Review: Party of Five: The Complete Series on DVD Release from Mill Creek Entertainment (2016)


As a remembrance of an earlier time period, and a dramatic recreation of coming of age, Party of Five is definitely worth revisiting in a new complete collection on DVD from Mill Creek. Read the review below!

PARTY OF FIVE –The Entire Series

Matthew Fox (Lost)
Scott Wolf (Go, Everwood, V)
Neve Campbell (Scream franchise)
Lacey Chabert (Mean Girls)
Jeremy London (Mallrats)
Jennifer Love Hewitt (Ghost Whisperer)

This show is about a family orphaned six months before we meet them in the pilot, living in San Francisco. Oldest son Charlie is in his early 20s and not ready to commit to being full-time parent. Second son Bailey is responsible, and stretched to the limit trying to cover all the gaps. Middle child Julia is 15, and effortlessly good at school, especially writing. Second daughter Claudia is a precocious musical prodigy, small for her age, and focused on the violin. Last of all is Owen, who is still less than a year old, and needs the most care.

The feelings! When this aired from 1994 to 2000, it could be compared to family- & friend-centric dramas My So-Called Life, Dawson’s Creek, or 90210. Along with these shows, Party of Five addresses issues such as loss of parents, teenage drinking/drug use, repercussions of using fake ID, responsibilities of keeping parents’ business running vs following your dreams, dealing with suicide, and teenage sex. Later in the series, the questions become more adult, such as depression, political wisdom, social consciousness, and sharing marital responsibilities. The characters make us care about these issues, and understand both sides of the issue. Often the episode’s A & B storylines will share one issue, but divide it into an adult’s vs a kid’s point of view on it. For example, one adult character will be contending with infertility, and then a teenage character will have to deal with the repercussions of an unplanned pregnancy. The comparison between age levels, while not exactly being generational, draws similarities and differences between the situations.

The clothes!! Because the show is set in San Francisco, the weather is relatively consistent year-round; see the fashions of the late 90s! In Season 1: enjoy flashback to fashion. From 12-year-old Claudia’s overalls, babydoll dresses, and Converse all-stars to Julia’s floppy hat, vests and boots; Jill’s paper bag-cinched jeans, Kirsten’s prairie girl dresses. Plus ALL THE FLANNEL!

The hair!! First season highlights include: Julia and Kirsten’s hair clips, the giant bangs, and Julia’s sideswept look when she went to the club. Later seasons get more sophisticated, culminating in the appearance of Jennifer Love Hewitt and her signature long hair and bangs.

The music! It immediately takes you back to the 90s with highlights that include theme song “Closer to Free” by Bodeans, R.E.M.’s “Everybody Hurts,” Sheryl Crow’s “Strong Enough (to be my man),” and other emotional songs by Toad the Wet Sprocket, Live, Counting Crows, the Supremes (during the furniture sanding party), Roy Orbison, and Marshall Crenshaw. Appearances include Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Sophie B. Hawkins, and R.E.M.

Last but not least, you also may recognize some of these guest stars.

– Brittany Murphy – Abby (Clueless, Don’t Say a Word, Uptown Girls)
– Jane Lynch – Doctor (Glee, Hollywood Game Night)
– Gates McFadden – Greer (Star Trek the Next Generation)
– Jane Kaczmarek – Justin’s mom (Malcolm in the Middle)
– James Marsden – one episode as Griffin (X-Men)

– Lance Guest –Mr. Peck, Julia’s English teacher (The Last Starfighter)
– Poppy Montgomery – Allison, Justin’s Australian friend (Without a Trace)
– Alanna Ubach – Will’s girlfriend Gina (Meet the Fockers, Sister Act 2, Legally Blonde, Brady Bunch Movie)
– Niecy Nash –nurse in E.R. (Clean House, Scream Queens)
– Kate Hudson – Cory, Justin’s friend (Almost Famous, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days)

– Rider Strong – Byron, Claudia’s camp boyfriend (Boy Meets World, Cabin Fever)
– Ben Browder – Sam (Farscape)
– Breckin Meyer – Alec (Clueless, Josie & Pussycats, Can’t Hardly Wait)
– Tamara Taylor – Grace (Bones)
– Ben Savage – Stuart (Boy Meets World)

– Peter Krause – Daniel (Six Feet Under, Parenthood)
– John Slattery – Jay Mott (Mad Men)

– Adam Scott – Josh (Parks & Recreation)
– Karen Black –Doreen Jablonsky (House of 1000 Corpses, Trilogy of Terror, Five Easy Pieces, Nashville)
– Freddy Rodriguez – Albert (Six Feet Under, Planet Terror)

– Wilson Cruz – Victor (My So-Called Life, Party Monster)
– Jodie Sweetin – Rhiannon (Full House)
– Lauren Ambrose – Myra (Six Feet Under, Can’t Hardly Wait)
– Sean Maher (Firefly, Serenity)

As a remembrance of an earlier time period, and a dramatic recreation of coming of age, Party of Five is definitely worth revisiting.

Purchase Links
Party of Five (1994-2000) – Distributed by Mill Creek, 24-disc DVD collection