'Party of Five' Reboot With Deportation Twist Nabs Freeform Pilot Order (Exclusive)

Party of Five Still - Photofest - H 2018
Courtesy of Photofest

Freeform is moving forward with its fresh take on Party of Five.

The Disney-owned cable network has handed out a pilot order to the reboot, which hails from original series creators Christopher Keyser and Amy Lippman. The duo co-wrote the script for the drama, which is described as a modern twist on the original series that follows the five Buendias children as they struggle to survive together as a family after their parents are deported to Mexico.

"Twenty-five years ago, we imagined a story about five kids navigating the world after the untimely death of their parents,” Lippman and Keyser said Thursday in a joint statement. "Today, stories of families being separated, children having to raise themselves in the wake of their parents’ deportations, don’t require any imagination; they are everywhere. This new iteration of Party of Five isn’t a retread of the original; it’s a whole new look at kids trying to parent each other in the wake of circumstances beyond their control, yet learning a similar lesson: that families persist no matter how great the obstacles."

Lippman and Keyser penned the pilot with Michal Zebede (Castle). Rodrigo Garcia (Nine Lives) is set to direct the Sony Pictures Television project. Keyser, Lippman and Garcia will executive produce, while Zebede will be credited as a co-exec producer. The pilot order arrives nine months after The Hollywood Reporter exclusively reported that Freeform was circling the deportation-themed reboot of Party of Five.

"From the moment we heard that Amy and Chris were updating their iconic series with this timely and powerful twist, we knew we had to have this pilot. We’re honored to be the home for the next, brilliant iteration of their vision,” said Karey Burke, Freeform executive vp programming and development. Burke aggressively pursued the Party of Five revival as the young-skewing cable network headed into 2018 with a plan to air originals on four nights a week, using its notable film library to help boost scripted fare. 

The original Party of Five ran for six seasons and focused on five siblings — Bailey (Scott Wolf), Charlie (Matthew Fox), Julia (Neve Campbell), Claudia (Lacey Chabert) and their baby brother, Owen — who unite as a family after their parents are killed in a car crash. The San Francisco-set series aired on Fox from 1994-2000. The show helped launch the careers of Wolf, Fox, Campbell and Chabert, as well as notable guest stars, including Jennifer Love Hewitt, while tackling serious themes such as substance abuse, domestic abuse, cancer and its central theme: the loss of a parent. Party of Five won a Golden Globe in 1996 for best drama. The series also spawned a spinoff — Time of Your Life, which centered on Hewitt's Sarah Reeves as she moved to New York — that lasted one season on Fox. Also created by Keyser and Lippman, the short-lived series co-starred Jennifer Garner and Pauley Perrette.

Reboots remain in high demand as broadcast, cable and streaming outlets look for proven IP in a bid to cut through a cluttered landscape of more than 500 original scripted series. Key to the new takes is having the original producers — in this case, Sony, Keyser and Lippman — involved in some capacity as more studios look to monetize their existing film libraries. 

The new Party of Five is one of many projects to explore immigration recently.

Should Party of Five move forward, it would join a roster of scripted originals at Freeform that includes The Bold Type, the Fosters spinoff Good Trouble, Cloak and Dagger, Alone Together, Siren, Grown-ish, Besties and Pretty Little Liars: The Perfectionists.

Freeform's development slate also includes a comedy from Buffy creator Joss Whedon, a reboot of Misfits, Paul Feig's Girls Code and more.