Back in the 90s, there were a lot of options out there for any TV viewers interested in teen dramas and coming-of-age stories. The likes of Dawson’s Creek and Beverly Hills, 90210 were hugely popular and are still talked about to this day.
But there was also another incredible show back then that deserves recognition and acclaim: Party of Five. Focused around a group of orphaned siblings struggling to fend for themselves, Party of Five attracted a legion of fans with its clever writing, awesome cast, and intelligent approach to mature subjects.
A Show with a Unique Premise
Many teen dramas of the 90s and even those in more recent years tend to follow similar formulas, focusing on a group of teens and their various relationships and encounters. But Party of Five dared to be different, bursting onto the scene with a truly unique premise.
In the first episode of the show, we learn that the Salinger children – Bailey, Charlie, Julia, Claudia, and Owen – have lost their parents in a car accident. The show then takes on a journey of ups and downs as the Salinger kids struggle to cope with their new situation.
Originally Planned as a Replacement
So how did the story of Party of Five begin? Well, it was Sandy Grushow, the head of Fox Entertainment Group at the time, who commissioned the show, with the network originally intended for it to be a replacement for Beverly Hills, 90210.
90210 was in its fourth season at the time, and Grushow felt like something fresh and new was needed. He wanted a “show about teenagers and for teenagers,” and it was Grushow himself who pitched the main idea of the show as a group of kids who lost their parents in a tragic accident.
A Key Writing Partnership Comes On Board
Sandy Grushow had decided on the show’s concept, but it still needed some good writers to come in and flesh out that original idea into something truly great. So, the team of Christopher Keyser and Amy Lippman came on board to help bring Party of Five to life.
The pair met at Harvard Law School and started writing together soon after, forming a partnership that would last many years. They’d already written and produced shows like Sisters and Eddie Dodd before being brought in to help with Party of Five.
A Change of Tone
Keyser and Lippman liked the concept for the show but immediately wanted to make some changes. Fox had originally intended for the show to be quite lighthearted, essentially focusing on a group of kids that could “run wild” after the loss of their parents. Keyser likened the idea to “Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead.”
He and Lippman felt that the show needed a more serious tone to reflect the reality of what it would be like for a bunch of siblings to lose their parents so dramatically and at such an early age, focusing on the trials and tribulations of their formative years without a mother and father to guide them.
Casting Begins with Bailey
Once the writing team had started to put some ideas for the show together, it was important to begin the casting process and bring in the right people to play each character. In an ensemble drama like Party of Five, casting can take a long time, and the correct choices must be made.
Bailey Salinger was the first part to be cast. Jerry O’Connell nearly had the role but decided to turn it down and join the sci-fi series Sliders instead. Later on, Scott Wolf auditioned and was given the role the same day, becoming the first official cast member.
Neve Campbell Competed with Her Roommate for a Role
The role of Julia was an important one for the casting team to get right, as she played such a pivotal role in the show. Neve Campbell was living in Canada, sharing a home with fellow Canadian actress Tara Strong.
The pair went to LA to look for talent agencies and opportunities, and both auditioned for the role of Julia, with Neve winning the part and moving to LA to start the show. Even though she missed out on a major part, Tara still got to make a guest appearance in the second episode.
Casting for Claudia Was Easy
The casting process for some of the main roles took time and was quite complicated, but it was relatively easy to cast the part of young Claudia Salinger, the 11-year-old musical prodigy of the family. Lacey Chabert was 11 years old at the time and also had a lot of musical talent of her own, being highly skilled on the violin.
Lippman later admitted that this helped a great deal in making the decision to bring Chabert on board, saying, “It didn’t hurt that Lacey played violin” and adding, “Her eyes were really smart and had a sparkle.”
A Family Was Formed
Once the parts of the four eldest Salinger siblings had been cast, Amy Lippman sat them all down and said, “Congratulations, you’re the Salingers!” Right from that moment, it felt like a special bond had formed between the four.
Scott Wolf revealed in an interview today that the group looked around at each other and instantly felt connected. He even said that it felt like they’d been together their whole lives, adding, “it just felt like a real family from day one.”
Many Young Actors Played the Part of Owen
Owen Salinger was only a baby when the show began, growing to six by the final season. The writing team often overlooked his role, and he didn’t play much of a part in most of the storylines, but several actors brought him to life.
