Created by: Amy Lippman, Christopher Keyser
Starring: Brandon Larracuente, Niko Guardado, Emily Tosta, Elle Paris Legaspi, Bruno Bichir, Fernanda Urrejola
Synopsis (IMDB): Party of Five follows the five Acosta children — Emilio, Lucia, Beto, Valentina and baby Rafael — as they navigate daily life struggles to survive as a family unit after their parents are suddenly deported to Mexico.
I never watched the original Party of Five. I was busy watching things like Smart Guy, Family Matters, Sister Sister, reruns of both Saved by the Bell series, ‘90s Nickelodeon, etc. The original Party of Five wasn’t in my demographic, age-wise or race-wise, so I didn’t really bother with it. So I came to this new Party of Five with no expectations and no connection to the original.
With that said, I feel like this Party of Five has more to say than the original. Whereas the old Party of Five was about a group of siblings dealing with tragedy, the tragedy was something more “universal,” for lack of a better word—the death of a parent. Or in the original show’s case, the deaths of both parents. However, this new Party of Five is coming out the gate swinging with a narrative that is both timely and as heartbreaking as the original. This time, the parents, immigrant restaurant owners Javier (Bruno Bichir) and Gloria Acosta (Fernanda Urrejola) are deported back to Mexico, despite years of living and working as U.S. citizens.
The updated reason for the separation between parents and offspring bring audiences of all backgrounds directly into the conversation being had around America’s awful deportation and detention practices. As we know, families have been ripped apart by dehumanizing means, and children have been negatively altered—probably forever—by the trauma they’ve endured. These practices have only become possible because of President Trump’s anti-Mexican and anti-Latinx rhetoric.
Of course, there could be some who feel like the show has an “agenda.” If that’s the case, I’m not sure why that particular person would be watching Freeform, which is clearly takes socially-conscious stances in its current programming. The show does, indeed, have an agenda, but it’s not an agenda that is forcing people to back into their corners. The show’s agenda is to force people to open their eyes to the injustices that are happening within U.S. borders to people who want a better life, the life that the Statue of Liberty has etched into her. I don’t think a show should be penalized for furthering a humanist message.
While I applaud the show for spreading the gospel of humanity, I already know that it will be tough for me to keep up with the show. Family drama has never been preferred genre of show to watch—I didn’t keep up with Parenthood and I don’t watch This Is Us, Queen Sugar, or Freeform’s other shows The Fosters and spinoff Good Trouble for these very reasons. I like snippets of family drama mixed up with action or suspense or comedy. Or in the case of Downton Abbey, extravagant costumes. But for people who are fans of the aforementioned shows, Party of Five will quickly become required viewing.
Every character is starting out with heaps of potential to grow as the season goes on, especially the oldest, Emilio (Brandon Larracuente). He starts out the season needing the most improvement as a person, since he’s the epitome of the starving artist-rocker who has a lineup of women. But once he realizes that his parents’ situation isn’t a game, he begins to square up. It’ll be intriguing to see how he continues to step into his responsibilities as the oldest as the season progresses.
My favorite siblings so far are Beto (Niko Guardado) and Valentina (Elle Paris Legaspi). Both might be younger, than Emilio, but they are the most responsible and adult, immediately stepping up to the plate when their parents are in trouble. They are also the two who quickly take Emilio and sister Lucia (Emily Tosta) to task for spiraling out of control at the moments where such behavior is far from needed.
Overall, this series will hit key touchstones for fans of family drama shows. The series also has the added benefit of humanizing people who have been wrongly dehumanized by a seemingly inhuman president and his ilk. While it entertains, the series calls on those who feel the Acostas’ pain to stand up for other real life families like the Acostas. By showing the Acostas’ struggles, fans can put themselves in the shoes of real families who have been broken up by deportation or detention, growing their empathy and desire for the separations to stop.