What I Realized Watching It As An Adult


Party Of Five has been released on Netflix and it’ll give you ALL the nineties feels.

How do I love thee, Netflix? Let me count the ways …

I thought after the release of Aladdin, Netflix had reached peak nineties nostalgia – and I would have been happy re-taking that magic carpet ride for the rest of my TV-watching life. Turns out, however, Netflix was not done with the gifts, and just in time for the Easter long weekend, it released a total cult classic for our binge-watching pleasure.

If you were a teenager in the nineties and you didn’t spend at least a portion of those years watching the Salinger siblings muddle their way through life without parents, did you really make the most of your TV-watching youth? I think not, my friend, which is why Netflix is here to save you, with the added bonus of not having to wait an entire week between episodes.

If you’re a little foggy on the details of the plot, the series follows the plight of the five Salinger children; Charlie, 24, Bailey, 16, Julia, 15, Claudia, 11 and Owen, 11 months after they tragically lose both parents in a car accident. The siblings are desperate to stay together and avoid being split up by social services, so older brother Charlie moves home to care for his siblings as their official guardian.

Party Of Five was BIG in my friendship group. The ongoing discussions as to whether you were a Charlie girl or a Bailey girl put the whole Ford/Holden debate to shame. I cried with Julia when she got her heart broken. I fantasised about what it would be like to have no curfew and eat pizza all the time. I felt very angsty and grown-up watching Bailey struggle with his drinking problem. I lusted after tencel overalls a la Claudia.

I grew up with the Salinger orphans, so seeing the series pop up in my Netflix suggestions was like bumping into an old friend who moved schools in Year 10 and disappeared; and just like an old friend, it embraced me with its familiarity as I scoffed Easter eggs and revisited the idea of buying a flannelette shirt to tie around my waist.

Perhaps it was the sugar high, or the melancholic realisation of how simple things once were, but a second watching of Party Of Five revealed a series of life lessons I’d skimmed over as a teen.

1. Grieving teens don’t make great guardians for young children

No disrespect to Charlie and the gang, but I found myself questioning the wisdom of the many social services workers who visited the Salinger household and signed off on leaving an infant in the care of a two teenagers and an often-unemployed 24-year-old. One memorable episode, in which baby Owen comes down with a suspected case of meningitis and none of the siblings can be contacted, left me aghast – thank God for the nanny.

2. Oversized leather jackets are nobody’s friend

Today’s fashion might be having a nineties-inspired moment, but we’ve thankfully left the ill-fitting jackets in the past. How the wardrobe director could have approved a series of jackets that swamped the gorgeous leading lady to the point of making her look like Jerry Seinfield is beyond me.

3. I need to write a will

OK, I get it, the Salinger parents were busy, owned a restaurant and obviously spent most of their downtime in the sack, considering the menagerie of offspring they created, but seriously guys – write a proper will. The financial situation the kids find themselves in is dire to say the least, and with just a little forethought so much stress could have been alleviated. Which reminds me, I’d better make some provisions of my own …

4. Lacey Chabert was an incredible young actress

I never realised the first time around just how skilled an actress Lacey Chabert, who plays Claudia, really was. Long before the boobs and the tan saw her typecast for roles like Gretchen Weiners in Mean Girls, she was showing some serious acting chops as the violin-playing child prodigy finding her way in a world where everything had been turned upside-down. The episode where she gets her period and her mum isn’t around to guide her through it slayed me.

5. They all call Bailey ‘Bae’ and it sounds hilarious

Remember a time when the word ‘bae’ didn’t exist in its current, annoying format? Hearing Bailey’s siblings shorten his name to ‘Bae’ is like a deliciously funny little in-joke left via a time-capsule from the future. Never fails to get a giggle.

6. The show is so much sadder as an adult

I remember joking with my brother as a teen that there wasn’t one episode of Party Of Five where someone didn’t cry. Re-watching as an adult, there hasn’t been one episode where I haven’t cried – this is some tragic sh*t. Perhaps it’s because I am a mother myself now, but watching the characters deal with big, adult issues while they struggle through dealing with the loss of their parents is heartbreaking. As a teen I skimmed over the tragedy in favour of picturing myself having the freedom of a parent-less lifestyle (sorry Mum and Dad, the stacked-up pizza boxes in the kitchen seduced me) but watching as a grown-up, my dang eyes won’t stop leaking.

PS. Check out what else is awesome on Netflix here plus see why everyone is talking about 13 Reasons Why.