When Owen was just a baby, twin boys Alexander and Zachary Ahnert portrayed him. Another set of twins, Brandon and Taylor Porter, were later brought in to play Owen as he grew older, then Andrew and Stephen Cavarno, and finally Jacob Smith.
James Marsden Originally Had the Role of Griffin
The part of Griffin, who was Julia’s on-and-off boyfriend and eventual husband in the show, first appeared in the finale of season one. He was played by James Marsden, who would later find fame in movies like the X-Men series and Sonic the Hedgehog.
Marsden wasn’t very well-known at the time, and Party of Five was one of his earliest roles. He could have continued with the show, but he was offered another role elsewhere and had to be replaced, with Jeremy London taking over the role for the remainder of the show’s run.
It Almost Didn’t Have a Second Season
These days, many people who grew up in the 90s look back on Party of Five as one of the best shows of their youth, but the show nearly didn’t make it to its second season due to low ratings.
Even though critics liked the show and it was developing a fanbase of loyal fans, the ratings weren’t great, especially when compared to the show that aired before it, Melrose Place. Lippman stated in interviews that “we came so close to being canceled so many times.”
Fortunately, the Show Was Saved
Things weren’t looking good for Party of Five at the end of the first season, but a couple of key things helped change the show’s fate and get it back on the right track. Firstly, it was moved to a different slot to bring in more viewers.
Secondly, it won the Golden Globe for Best Drama in 1996, beating huge shows, such as ER and NYPD Blue. It was a shock win, and it generated a ton of buzz for the show, with many more viewers tuning in for the episodes that followed.
Kate Hudson Made Her Screen Debut on the Show
James Marsden wasn’t the only big-name star to have appeared on Party of Five during the early years of his career. Kate Hudson made her screen debut in season two. She appeared as Corey, one of Justin’s co-workers at the TV station.
Kate’s role was only a bit-part, but it set her up for an amazing career, as she’s now one of the world’s most famous actresses, beloved by many for her starring roles in movies like Almost Famous, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, and The Skeleton Key.
Behind the Scenes Secrets
During an appearance on Watch What Happens Live, Scott Wolf and Neve Campbell shared a few secrets. They said that Matthew Fox was the biggest party-animal of the bunch, Jennifer Love Hewitt hooked up with fans more often than anyone else, and Wolf got the most attention from female fans of the show, unsurprisingly.
Scott Wolf even fell for one of his co-stars: Paula Devicq. He and Devicq dated for a while, and secretly, Wolf had another admirer among his cast-mates; little Lacey Chabert admitted that she had a huge crush on her on-screen big bro in the early days of shooting the show.
Fans Fell in Love with the Show
Every show has its fans, and some fans can get passionate about the shows they love. Party of Five was one of those shows, with some of the most passionate and loving fans of any show of the time.
The show got more fan mail than any other Fox show and had 50 different fansites set up, too. This is even more impressive when you remember that the ratings for the show weren’t that great compared to many similar teen dramas of the 90s.
Neve Campbell’s Star Power Ended the Show
All good things must come to an end, and Party of Five finished things up with its sixth season. It was Neve Campbell who indirectly put an end to the show. She revealed that she wouldn’t be renewing her contract, and the show was canceled just a few weeks later. This shows just how big Campbell was at the time.
She’d already appeared in the hugely successful movie, Scream and wanted to be free to do more movie work. She was the biggest star of the show, and the people in charge at Fox knew that it would struggle to continue without her.
The Producers Wanted to Carry On
Even though the heads of Fox had made the call to pull the plug on Party of Five, and Scott Wolf had also announced that he wouldn’t renew his contract either, the creators, Christopher Keyser and Amy Lippman had plans for it to continue.
They had planned out some ideas for how the show could shift to focus more on Charlie and Claudia, shining the spotlight more on Charlie’s new family and starting a new phase for Party of Five, with the other Salinger kids only making special appearances now and then. These ideas never came to life.
A Spin-Off Series
Even though the main show wasn’t allowed to continue, Fox felt that a spin-off could succeed. The writers came up with a show called Time of Your Life, which focused on Sarah, played by Jennifer Love Hewitt, as she moved to NYC to learn more about her birth parents.
