Season 2, Episode 1
Date of airing: September 27, 1995 (FOX)
Nielsen ratings information: 9.7 million viewers, 6.9/11 in Households
And the lesson of the story is, if you stand in front of a woman and her kid and she says that kid is yours, do a paternity test before you give away your money to said woman and kid. Charlie was definitely not the smartest of the bunch, because he should have smelled trouble when Pamela not only came with a kid in tow, but also the question if she could have some money. Maybe it’s my paranoid and my issues with trust that I immediately thought of Pamela as a pretty clever con artist (who may or may not have gone to multiple of her exes from four or five years ago to tell them that Spencer is their son), but the fact that Charlie was not paranoid like me showcased that he has way too much trust into things that are thrusted in front of him and that he does not question everything. That makes for a very dangerous life for Charlie and one can only hope that he will learn from this situation and find out that Pamela wholly and utterly lied to him in this episode. Besides that, revealing that Charlie has a four-year-old kid, and then remove said kid out of the narrative just like that is a bit dumb. I sort of like the variant ER approached when it came to Doug Ross during the first season. Twice he mentioned he had an eight-year-old son he never saw, whose name he doesn’t know, and I could totally believe that. It’s a good thing that show never brought the kid to him and he was suddenly dealing with things Charlie had to go through here.
It was a solid season premiere. It’s the first with Jennifer Love Hewitt, whom I will be watching for the next five seasons (the plan is also to watch TIME OF YOUR LIFE, albeit in crappy video quality), and I can understand why she was a hit with the writers and the viewers immediately. First of all, Sarah already made for an interesting character in her very first episode, because the writers gave her something to do immediately: unrequited love. It’s a story most young adults can relate to (and I definitely can relate to that, because my unofficial middle names are “unrequited love”), and it’s a story that gives her purpose for however long it is going to take for Sarah and Bailey to finally share their first kiss and have a romantic adventure. Secondly, it’s the simple fact that a brand new character has been given a story like that. That does not happen all the time, especially when you could have believed that Sarah wasn’t a central character and Hewitt would not be credited during the “Closer to Free” opening — in fact, I completely forgot that she was credited in the titles from the beginning and always believed she was a recurring guest star for the first batch of episodes. But then again, FOX only gave 13 episodes to PARTY OF FIVE for this season (the back-9 order came after the Golden Globe win), so maybe there was money for Hewitt to be paid regular star salary. Judging by how busy Scott Grimes was during the first season, chances are Hewitt will have a few episodes off here and there, essentially making her a recurring.
Third of all, it’s the way the writers gave Sarah the story and not Bailey. During the previous season, his relationships with the girls were from the point of view of Bailey himself, not giving Jill and Kate moments to shine as a character beyond their plot device status. After this episode it’s pretty much a given that Bailey and Sarah will be a couple, but what is so fascinating about the story right now is that it’s being told from Sarah’s point of view, while Bailey is dealing with a few different emotions here. That deserves recognition, even though at this point I’m more interested in how Bailey is handling his emotions of love after Jill’s death and how this is going to affect him over the course of the next few episodes. But yeah, the whole unrequited love thing is doing it for me already. I was writing so many pages in my teenage journal about that a decade and a half ago, and if I ever get that journal back into my hands (I doubt it, I left it behind after I moved continents and my family probably trashed most of the stuff I left behind), it’s going to be so brutal to read it and relive all of it.
The rest of the episode was good enough. I didn’t care much about Julia and Justin’s post-summer romance and how it may affect her friendship with the freshly recast Griffin Holbrook, who now looks more like a handsome boyfriend than he did during the season finale, and I’m quite disappointed that the writers didn’t take much of a note on Claudia starting high school. I would have considered that a major storyline as well, but for some reason it was not given attention. If the writers would only have given Julia this amount of attention during this episode, then things would have been great. Because really, she was annoying me just a little about her jealousy of Justin meeting someone in England, all while she is keeping her friendship with the moody Griffin a secret, hoping that there might be more between the two than just a friendship. Besides that, I’m also disappointed that Griffin doesn’t seem to be bothered by his sister’s death post-summer. It’s like Jill’s boyfriend suffers more after her death than her brother.