Party of Five (“Fathers and Sons”)

Season 1, Episode 6
Date of airing: October 17, 1994 (FOX)
Nielsen ratings information: 7.7 million viewers, 5.6/8 in Households

This was a very solid episode. I was surprised to see that P.K.’s return didn’t mean a return into romance for Julia, but instead this was the first serious storyline for the show that could have established there is more to the show than the two teens of the character pool getting into romances. Domestic abuse was always one of my favorite topics on ER because it brought all kinds of watchable and intriguing and memorable drama storytelling into a very short story that were not only handled well-as-it-could-be by the characters, but also by the writers. And in social work television shows like JUDGING AMY, domestic abuse stories almost work on an emotional level, because not only was the dark side of American humanity shown, the stories also depict that it’s difficult to fight domestic abuse and that after the current case there is always the next case waiting because you know that there is always somebody with a violent agenda who just can’t keep his or her fingers from their partner or children. In this episode of PARTY OF FIVE, P.K.’s abuse story worked and surprised, because it came out of nowhere, and it brought the Salingers do so something that doesn’t involve them, that doesn’t involve their hearts (although Julia was in it with her good heart), and they got involved even when nothing could have been done. That part was actually the realistic part of the episode: As much as Julia wanted to help P.K., there was simply nothing Charlie and the others could have done, except trying to convince P.K. to go to the authorities about the abuse, maybe even go to a shelter that takes in victims of domestic abuse. This is not a show like TOUCHED BY AN ANGEL, in which you talk to Roma Downey and all of a sudden everything is peachy again after flushing out the contents of your tear ducts. This is PARTY OF FIVE, a show that, after six episodes, starts to level down to realism, which is the best thing that can happen to the show.

When you get through these two, you’re a Salinger family member.

It means the writers were kind of figuring out what the show is all about during the first few episodes, and I guess they finally managed to find the right tone. I loved the hidden darkness of P.K.’s story, and I loved Charlie’s inner conflict, when it came to being a younger version of his father, which he despised to become. I completely understood everything he meant when he told Joe that he does not only live in his father’s house, but also takes care of his children and works at his restaurant, and that it’s not what Charlie wants. He is 24 years old, wanted to experience the world on his own, wanted to be the womanizer he probably was before his parents were killed, but life had something entirely different planned for the young man, and now he is in a fustercluck and he is kind of stuck in this world he has been thrown in. It definitely makes for great character drama and character development in the long run, as Charlie will have to figure out if he continues the family business which seems to be the safe choice (despite the restaurant possibly going under), or if he starts off his own business which could not be any more risky. On the other hand, Joe should have realized that 24-year-old Charlie, who just had money troubles five episodes ago and is probably establishing himself as someone who can keep a job for more than five episodes, wouldn’t be able to manage a restaurant in one night, especially when Charlie didn’t have any managerial experience before. And it doesn’t even matter that Joe just wanted to hand down the torch, like Charlie’s father did to Joe years ago. Charlie messing up his first night of managing was to be expected, and it should have been expected by Joe. He should have been behind Charlie all the time, just to smoothen the waters.

Julia could be a very intimate social worker when she grows up.

In the meantime, Bailey’s relationship with Kate develops quite quickly. It’s the first episode in which they are a full couple and Bailey already met the parents. It’s the first full episode in which they are lovers and Bailey already had a conflict with Kate’s father. It wasn’t much of an exciting story, but Bailey could show once more that he has a mind of a twentysomething’s genius, and that he always knows what to do and what to say. It kind of makes him the FOX version of Dawson Leery (maybe Bailey was Kevin Williamson’s inspiration to have a 15-year-old fictional character with a rhetoric mind of a 25-year-old college student going for his fifth degree?), which could get annoying after a short while, but right now it works. Also, I kinda like the cute romance between him and Kate. It makes me want to wish for a similar relationship I would like to be in. Still, I’m a little baffled that Tom seems entirely forgotten now, but that may just prove that Tom was nothing but a plot device for Bailey and Kate’s romance.

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