The show debuted in October of 1999, with a cast that included Jennifer Garner, Pauley Perrette, Gina Ravera, and Diego Serrano. Unfortunately, the show only made it halfway through the first season before being put on a hiatus.
Low Ratings Put an End to the Show
Audiences or critics had not very well received the early episodes of Time of Your Life. But Fox still had hopes for the show. The network decided to put it on a hiatus, hoping that a big return could be announced a few months later to help the show succeed at last.
Then, in June of 2000, when the show had been off the air for five months, Fox ran a “Summer of Love” promotion all about Jennifer Love Hewitt and tried to bring back the show. However, the ratings for the next episode were still very low, and Time of Your Life was immediately canceled.
An Attempted Reboot
In recent years, many popular shows from the past have had reboots, and Party of Five is no exception to the rule. In 2017, Christopher Keyser and Amy Lippman, creators of the original show, revealed that they were working on a reboot.
In 2018, Freeform announced the details, saying that Keyser and Lippman were writing a pilot, with Rodrigo Garcia in the director’s chair. The new series was set to follow a group of siblings who had to fend after their parents were deported to Mexico.
Only One Season Was Made
Unfortunately, just like Time of Your Life, the new Party of Five didn’t turn out too well in the end. The show premiered in January of 2020 and ran for an initial 10-episode season before being canceled. The ratings for the show simply weren’t good enough, with it being one of the least-watched shows on Disney-owned networks that season.
However, the show received critical acclaim, with a 96% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a lot of reviewers complimenting the fresh take on the formula, as well as the acting potential of the young stars involved.
Scott Wolf Then
Scott Wolf was born on June 4 of 1968, in Boston, Massachusetts. He grew up in New Jersey and attended The George Washington University, obtaining a Bachelor of Arts degree in Finance. He got into acting in the late 80s and had a few minor roles in movies like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and All I Want for Christmas.
Scott also landed a recurring TV role in Saved by the Bell as Max Waiter and then appeared in guest roles in other shows like The Commish and Parker Lewis Can’t Lose, before landing the lead role of Bailey Salinger in Party of Five, appearing in the show’s entire run of 142 episodes.
Scott Wolf Now
Party of Five was Scott’s big break, and many people think of the show when they hear his name, but he has gone on to appear in various other TV shows and movies in the years since the show came to an end.
He starred as Dr. Jake Hartman in Everwood for a couple of years and Chad Decker in V. He’s also had long-running roles in shows like Kaijudo, Perception, and The Night Shift and can currently do so be seen as Carson Drew in the Nancy Drew reboot.
Matthew Fox Then
Born in Abington, Pennsylvania, in July of 1966, Matthew Fox moved to Wyoming early. He attended the elite Deerfield Academy before moving on to Columbia University to obtain a degree in economics. But despite studying finance at school, he was passionate about acting.
So, in his early 20s, Fox decided to try and break into the acting world. He got his first on-screen appearance in an episode of Wings at the age of 25 and made his movie debut with My Boyfriend’s Back in 1993. He then got cast as Charlie on Party of Five, appearing in every episode.
Matthew Fox Now
Matthew Fox became popular during his time on Party of Five, being ranked as one of the most attractive people on the planet, and he has continued to succeed in both movies and TV since the show ended. His biggest role after the show was in Lost, in which he played Dr. Jack Shephard.
Fox won several awards and nominations during his time on Lost. He has also appeared in successful films like Vantage Point and Bone Tomahawk. He’s taken a break from acting lately but is set to return in a Peacock show called Last Light.
Neve Campbell Then
Canadian star Neve Campbell was born in October of 1973 in Ontario. Unlike some of her Party of Five co-stars, who were only just breaking into the acting world, she was already pretty well-known when the show started.
She’d starred in the Canadian drama, Catwalk as Daisy and appeared in guest roles in a range of shows like Are You Afraid of the Dark? and some TV movies like The Forget-Me-Not Murders before being cast as Julia in Party of Five.
Neve Campbell Now
Campbell appeared in every episode of Party of Five and won great acclaim for her acting. She also simultaneously launched a successful film career, starring Sidney Prescott in Scream, one of the most successful slasher movies ever.
