This week I finished a show from the mid 90’s (back when tv was actually good). It’s called Party of Five (the original not the waste of money and air time that was the new remake – thankfully that’s already been canceled).
I’ve actually been wanting to watch this for awhile now, but could not really get invested until a few weeks ago when I finished Superstore and was craving something I could just jump into. This show did the trick, though it was certainly anything but perfect.
I usually binge watch tv shows in between my research time as I work through my Unschooled Master of Theology Program. This one was a perfect fit with plenty of episodes to keep me sated while I did reading and took courses.
So, let’s get into it and discuss all things Party of Five related…
What I Liked About the Show
This show aired from 1994 to 2000, which explains why I didn’t watch that much of it, since I was in the military from 1993 to 1997 without a television (or at least cable access) and also spent 1997 to at least the 2004 living in various remote places: out on a ranch in a camp trailer, at my parent’s cabin on the west coast (on tv reception there either), and mobile in a pickup camper, then camper shell. It wasn’t until I married in 2004 that I got dependable television, though throughout much of the 90’s I was able to record shows at my parent’s house on VHS tapes.
I do remember watching this show, though, if only intermittently. It was pretty good, what I actually remember of it (which wasn’t much), especially the stories early on in the series. This second time around, I was able to binge watch from beginning to end over several weeks (not sure how long it took me). It was interesting to slowly remember the cast from later shows (such as Fox from Lost).
That’s about it, though, for the good parts of this show.
Problems with the Show and its Plot and Characters
The problems, though, are many. Really, the greatest issue I had was this show is really about a bunch of rich kids who live off their family business(es), live in one of the most expensive cities in America, live in what must be a ridiculously expensive house, and yet seem to try to have the same problems as the rest of the world does.
Sorry. I’m not buying it.
These kids don’t give a second thought to being accepted and going to Ivy League schools only to drop out with someone hurts their feelings or they don’t ace a test or they miss a boyfriend or girlfriend. Throughout the show these five “wrestle” with every day life while falling backwards into money or fame or both.
A low point during the series is the season or more focused on the character I like to call, Julia, the Door Mat. Julia, the oldest sister of the siblings, seems to have a personality resembling that of a cardboard box. The actress, Nev Campbell, is well known for her lack of acting abilities and I do remember massive controversy when the show was running concerning her, though I can’t quite remember what the controversy was.
Her younger sister, Claud, was no different in the drama department. Though, I will admit, she was much more entertaining to watch than the other characters when she was a pre-teen. Once she became a teenager, though, she seemed to lose any acting ability she once had and resorted to high riding shorts and skirts and short cut tops, seemingly insistent on showing off her midsection to the world.
Maybe they lost their writing team after the early seasons, but it did seem as if they were playing musical chairs toward the latter half, desperate to find relevance, or even a plot line. It seemed the business was a central theme of futility, first with Charlie running it against his will, then Bailey running it, then the business partner of their deceased dad, then around and around they went. There was even a haphazard plot line about that partner embezzling thousands of dollars from the business, only to be forgiven and taking over again. In real life, that would be nothing more than a resounding endorsement to continue stealing.
How the Show Ended
The show actually ended on whimper, as if it had been mortally wounded at some point previous and was just trying to make it to the last episode any way it could. Maybe the producers were just trying to milk the series for as much as they could while they could. There is no way to tell.
In the last episode, the eldest, Charlie, decided he wanted to sell the house they had grown up in. It conveniently set all five of them up for life. Granted, a million dollars split five ways: is $200,000, but after taxes and real estate agent fees and closing costs, that probably ended up being closer to $150,000. Now, if someone handed me that amount of money, I could realistically retire the rest of my life living in immense comfort and leisure, traveling anywhere I wanted, etc. But, there’s a BIG difference to how I live in my daily life and how these fictional characters lived (which was way, way over the top).
The fact that Bailey ended up going to college on the east coast, so very close to NYC makes me wonder why he never showed up on Sarah’s spinoff show. The fact that she left to begin with was very puzzlingly to me. Who goes to NYC on a 4 day trip and ends up staying permenantly? She didn’t even go back to get her stuff. Did the Premadonna really just expect Bailey to do it all for her (which, in actuality, he did)?
