Claud gives as good as she gets, and the two end up being two of the closest siblings out of the bunch when all is said and done (and that's even with Claudia's Big Brother Worship of Bailey).
  • 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.
  • Broken Aesop: After Ned hits Julia, she's actually initially fully and appropriately aware of how unacceptable his actions were and is looking to distance herself from him. Meanwhile, Charlie and Bailey are going through their own struggles: Charlie's anger is building due to Daphne's abandonment of her future parental duties, and Bailey wants to own a firearm for protection after Sarah is mugged, while Sarah is dismayed that all Bailey can think about is what he'd do to the mugger if he ever saw him again. While her input helps the two of them moving forward, she sees the frustration in the two of them and, blinded by her Big Brother Worship of them, ignores the fact that they aren't directing their aggression at the ones they love, and merely sees in Charlie and Bailey a simple and misplaced lesson of 'sometimes love makes you angry'.
  • Breakout Character: Sarah Reeves, Jennifer Love Hewitt's character, was enough of one to get her own spinoff show.note 
  • 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.
  • Can't Get Away with Nuthin': Played with. Although Julia does eventually get caught, she manages to get by with a fake ID for months working in a bar.
  • 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.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: 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.
  • 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.
  • Dead Guy Junior: Charlie and Daphne's baby is named after Charlie's mother Diana.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Julia's defining character trait, and she's one of the first to notice it as the series progresses. She frequently points out that, being in such a hurry to do what she wants, she's been left with a lot of regrets that could have been avoided, from having sex, to not going to college, to getting married, to frequently rushing from relationship to relationship. By the final season, she's developing a more understanding perspective towards her life experiences, but prior to that, she spends a lot of time feeling lousy for making mistakes that her family previously tried to talk her out of, often at length
  • Disappointing Older Sibling: In the early seasons, a recurring plot was oldest brother Charlie promising to do something for one of his siblings but then letting down the younger sibling because he forgot or was distracted by his own wants and needs.
  • Driven to Suicide: Kathleen overdoses on pills after Charlie breaks up with her. She gets better - and then tries to seize the family restaurant. Julia's friend Libby in Season 3, when she's unable to deal with the pressure of post-high school life.
  • 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 country.
  • 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.
  • Foreshadowing: When Jill dies at the end of season 1, in a fit of self-destructive rage, Bailey gets drunk and drives home. For over an entire season after this, it seems like this was just going to be an isolated incident. By the halfway point of season 3, it definitely isn't.
  • Gay Aesop:
    • Claudia learns that her violin teacher is gay midway through season 1. Charlie delivers the Aesop to her and she's gotten over it by the end of the episode.
    • In season 2 Julia makes friends with a closeted lesbian, who tries to cover up by getting off with a random guy. The end implies she's going to come out to her parents.
    • Julia, after getting some good news from her writer's workshop professor, Perry, in Season 5, haphazardly kisses Perry, not aware that Perry is a lesbian. While promos during sweeps played this up as a potential new love interest, the arc actually ends up being about how Perry really doesn't like her sexual orientation being used as a way for Julia to work through her relationship and identity issues - even unintentionally.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • Only mentioned in passing, but when Julia returns from Europe, she finds that Claudia has cut her hair into a short bob to resemble her sister's hairstyle. While Word of God from Lacey Chabert is that this initially had nothing to do with the show, but rather her role in the then-upcoming film Lost in Space, the resemblance was so uncanny that the showrunners decided to use it as a purposeful callback to the fact that Claudia used to constantly emulate Julia.
  • In-Series Nickname: The Salingers constantly refer to each other by abbreviated versions of their names - 'Char', 'Bay', 'Jule/Jules', 'Claud', and 'Owe'. Averted with Diana and eventually Stewart.
  • In the Blood: "Intervention" is the episode when Joe reveals to Bailey that his father was an alcoholic (which Bailey thinks is a ploy until he sees how shocked Charlie, Julia and especially Claudia are at the news). As if that wasn't heartbreaking enough, this convinces Bailey that he should keep on being an alcoholic (though he eventually gets better).
  • 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. Additionally, although we're never told the name of the school, Bailey does mention that the business school in Philadelphia he's planning on attending is indeed an Ivy League school
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Charlie and Bailey
  • Karma Houdini: While the Salingers never Houdini their way out of much, one particularly glaring example is when Bailey, while entertaining his workaholic tendencies, has a one-night stand with an assistant manager that he's hired. There's some tension between the two of them for all of one or two episodes, but nobody ever discovers the affair, and once her character is Put on a Bus, nothing about it ever comes up again.
  • 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.
  • Last Minute Hook Up: Inverted. Bailey had been in a relationship with Holly for Season 6 but they split up before the finale. And Bailey is the only one of the siblings to be single by the end. Played straight however with Julia and Justin who hook up at the end up the penultimate episode.
  • 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.
  • Marry the Nanny: A variation. Oldest brother Charlie, who is promoted to parental figure following the Salinger parents' deaths, begins an on-off flirtation with Kirsten, the nanny hired for his infant brother.
  • My Fist Forgives You: Will when he finds out Bailey wants to get back with Sarah.
  • Never My Fault: Played with by pretty much all four of the core siblings at one point or another, but it's actively made a plot point with Bailey, who harbors a great deal of resentment towards his parents for leaving him to be the one to take care of things. It's not until a bad bout with relapse towards the end of the series before he's finally able to admit out loud to everybody that his parents aren't responsible for what he's become.
  • Not Allowed to Grow Up: Averted. The kids grew over the 5 years.
  • Now, Let Me Carry You: In a show about five siblings having to come together to help take care of each other, it's bound to come up frequently
  • 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.
  • Romantic False Lead: Will acts as this for Bailey and Sarah in Season 2. Callie and Annie play this role for Bailey and Sarah in seasons 3 and 4 respectively.
  • 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.
  • Screw Your Ultimatum!: A particularly tragic example. As Bailey's favorite sibling, Claudia takes it upon herself at the end of his intervention to tell him to either seek help for his alcoholism or she'd never have anything to do with him ever again. Sadly, he doesn't listen.
  • 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.
  • Short Teens, Tall Adults: At the height of 5'1 (at that time), Lacey Chabert was shorter than all of the adult cast members. Neve Campbell was 5'7 and Scott Wolf was 5'8. Though in a subversion of this trope, a plot point in the first season is Julia being able to pass for an adult with a fake ID.
  • 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: 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.
  • Sudden Downer Ending: The first season suddenly has Jill killed off midway through the finale, without any warning at all.
  • There Are No Adults: Played for Drama as the parents have died and the 24-year-old Charlie has to step up and be the adult in the household.
  • 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 get together for good in season 5.
    • Almost all of the Salingers spend the series dealing with this in some way, shape or form, with the exception of Owen and Claudia. Bailey and Sarah are constantly on and off, until she finally leaves for good, and while Julia has a tendency to jump from major relationship to major relationship, she always ends up torn between Griffin or Justin. Justin wins out eventually.
  • Woman Scorned: Kathleen in season 2. Charlie breaks up with her and she tries to buy out their restaurant.