Campbell has also appeared in the Scream sequels, along with other successful movies like The Craft. And, despite succeeding on the big screen, she’s also spent time in other TV shows like Grey’s Anatomy, House of Cards and will soon be back on the small screen in The Lincoln Lawyer.
Lacey Chabert Then
Lacey Chabert was born in September of 1982 in Purvis, Mississippi. She was exposed to the showbiz lifestyle from an early age, being involved with beauty pageants as a child and getting into acting before she’d even entered her teenage years.
She played the role of Cosette in the Broadway production of Les Misérables, as well as making her screen debut as Erica Kane’s daughter on the long-running soap opera, All My Children. As she was already quite a successful child actor at the time, she seemed like the perfect fit for Claudia in Party of Five.
Lacey Chabert Now
Chabert was a series regular on Party of Five, appearing in every episode. Outside of the show, she also launched a movie career, appearing in Lost in Space in 1998 and making a name for herself as a voice actress.
She played the voice of Eliza Thornberry in The Wild Thornberrys, voicing the character in two movies and providing voices for shows, movies, and video games like The Lion King II, an American Tail, Balto II, Family Guy, and Sonic the Hedgehog. Some of her most recent work includes the AppleTV+ show Harriet the Spy.
Paula Devicq Then
Paula Devicq is a Canadian actress born in Edmonton, Alberta. Initially, she pursued a career in modeling. She got her first job at the age of 18, working in fashion capitals like New York and Paris and quickly making a name for herself with her striking eyes and unique beauty.
She was represented by leading agencies such as Ford and Elite, appearing on a range of magazine covers and ad campaigns. She then moved into acting, and Party of Five was her first big role. She played the part of Kirsten Bennett, appearing in 89 episodes throughout the show’s six-season run.
Paula Devicq Now
Party of Five was a big factor in helping to kick-start Devicq’s acting career. While the show was ongoing, she also appeared in other parts in Wounded heart, Kill the Man, and Runaway Brand. She also made headlines for dating her Party of Five co-stars Scott Wolf for a while.
After the show ended, she got a recurring role as Cynthia Bennington in 100 Centre Street, a show that didn’t last long but was well-liked by critics. Devicq then got a recurring role in Rescue Me and made guest appearances in shows like Law & Order and A Gifted Man.
Scott Grimes Then
Scott Grimes was born in 1971 in Lowell, Massachusetts, and like many of his Party of Five co-stars, he got into acting from an early age. He was only 13 when he appeared alongside Mickey Rooney in a 1984 TV movie. A year later, he appeared in the Twilight Zone.
He also starred in the cult comedy-horror movie, Critters (1986) and Critters 2: The Main Course (1988). He had recurring roles in Who’s the Boss? and Together We Stand and appear in the likes of Star Trek and 21 Jump Street before landing the role of Will in Party of Five.
Scott Grimes Now
Grimes’ career went from strength to strength in the late 90s and 2000s as he landed several big roles, mostly on TV. he appeared as Garth in Goode Behavior and starred in the Steven Spielberg war drama, Band of Brothers.
Grimes’ next big role came in ER, as he appeared in 112 episodes as Dr. Archie Morris. He also got into voice acting, with leading parts on Family Guy and American Dad! His voice can also be heard in The Orville, and he’s had success as a musician, too.
Michael Goorjian Then
Michael Goorjian was born in February of 1971 in San Francisco. He is of Armenian descent, with his paternal grandparents being survivors of the Armenian genocide of World War I. Like others on this list, he got into acting like a child.
At 14, he tried out for a local theater company and later studied at UCLA School of Theatre. He got his first big movie break in Newsies and won an Emmy in 1994 for David’s Mother’s TV movie. The same year, he got the part of Justin Thompson in Party of Five.
Michael Goorjian Now
Goorjian appeared in 44 episodes of Party of Five and appeared in guest roles in many other TV shows like Touched by an Angel, CSI, Without a Trace, Monk, House, Killer Instinct, Lie to Me, and Covert Affairs.
He has also enjoyed a movie career, appearing as an actor in movies like Amerikana, Deal of a Lifetime, Go for Broke, and Broken. He has also founded his own LA theater group, Buffalo Nights, and got into writing and directing, writing a trilogy of novels, and directing several films and shorts.