Throughout the show’s run, Charlie would take the award for the winiest person on the planet. He seemingly complained about everything. He first complained that he had too much responsibility and, just about every chance he got, he let those kids know he had been forced into taking care of them (lovely way to be raised to know you’re a burden). Then, when the responsibility was taken from him, he complained that no one respected him. This went back and forth the entire series. He fought for custody of his youngest brother when Bailey wanted him. Then, when he won, he turned his youngest brother over anyway! He fought everyone on everything. He proposed then stood his future wife up at the altar in front of all their friends and family. She went insane (literally), only to eventually come back to him. I still think she was unstable in the second half of the series, just functionally so. This is really the same character that he played in Lost years later, though at least in Lost there was some closure when Jack died (and you find out none of the events in the show actually occurred outside of Jack’s mind in the last fleeting moments of his life).
In the end, all the characters on this show were rather spoiled, self-absorbed, egotistical cretins. Truly. They would be a horror in real life, though I wouldn’t be surprised if the characters were based off real life people.
One bizarre turn of events, I set out to rewatch this series with a single scene firmly in my mind. It was a scene where Sarah was standing in a darkened room opposite Bailey and either she was professing her love for him or was trying to illicit a declaration from Bailey. Once it was confirmed, I remember Sarah flashed that infection smile of hers, and then the show cut away to the credits of an empty street at night with rain coming down in the background.
The problem: this scene does not apparently exist. In watching from beginning to end, I did not come across this scene at all. I know I watched this show haphazardly when it aired in the 90’s. I remember watching that scene in my parent’s living room.
So, what happened to that scene? Did I mis-remember this being Party of Five when it was some other series altogether? Did I fabricate the entire scene out of thin air? If so, why would I do something like that?
I can still see it in my head, Sarah’s hair was breaded into a single pony tail, and I think she wore black pants. I remember her smile and wood, like paneling or wood flooring. The room was dark and maybe there was a small lamp turn on low. I remember how excited she got when Bailey admitted that he loved her.
But, nope. It apparently never happened.
The Show’s Spinoff
That leads me to the failed attempt at launching a spinoff from the series for the Sarah character. In the Party of Five, she abruptly headed off to NYC in search of her unknown father, but this quickly turned into a new start for her.
Despite the initial premise being the parental search, this plot line was quickly abandoned for her incessant job hopping, her ill-fated self-employment launch (out of her apartment mind you), getting sued, and the string of boyfriends and broken relationships (isn’t this trope tired enough). Only when the final curtain was ready to come down did the storyline of the long lost father resurface. Of course, it was a complete accident that they found each other, with him turning out to be a womanizing detective who seemed interested at one moment about having a daughter and ambivalent the next (personally, I think she should have settled for her mother’s rich ex).
Oddly enough, Sarah’s relationship in her new series was almost entirely absent her adoptive parents’ involvement. Her mother was remarried and had basically replaced her with her step kids and her dad seemed pretty much over the whole family thing.
Actually, if I had been her adoptive parents, I would be looking for a refund on my investment, as she turned out to be really nothing more than a spoiled narcissist. But, in the episode that had her mother remarrying, you could quickly see the same superficial characteristics in Sarah’s adoptive mother that you could see in Sarah. I guess it is all about nurture in the end.
I will say, I was overall quite surprised to discover Sarah’s personality from the very beginning of the show this time around. From the first episode she was on, it was pretty clear what kind of entitled and opinionated person she was. Her ridiculous demands of Bailey, her insistence on him doing things for her and the too oft tendency to become unhinged really solidified for me what a horrible person she was in her core.
How had I missed this all those years ago? How had I missed the insidious and vicious nature? I can only assume I had not watched too closely back then. Or, I simply have changed enough in my own life to recognize selfish people when I see them. All I know is there is no way on God’s green earth that I would stand to be in a relationship with someone like Sarah, I don’t care what she looked like! What does the Bible say?
“A continual dripping on a very rainy day and a contentious woman are alike. Whoever restrains her restrains the wind, and grasps oil with his right hand” (Pr 27:15-16) and “better to dwell in a corner of a housetop than in a house shared with a contentious woman” (Pr 25:24; 21:9).
I find it hilarious that this last proverb is so important and true they found it necessary to repeat it twice!
Why I Wouldn’t Recommend
After rewatching the show all these years later, I come away with the conclusion that the story itself is highly irrational and not at all realistic. First off, social services would never put up with the kind of negative situations that the siblings were put into. They certainly would not so sparingly visit white neighborhoods and white families once they were on the radar. There was money involved as well, probably trust funds, and that would be a target of the welfare state.
