The younger-skewing cable network is also readying historical period drama ‘Cleopatra.’
Nearly 20 years after it wrapped its six-season run, Party of Five is returning to TV.
Disney-owned cable network Freeform has handed out a sizable put-pilot order for a reboot of the Fox drama from original series creators Chris Keyser and Amy Lippman. The news, poised to be announced Thursday afternoon at the first-ever Freeform Summit event in L.A., comes two months after THR exclusively reported that original producers Sony Pictures Television Studios were readying the reboot with an immigration twist.
Freeform additionally is plotting its first period drama, putting Cleopatra in development. The project, originally developed for NBC in 2012, has already opened a writers room, plotting out multiple scripts with an eye toward going to series.
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 reboot follows the five Buendias children as they navigate daily struggles to survive as a family unit after their parents are suddenly deported back to Mexico. Keyser and Lippman will write the pilot alongside Michal Zebede (Castle), with Rodrigo Garcia (The Affair) set to direct. Keyser, Kippman and Garcia will also exec produce; Zebede will co-exec produce and write.
Sources tell THR that Freeform exec vp development Karey Burke aggressively pursued the Party of Five revival as the young-skewing cable network heads into 2018 with a plan to air originals on four nights a week, and it will use its notable film library to help boost scripted fare.
The San Francisco-set Party of Five aired for six seasons 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. The series won a Golden Globe in 1996 for best drama. Party of Five also spawned a short-lived spinoff — Time of Your Life, which centered on Hewitt’s Sarah Reeves as she moved to New York — that lasted one season on Fox. Created by Keyser and Lippman, the short-lived series co-starred Jennifer Garner and Pauley Perrette.
Reboots continue to 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 450 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 this development season.
As for Cleopatra, the female-centric adventure series follows the life of the most beloved ruler in Egyptian history, Cleopatra, who after being exiled as a young woman decides to stand up against the patriarchy and fight back for her freedom and rightful place as heir. The drama will follow her rise and transition to becoming not only the first, last and only female pharaoh, but also the world’s most powerful person all while engaging in a classic love triangle that changed the map of the world forever. The ABC Signature Studios drama has executive producers Michael Sietzman (who is showrunning both ABC’s Quantico and CBS’ Code Black), Christina Davis, Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Daniel McDermott and Mike Weiss on board.
Freeform’s upcoming slate includes critical favorite The Bold Type, Famous in Love, Shadowhunters, Beyond and rookies Cloak and Dagger, Alone Together, Siren, Black-ish spinoff Grown-ish and a Fosters spinoff as well. Young and Hungry awaits word on its future. (Freeform recently scrapped plans for its buzzy take on Marvel’s New Warriors as the comedy doesn’t have a new home yet.) On the pilot side, Freeform has front-runners in its Pretty Little Liars spinoff and Misfits, among others.