Party Of Five and Time Of Your Life

Party Of Five (1994-2000)
Time Of Your Life (1999-2000)
Type: Spin Off

   Party Of Five was the serious dramatic answer to the Beverly Hills 90210 prime time teen soaps of the world. Where Dylan and those Walsh kids dealt with serious issues only occasionally and then usually a bit superficially (Brenda might have breast cancer! Wait, no she doesn't. End of episode. Or how about Dylan being an alcoholic and then a few seasons later having a fridge stocked with beer. Hello?) the Salinger clan dealt with real life problems in depth, seriously and less soapily. Only they were sooo serious about it they could verge on being a little overwrought and melodramatic. And a bit of a downer.

   Right from the start the Salinger kids had it tough. The start of the show had the five young Salingers losing their parents in an car accident. They were going to be torn apart and sent to separate foster homes but the eldest Charlie got appointed guardian of the others and the family got to stay together. Hurray!!! Oh but wait. Over the next few years life would dump on these kids like a Hell's Angel after a chili cookout. First, they had to all grow up fast. They had to cooperate in keeping things going around the house, the older kids having to keep an eye out for the the younger kids. Otherwise, child welfare could still break them up.

   On top of this there were bigger problems. Charlie, you know, the guy most in charge and responsible? He got Hodgkin's disease. Oh, but before that brother Bailey turned out to be an alcoholic. Of course before he figured that out and sought treatment he dragged them all through hell. Even after he got help it was still an issue. This was not 90210 alcoholism. The plot point was always there.

   Julia Salinger was played by rising star Neve Campbell. She had boyfriend issues. But again, we ain't talking soapy stuff with people smacking each other dramatically for sleeping around. They played it for the true emotion. The closest they got to that sort of cheap seemingly exploitive plotting with Julia was when she questioned her sexuality and flirted with lesbianism. The thing is that that is a serious plot concept that is hard to do and avoid seeming in some way exploitive. I mean you get hot young starlets kissing each other, you can put all the integrity and seriousness you want behind it, you're gonna get smirking guys tuning in for a cheap thrill.

   Claudia was the youngest and just plain troubled. Hey, your parents are dead, your brother is now the boss and you have to become an adult at a very young age when all your older siblings got a longer childhood. So... well she could get a little whiny... but dramatically and seriously whiny. Ahem...

   That leaves Owen. Owen was a baby at the start of the show and, what, seven by the end of the show. This pretty much limited his plot troubles. He wet and pooped his pants - seriously and dramatically. He also served mostly as a problem for the others. Someone had to be looking after Owen at all times. Bottom line though, these kid's had oppressively troubled lives.

   The show started slow. The first season it did so so in the ratings. Then TV Guide featured it as The Best Show You're Not Watching that season. That helped get people watching and more people watching help to keep Fox from dropping the axe on the show.

   One addition to the show to come in after its start was the character of Sarah Reeves played by yet another rising star - Jennifer Love Hewitt. She was brought in as a temporary player. You know, someone for Bailey to date and then when her plot was done, she'd be gone. Only Jennifer Love Hewitt is pretty and engaging and talented... and the producers knew they would be idiots to just ditch her. So she soon became a full fledge regular. She dated Bailey and they went through their ups and down. She was friends with Julia and they went through their ups and downs... as friends! I mean their ups and downs didn't figure in with that whole lesbian thing... I'm in a hole and digging myself deeper by the minute...

   Party Of Five aired on the Fox network. In 1999 Fox was in need of new quality shows. The idea was hatched to spin Jennifer Love Hewitt's Sarah off into her own show. It would be called The Time Of Your Life. Sarah was adopted. In the course of Party Of Five's run she located her birth mother. The new show would be about Sarah leaving San Francisco, the setting for Party Of Five, and moving to New York to search for her biological father.

   Time Of Your Life had some trouble though. Fox did a pilot and then tinkered with it because it didn't quite work. There were "uh oh" stories about it in the media before it hit the air. When it did hit the air, it didn't exactly shoot to the top of the ratings. Blame that partly on Fox though. The smart move would have been to air Time Of Your Life and Party Of Five together on the same night as a solid block of programming. You get that group of Party Of Five viewers and you have them for a solid two hours. The WB did it perfectly with Buffy The Vampire Slayer and its spin off Angel. And having them together you have the potential for crossovers and the like. But Fox was having ratings trouble and I guess they figured they by putting the shows on two different nights they could get that Party Of Five audience to watch two nights a week and maybe get the Party of Five crowd to sample the other shows on those nights as well.

   Yeah, whatever. Didn't work. Time Of Your Life just sort of sat there and the 1999-2000 season turned out to be the last for Party Of Five to boot. If they had paired the two shows, they could have gotten the audience hooked on the spin off and then had them follow it once Party Of Five bit the dust. Instead they lost both shows. One of the Salinger kids must be doing the scheduling. Yet another problem! Dammit!

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