The Party of Five pilot can be seen on Hulu as part of a special advance presentation. It officially debuts Wednesday, January 8 on Freeform.
The new Party of Five — based on the bones of the classic '90s Fox series that made stars of Scott Wolf, Matthew Fox, Neve Campbell, and Jennifer Love Hewitt — is a solid revival that plays to the strengths of the old show while adding extra layers of topical tragedy.The Salinger family is now the Acosta family, a Mexican-American clan turned-upside down by the loss of their parents. Not to a car accident like we saw decades ago, but to cruel and callous deportation.Restaurant owners Javier and Gloria Acosta, played by Bruno Bichir and Fernanda Urrejola, are taken out of the picture in a way that not only shines a spotlight on the inhumanity of ICE, but also seasons the drama by making the story exponentially sadder. Yes, the death of one's parents can obviously have an obliterating effect, but from a narrative standpoint, it's much worse to have the parents still in the picture but forced to leave. Over the course of weeks, locked in a detention center, trying to plead their case, Javier and Gloria are ripped from their kids (one of whom is an infant) and we, as viewers, witness both sides mourning and feeling a tremendous amount of guilt.This update, which is reminiscent of how One Day at a Time successfully rebooted with a Latino family and became a must-watch affair, gives Party of Five a new sheen, new topics to deal with, and a heart that's unique enough to stand apart from the original series. And the fact that this reboot is brought to us by the creators of the first Party of Five — Amy Lippman and Christopher Keyser — means the spine of the old show is still present.Eldest son Emilio (Brandon Larracuente) still gets to be the "Charlie" of the clique, an aloof Lothario forced to place his musical aspirations on hold in order to become a responsible caregiver. In this case, at 24, Emilio is the Acosta's DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) child who is no longer allowed to dream. The kids all lineup, more or less, to their '90s doubles, as their premiere predicament causes the already-stable ones to dabble in rebellion (like Emily Tosta's straight-A student Lucia) while the goof-offs (like Emilio and Niko Guardado's Beto) have to take stock of their behavior and become providers. The family restaurant is also still present, to give the siblings a potential income and/or draining albatross.The keeping of the baby as the fifth child, in this particular setting, is an interesting one since Javier and Gloria have to make the conscious choice to leave him behind in America, with his older siblings. It's a hard sell, one that I'm still chewing on, but the performances make it work. Bottom line, it will also make for an interesting dynamic to have the parents still alive, and contactable by phone or FaceTime, going forward. They are visitable and have the ability to impact their children's lives in some way, and that's something the old series could never include.As a commodity, reboots and revivals rarely need a reason to exist so it's exciting when some find a way to crack the code and persevere by taking what worked about their original counterpart and expanding on the story in meaningful ways. Party of Five, as a logline, is still very much inside this new series, but the rest represents an emotional of-the-era improvement on the old recipe.
Party of Five is a tender, topical revamping of an already-tragic story that somehow makes things even more heart-wrenching. To the story’s benefit. This time, we get to know the parents while watching both sides of the sad situation react to getting ripped apart and it makes for a pulsing pilot.