The Secret Life of the American Teenager to Switch at Birth and The Fosters, Freeform is know for it’s bold takes on teen dramas. At the start of the new year, the network launched Party of Five, a reboot of the 1994 American drama. The reboot follows a similar premise with a family of 5 orphans siblings being raised by their older brother upon the absence of their parents. While the 90’s version had an white American family whose parents died in a car accident, this modern version deals with the mixed status Mexican American family whose parents are deported back to Mexico. Creators Amy Lippman and Christopher Keyser, came back to tell this new story starting Brandon Larracuente (Puerto Rican), Niko Guardado (Mexican and Columbian), Emily Tosta (Dominican) and Elle Paris Legaspi.
The Acosta family owns a restaurant in Los Angeles and for the most part, they live a normal life. When ICE raids their establishment, parents Javier (Bruno Bichir) and Gloria (Fernanda Urrejola) are detained. After their deportation, their children’s world is thrown upside down. Siblings Emilio, Lucia, Beto, Valentina, and baby Rafa, deal with this new dynamic in their own unique way. Big brother Emilio, is a DACA recipient. He was once distanced from his family, preferring of making it big as musician than take over his father’s business. He now torn between his party boy musician life style with the new responsibility of legal guardian and parent to his younger siblings. Lucia, is the oldest sister in a Latinx family and that alone is a struggle. However, through this transition, is Lucia who is learning the most about herself outside of her family and their expectations. She is not only getting to know her self sexually, she’s also coping by helping others with immigration issues through a non profit organization. Beto, Lucia’s twin, is in love for the first time, and deals with these first headaches, heartaches, and overall “first love ” nuances guided blindly by older brother. Valentina, the youngest sister, tries her best to keep the family together. The 12 year old understandably misses her parents and the family routine she once had. Valentina is smarter than her siblings, she knows this, but also understands they need all the help they can get as they try their best to hold down their house, the business, school, their baby brother, and themselves.
The image of the family saying goodbye through a wired fence is real to many families separated everyday in the United States. The compelling aspect of the show comes from the parents’ struggle to maintain their “mami” and “papi” status from afar. They know the kids need them but speaking through Facetime once or twice a day, it’s not nearly as effective as having a physical presence. One of the best story lines regarding Valentina’s need for her parents, is when she discovers her mother is working as babysitter for a little white girl named Amanda. In her efforts to feel close to her mother and to escape her own reality, she adopts a new persona also named Amanda. Rafa’s babysitter who becomes a caregiver to the rest of the family, if sometimes it seems easier to be an Amanda than a Valentina, to which Valentina said yes. This statement plays on our Latino and immigrant heart strings as we can all relate to trying to fit in and assimilate. The drawbacks to that is, similar to Beto, we then struggle with our cultural identity and our Spanish language.
In the last few episodes the show leaves behind LA and takes the kids to Mexico. The story line is bittersweet as the Acostas reunite but also leave Emilio behind. Emilio, being a DACA recipient, can’t leave the country and therefore, comes home, to an empty house. The rest of the family’s reunion exposes the issues that were either there but became worse with the deportation, or were directly caused by the deportation. This is especially evident in the Gloria and Javier’s crumbling relationship and later, the family’s ever changing relationship with religion.
Overall this teen drama is compelling, full of hope, reality, and well thought out characters that just so happen to be Latinx. The hints of Spanish language, particularly in Emilio’s music, the references to Mexican and Latinx culture through food and traditions, are icing on the cake for this story. Best of all, is that the immigrant narrative is modern, evolved, bringing nuances to the tired, “coming to America” or “undocumented” story that usually portrays the characters as victims and ignorant. The Acosta family is smart, law abiding, productive members of their community. They had the elusive “Sueño Americano”/ “American Dream” owning a business, a house, and having their children safely and healthy while attending school.
The show demonstrates the real threat and fear of so many immigrants, not just documented ones. We all live in fear that one day, we will be force to leave everything we know, everyone we love, and sent back to what it seems to us, as the foreign land motherland.
Freeform has not picked up the show or a second season as of yet, but here’s hoping this brilliant and honest show comes back. The network also transmit the series in Spanish which is always a plus!