Beverly Hills, 90210. Felicity. Dawson's Creek. When it comes to '90s coming-of-age dramas, these are likely the first shows that come to mind. But we’re here to remind you of an oft-overlooked hero—a beacon for angsty teens and disjointed young families everywhere: Party of Five. The FOX series, which ran for six seasons between 1994-2000, followed the lives of the five Salinger siblings, a family scrambling to cope after their parents were killed by a drunk driver. On top of touching the lives of adolescents everywhere, the critically-acclaimed series launched the careers of stars Neve Campbell, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Scott Wolf, Matthew Fox, and Lacey Chabert, among others.
So, in between binge-watching Parenthood on Netflix or catching up on Riverdale, revisit this O.G. melodramatic gem. Here are a few things you might not have known about Party of Five.
1. IT WAS DEVELOPED TO TAKE THE PLACE OF BEVERLY HILLS, 90210.
The idea for Party of Five stemmed from FOX TV’s then-entertainment group president Sandy Grushow wanting to develop a show that could take the place of an aging Beverly Hills, 90210. "I wanted a show that would possess many of the same values that 90210 had in the beginning," Grushow told the Los Angeles Times. "A show about teenagers and for teenagers. I pitched the notion of a group of kids who lost their parents in a tragic accident and therefore were forced to raise themselves." It wasn’t until the network hired Christopher Keyser and Amy Lippman that it became about a family. According to the Los Angeles Times, Lippman—influenced by thirtysomething and The Wonder Years—had the idea to turn the "standard expectations about a family of orphans on its head."
2. JERRY O’CONNELL ALMOST PLAYED BAILEY SALINGER.
Before Scott Wolf was cast as middle brother Bailey Salinger, there was interest in Jerry O’Connell signing on for the role, as O'Connell told Yahoo! TV. However, he was offered a starring role in Sliders at the same time, and opted to make the sci-fi series instead. Sliders lasted for five seasons, while Party of Five went on for six. Did he make a huge mistake? You decide.
3. SCOTT WOLF WAS THE FIRST ACTOR CAST.
According to a 1996 interview with Entertainment Weekly, Scott Wolf was the first person cast for the show (after O’Connell passed, of course). ”We cast Scott first, and we cast him on the first day,” said the series' co-creator, Amy Lippman. ”He’s such a warm person that he seemed completely right for that character.”
4. NEVE CAMPBELL’S THEN-ROOMMATE TARA STRONG ALSO AUDITIONED FOR THE ROLE OF JULIA.
As the story goes, Neve Campbell and her then-roommate, fellow actress Tara Strong, both auditioned for the part of Julia. Obviously, the producers went with Neve. Perhaps as a consolation, Strong makes a small appearance in the episode "Homework" as a girl making out with her boyfriend at the start. Still, we can’t imagine how awkward it would’ve been under that apartment roof.
5. GRIFFIN WAS ORIGINALLY PLAYED BY JAMES MARSDEN, BUT JEREMY LONDON TOOK OVER THE ROLE FOR THE REST OF THE SERIES.
If you re-watch the season one finale of Party of Five, you’ll notice that Griffin—Julia's on-again, off-again bad-boy boyfriend—looks a bit different. That's because James Marsden was originally cast in the part. However, Marsden had to leave the part behind after landing another role, so Jeremy London replaced him.
6. PARTY OF FIVE BEAT ER AND NYPD BLUE FOR THE GOLDEN GLOBE FOR BEST TV DRAMA IN 1996.
One of the major upsets of the 1996 Golden Globe Awards was when the family coming-of-age drama beat out two of the most talked-about, highest-rated series on television at the time for the coveted award. Just check out this photo of Amy Lippman accepting the award.
7. JENNIFER LOVE HEWITT WASN’T SUPPOSED TO BE A SERIES REGULAR.
America’s then-young Hollywood sweetheart was only supposed to be on the show for a limited run. "Sarah was supposed to be in nine episodes,” Hewitt said in a 2000 interview. "When it got picked up, they asked me to stay on for another 13, and I thought it was only going to be 13, and then they asked me to do another season so it keeps going and going. I am so incredibly grateful for it.” The series kept her on as Bailey’s on-again-off-again love interest almost throughout the entire series, eventually netting 100 episodes.
8. HEWITT STARRED IN A FAILED PARTY OF FIVE SPIN-OFF.
The TV-watching world loved Sarah Reeves, but unfortunately not enough to dedicate their viewership to another series. The FOX spin-off, Time of Your Life, followed Reeves as she began a new life in New York City to learn more about her biological parents—and required that Hewitt had to leave Party of Five. The series, which also starred Jennifer Garner, Pauley Perrette, and Johnathon Schaech, among others, only lasted for 19 episodes.
9. KATE HUDSON’S FIRST ACTING ROLE WAS A BIT PART ON
PARTY OF FIVE
In season two, episode 21, of the series, Kate Hudson made her TV acting debut as Corey, the TV station co-worker of Justin (Michael A. Goorjian), who strikes up a flirtation with him while his relationship with Julia is on the rocks.
10. PARTY OF FIVE WAS CANCELED THREE WEEKS AFTER NEVE CAMPBELL DECIDED NOT TO RENEW HER CONTRACT WITH THE SHOW.
Let’s be real: Neve Campbell was the definitive star of the show. Be it her on-screen magnetism, her character’s engrossing storylines, or just the traction she got starring in Scream in 1996, she was the It girl, and viewers tuned in for her. A testament to that? FOX canceled the show three weeks after Campbell announced she’d be leaving the series to have the freedom to do what she wanted acting-wise, according to an interview with Jane magazine.
11. PRODUCERS WERE PLANNING TO CONTINUE
PARTY OF FIVE
WITHOUT CAMPBELL OR WOLF IF FOX HADN’T PULLED THE PLUG.
"We were planning a series that was based around Matthew and Lacey [Charlie and Claudia], with some participation of the other two [baby Owen never developed into a full-blown character]," co-creator Chris Keyser told the Los Angeles Times. "It was going to be about Charlie's new family. Sort of a new generation and the way in which the old family led into this new family." However, the article goes on to note that Fox was “ambivalent” about continuing without the full clan. "It would have been a very different show, so I did have some reservations about that," Keyser continued.
12. OWEN SALINGER WAS PLAYED BY FIVE DIFFERENT ACTORS OVER THE COURSE OF THE SHOW.
Before Mad Men’s Bobby Draper, there was Owen Salinger—one of the first TV siblings so forgettable he was played by several different actors and people barely noticed. The youngest Salinger was first played by twins Brandon and Taylor Porter, then replaced by another set of twins, Andrew and Steven Carvarno, then taken over by a single actor Jacob Smith, who finished off the series.
All images courtesy of Getty Images unless otherwise noted.