Additionally, finances don’t typically work in real life the way they do in this series. There is no endless supply in which people can go to college or to start businesses. People also don’t run off to college and become famous writers for no reason.
I will say, though, while this show did have its liberal agendas, it’s nothing compared to the blatant propoganda pushed on shows today, which is actually a good. They tried to remedy this by the reboot which crashed quickly (who wants to watch social engineering disguised as storytelling). But, despite this singular redeeming characteristic, the show really has little going for itself overall. I can’t believe it was as popular as it was, but, then again, it is not surprising that people liked it. That is the nature of the herd mentality.
In the end, I would recommend the original Party of Five over the train wreck that was the remake. But there are certainly better shows to be watched first.
Until my next review….
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Excerpt from Our Daughter:
“Okay, mom,” Randy said.
“You behave yourself and be nice. You’re lucky to have company while you wait for the doctors.”
The woman turned and started back the way she came.
“The nurse said it would be twenty or thirty more minutes, so we’ll eat quick and be back up here before they take you in, okay?”
“Sorry for him,” the woman said to Katie as she walked by.
As the woman left, Katie noticed the boy moving around again on the bed. Before she realized what was happening, the tiny lump disappeared and she could hear the faint sound of bare hands and feet on the tile floor.
He was low crawling under the beds toward her.
A moment later, Randy popped his head out from under the nearest hospital bed, craning his neck around to look up at her.
“Hello, there,” Katie said.
Randy disappeared back under the bed, the bed sheet draping down almost to the floor. Katie could still see three little fingers pressed to the tile.
“What are you here for?” Katie asked, readjusting her seat in the chair, trying to get the ache in her chest to lessen.
For whatever reason, the wheelchair was really uncomfortable.
“Why are – ”
Randy’s voice trailed off for a moment as he looked around.
“Why are you here?”
“I’m getting my leg fixed,” Katie said. “See?”
Randy poked his head back out from under the bed and looked at the leg she was pointing to.
“What’s wrong with it?”
“The doctor said it’s broken,” Katie said. “Shattered.”
“Can you feel it?” Randy asked, able to stay out from his hiding place.
“I can feel it, but it’s not too bad,” Katie said, then tapped the IV in her arm. “This thing is giving me medicine of some kind for the pain. At least that’s what the nurses said.”
“Why are you – ”
Randy stopped mid-sentence.
He scooted out from under the bed entirely and slowly crept over to her on all fours.
“What are you, some kind of spider?” Katie asked, giggling a little.
“What are you?” Randy echoed.
He was now only about a foot away from her chair and sat there, his legs folded up under him, gawking up at her.
“What are you staring at me for?”
“I’ve never – ”
Randy put out a hesitant hand and ever so gently touched her arm.
“Are you some kind of ghost?”
He looked around again.
“Are you – ”
He leaned in, talking in a whisper.
“Are you dead?”
A nurse came around the corner and stopped abruptly, spotting the empty bed in the far corner where Randy should have been.
“Randy Andrews,” the nurse said, her hands now on her hips. “You get right back into the bed and you stop playing around, please. They are ready for you in surgery.”
Katie watched as Randy scrambled on all fours under the beds and back up onto his, pulling the sheet back over top of himself again.
She started to ask him about his question, but couldn’t get the words out before his parents appeared at the door.
Katie sat there quietly, watching Randy stare back at her from under his sheet. She glanced over at his parents and the nurse, noticed Randy’s dad had no hair on the top of his head.
Are you dead?
What kind of question was that?
The snap of the wheel locks being disengaged on Randy’s hospital bed jarred Katie out of the confusion she was in.
The doctor she’d first seen was now at the door, waiting for Randy.
He was his surgeon.
They wheeled Randy out of the room, his parents following right behind, disappearing to the left, heading for his operating room.
The pre-op room was empty again.
Are you dead?
What kind of crazy question was that?
The nurse came back through the double doors.
“It won’t be long now,” she said.
Katie tried not to think about the dull ache growing just behind her sternum.
The nurse disappeared around the corner as Katie watched the double doors to the operating rooms slowly shut.
Buy my book Our Daughter and begin the adventure of a lifetime, as you uncover the mysteries behind Katie Cadora’s new life after the horrible accident that stole her mother away from her. Will she find sure footing again? Will the pain ever stop? Will she discover the secrets her new foster family are keeping from her? Is the boy’s question right? Is Katie Cadora actually dead?
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