The minds behind the Fox series “Party of Five” didn’t want to revive the show for the usual reasons.
Nostalgia sells, of course, and new versions of “Will & Grace,” “Veronica Mars” and “Roseanne” scored (again) with audiences. Amy Lippman, who created the ’90s hit “Party of Five” with Chris Keyser, told the TV’s Top 5 Podcast that she needed a better reason to bring the story back to primetime TV.
The nation’s immigration crisis, and a hearty case of Trump Derangement, gave her team all the rocket fuel required.
“Party of Five,” debuting Jan. 8 on Freeform, doesn’t feature five children whose parents die in a car crash as in the original version. This family’s children are separated from their illegal immigrant parents when ICE agents deport them back to Mexico.
Lippman broke down the show’s creative process, vowing that the series wouldn’t be as political as it sounds. Her own words clashed with that description throughout the interview.
She said the genesis of the project began before President Trump’s shocking 2016 election day victory. In the early stages, the story morphed from the car accident leaving the kids without parents to an immigration-based drama.
That gave the reboot a fresh coat of creative paint. Still, she worried the show wouldn’t get on-air quickly enough to mirror reality.
“We kept saying, ‘lets get going on it because the situation may resolve itself in some way that means we’re sort of writing after the fact, we’re behind on it.’ And we wanted to be relevant,” Lippman says.
“I don’t think any of us anticipated we would find ourselves debuting the show right in the middle of this crisis,” she says of the current immigration battle.
Lippman concedes the show has a strong viewpoint on illegal immigration but reveals the president won’t be part of the conversation, at least not directly.
That, she confirms, was by design.
“We don’t mention the president or the administration throughout the [first] season,” she says, a measure taken as an ideological olive branch. “We’d like to reach everyone with the show because we think it has something to say regardless of where you are on the political spectrum.”
“Obviously we’re on the side of families, and families staying together seems very important to us,” she says. Does that imply Americans who support border enforcement are anti-family?
Lippman also described the diversity of her writer’s room, including one colleague who made a dramatic change following Trump’s victory.
“After the election, one of the writers in our room went out and became a dual citizen of the country that her parents were born in,” Lippman explains.
“I said, ‘why?’ I don’t understand. You’re an American. You have a passport. You’re not even a naturalized citizen. You were born in this country. Why would you do that?”
“She said, ‘I don’t feel safe.'”
Lippman continues the writer’s thoughts on the dual citizenship decision.
“I feel like even though I’m completely here legitimately, in this climate it feels like it could all go away. Maybe people would begin to investigate how did my parents come over, or my grandparents? And that that could all unravel for me,” Lippman recalls.
“And that feeling of insecurity, and a feeling that prejudice and bias against you, is not my experience,” Lippman says. “I couldn’t have done the show this season without being surrounded by people who had that perspective.”
Early “Party of Five” reviews strain to describe the show as apolitical. That’s the line peddled by the liberal site Vulture.com.
Until it doesn’t.
Make no mistake: All of this is political. But Party of Five humanizes the political and makes the audience see the deeply personal impact that the decisions made by the administration have on the lives of young people who are trying their best to do the right thing every day.
“You think the rules don’t apply to you? Things have changed, Mr. Acosta. I need to see your papers,” the man “growls.”
Naturally, this critic frames the story as a welcome plea for open borders.
The show gives “American viewers a solid, up close experience of how easily U.S. immigration policy (and its blunt enforcement) can tear apart a good, law-abiding family.”
They broke the law by entering the country illegally, a point the critic clearly ignores.
The WaPo critic also contends the show isn’t “overly political” … and then quotes the family saying the immigration officials “don’t care who we are.”
Nothing political, or incendiary there. Never mind that these officials are just doing their jobs and enforcing the law.
Lippman’s podcast interview eventually gives away the game.
She admits to wanting the show’s audience to care so deeply for the family in question that they reconsider their views on immigration
“If you embrace the family, maybe that’s a path to understanding the political situation from a different perspective,” she says.