Jennifer Love Hewitt Then
Jennifer Love Hewitt was born in February 1979 in Waco, Texas. As a young girl, she developed an interest in music, leading her to the entertainment industry. She was only three years old when she performed for the first time at a livestock show.
Before she was even 10, she was proficient in singing, tap dance, and ballet. She then moved to LA with her mom to pursue acting, appearing in TV commercials and the Disney Channel show Kids Incorporated, before landing the part of Sarah Reeves Merrin on Party of Five.
Jennifer Love Hewitt Now
Hewitt was originally supposed to be in Party of Five for nine episodes but was so well-liked that the producers made her a regular series. After the show, she starred in the successful horror I Know What You Did Last Summer and its sequel and teen comedies like Can’t Hardly Wait.
Into the 2000s, she continued to appear in successful films like Heartbreakers and TV shows like Ghost Whisperer. In more recent times, she has been seen in the main role on 9-1-1 and season 10 of Criminal Minds.
Alexondra Lee Then
Alexondra Lee was born on February 8 of 1975, in Pennsylvania, to parents Mae and Harry. She developed an interest in ballet when she was a very young child, starting to train at the age of four and joining the New York City ballet at seven years of age.
She performed shows like The Nutcracker Suite with the ballet company and moved into acting in her teenage years, first appearing on screen in Good Morning, Miss Bliss. She had a few other guest roles in shows like Thirtysomething and Sisters, building up to her part of Callie Martel in Party of Five.
Alexondra Lee Now
After Party of Five ended, Alexondra Lee continued to act on TV and in films. She made many guest appearances in shows like Players, Jenny, Early Edition, and Working and a small recurring role in George and Leo.
Into the 2000s, she had recurring roles in shows like Special Unit 2, Boston Public, and Push, Nevada. In the world of movies, she most notably appeared in Paranormal Activity 4. She has also extended her entertainment career into production, helping to produce shows for A&E and History Channel.
Jeremy London Then
Jeremy London was born in November of 1972 in San Diego. He was the son of a waitress and a sheet metal worker, and he has an identical twin brother, who also works as an actor. Both Jeremy and his brother got into acting when they were quite young.
Jeremy’s big break came on the early 90s drama series, I’ll Fly Away. He played the lead role of Nathan on the show. He also appeared in TV shows like Route 66 and movies such as White Wolves II: Legend of the Wild and Mallrats.
Jeremy London Now
London appeared on Party of Five for 89 episodes in total as Griffin Holbrook. After the show ended, he made guest appearances in other TV shows and landed roles in movies like Journey to the Center of the Earth and Levitation.
London had a recurring role as Chandler Hampton in 7th Heaven from 2002 to 2004 and has appeared in many other shows and movies since then, with some of his most recent work including a guest appearance in the MacGyver reboot. He was also a notable cast member of Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew in 2010.
Jennifer Aspen Then
Jennifer Aspen is best known to Party of Five fans as Daphne Jablonsky, a series regular for the show’s later seasons. But she had already made a name for herself in the acting world before becoming a part of the Party of Five family.
Born in October 1973 in Richmond, she made her acting debut in 1995 and had guest roles in many popular shows like Beverly Hills, 90210, and Married… with Children. She also appeared on the big screen in the mid-90s in films like Sometimes They Come Back… Again and The Others.
Jennifer Aspen Now
Party of Five was just the beginning of Aspen’s successful TV career. After the show ended, like many of her former co-stars, she appeared in guest roles in many different shows such as Will & Grace, The King of Queens, CSI, Friends, and Line of Fire.
She had recurring and regular roles in shows like Bob Patterson and Rodney, too. In recent years, she has been spotted in episodes of shows like Scream Queens, 9-1-1, and The Good Doctor, and she also won acclaim for the show Sharp Objects, in which she appeared alongside Amy Adams.
A Classic Show, Beloved by Many
When it first started, Party of Five seemed a lot like many other teen dramas of the time, but viewers quickly saw that this show was something special. It explored deep themes, from mental illness to domestic abuse, approaching these subjects with grace and intelligence.
It built up a loyal following of fans worldwide, winning awards and plaudits throughout its 142 episodes and making stars of many of its leading actors, like Matthew Fox, Neve Campbell, and Jennifer Love Hewitt. While the spin-off and reboot were unsuccessful, the original Party of Five will rightfully be remembered as a classic piece of television.