TV Review – Party of Five (2020)
Editor’s note: The views and opinions expressed in this review are solely those of Marlon Wallace and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of WBOC.
With this series, I can officially call it a trend on television of the Latino remake. Over the past couple of years now, there have been several programs that have been remakes of TV shows from decades ago. Those remakes have had their main difference be switching the predominantly white cast of actors to a predominantly, if all-Latino cast. It seemed like things started with Netflix’s One Day at at Time (2017). It continued with the CW’s Charmed (2018) and Roswell, New Mexico (2019). Even though it’s not technically a remake, I include FX’s Mayans M.C. (2018). It’s actually a spin-off, but it might as well be a remake of Sons of Anarchy (2008). When it comes to the basic idea of taking a known TV property and putting Hispanic persons in the forefront, it certainly fits in this trend.
At this point, the trend feels like a definite reaction to President Donald Trump and his policy regarding immigration. Even though the organization, known as ICE, existed prior to Trump. The enforcement of immigration laws have appeared to become more aggressive since Trump’s election. This series in reaction is doing something that we haven’t seen. It’s showing us the impact and aftermath of a deportation on a family that is split apart, which is representative of a lot of families in this country. One recent case was Jorge Garcia of Lincoln Park, Michigan. Jorge Garcia was deported after being in this country for 30 years and having no criminal record. Virtually, the same story opens this series.
Bruno Bichir (Narcos and The Bridge) plays Javier Acosta, a Mexican man, probably in his 50’s, who is married and has five children, ranging in age from having an eldest son in his 20’s and a baby who’s probably still under the age of 2. Javier owns a restaurant called Los Cantaritos in San Francisco, which he runs with his wife, Gloria, played by Fernanda Urrejola (Narcos: Mexico). It hasn’t been 30 years, but Javier and Gloria have been in the United States for 18 years. They came from Mexico when they only had one child, their eldest son. They’ve been living here undocumented ever since, but they had four other children who are Americans.
The first episode sees ICE agents raid Javier and Gloria’s restaurant and arrest them. After six weeks, Javier and Gloria are deported back to Mexico, leaving their five children with no parental supervision or care. The rest of the series is those children trying to parent or supervise each other, as we watch children take care of themselves or raise themselves. This series is based on the 1994 series of the same name, created by Amy Lippman and Christopher Keyser. This series differs from the 1994 run in that the original series had the parents of the five children in the Salinger family die in a car crash. The children in the original series were literally orphaned, so they did literally have to raise themselves. In the original series as this one, the children get a social worker to oversee them, but in general they’re on their own.
Brandon Larracuente (13 Reasons Why and Bloodline) stars as Emilio Acosta, the eldest son of Javier and Gloria. He’s probably college-age, no older than 25. He doesn’t live at home. He has his own apartment. He’s a DACA recipient aka a Dreamer. He’s also the lead singer and guitarist of a rock band called The Natural Disasters. Because he’s the eldest, he becomes the surrogate parent who takes on the most responsibility. He’s resistant to do so. He’d rather slack off and have sex with various women. He’s very much comparable and a veritable clone of Charlie Salinger, as played by Matthew Fox in the original series.
Niko Guardado (The Goldbergs and The Fosters) co-stars as Beto Acosta. He’s a student-athlete who isn’t doing so well on the student part. He’s failing some of his classes. He might have a learning disability. He doesn’t have to shoulder a lot of the responsibility of having to take care of things with his siblings but he does so anyway. He’s very much comparable and a clone of Bailey Salinger, as played by Scott Wolf in the original series.
Emily Tosta (Mayans M.C.) also co-stars as Lucia Acosta. She’s the bratty middle child. She’s in high school and is trying to change her social status. She starts hanging out with the popular kids at her school, ignoring her friends who aren’t as popular. She has mixed feelings about it though. She’s comparable and a clone of Julia Salinger, played by Neve Campbell in the original series.
Elle Paris Legaspi (Vida) also co-stars as Valentina Acosta. She’s the second youngest, next to the baby. She’s 12. She’s in the 7th grade but she studies 9th grade math. She’s the one who gets shuffled around the most and she is the most powerless, next to the baby, in that she can’t do her own thing in the way that her older siblings can. This frustrates her. She’s comparable and a clone to Claudia Salinger, played by Lacey Chabert in the original series.
I don’t want to minimize the trauma of having a parent deported, but it’s not the same as having one’s parents die, especially at a young age. The Salinger family had their parents horribly die. The Acosta family had their parents deported, which is a nightmare, but it’s not the same. In the case of Jorge Garcia of Michigan, he was able to return to his children after two years. It may take a while, but Javier and Gloria might be able to return after a couple of years too. That’s not nothing, but, in the meantime, they can call and video-chat with their children every night. Therefore, the drama isn’t the same and can’t be as heavy as in the original 1994 series.
This is fine. The drama doesn’t have to be the same, but, unfortunately, this series is mimicking a lot of the dynamics and issues from the original series and it doesn’t quite translate. As stated, the cast of characters here are very much clones of the original characters and they don’t need to be. Besides the ethnicity, not much about the characters differ. The writers could have changed the genders or sexual orientations, but it doesn’t seem so. There’s instead a lot of copying and pasting. That’s overall a negative, but one positive is that like the original 1994 series, this one is introducing progressive characters. The 1994 series had a gay nanny who wanted to get married, which was a controversial thing back then. This series has a transgendered, undocumented immigrant named Matthew, played by Garcia (Tales of the City), a transgendered nonbinary actor, so that’s something in the series’ favor. The one thing really lacking is that of a catchy theme song.
Running Time: 1 hr.
Wednesdays at 8PM on Freeform.