“Do you think Charlie and Grace should stay together?” Christopher Keyser, executive producer of Fox’s “Party of Five,” slyly asks his interviewer.

“Or are you rooting for Kirsten to come back?” injects his partner, Amy Lippman.

Wait a minute here! You guys are the masters of Charlie’s fate. Besides, what pressure!

But OK, if you must know--Frankly, Charlie needs to grow up and get his act together. There, you have it.


It’s here at Sony studios that the partners conjure up the traumas and tribulations of five orphaned San Francisco siblings who have become one of TV’s favorite and, dare we say, best-looking families.

The Salinger family consists of stubble-faced Charlie (Matthew Fox, 30), a reformed philanderer who runs the family restaurant and tries to act as a father; Bailey (Scott Wolf, 28), the anguished college freshman who’s wrestling with an addiction; Julia (Neve Campbell, 23), a bull-headed high school senior who’s already experienced several romantic entanglements; Claudia (Lacey Chabert, 14), a precocious eighth-grader and violin player who’s well beyond her years, and Owen (4-year-old twins Andrew and Steven Cavarno), who rarely has any camera time.

In its third season, the show’s ratings are nothing to boast about. But it draws the kind of demographic--young and mostly female--sought by both advertisers and the Fox Broadcasting Co.

Yet much of the show’s success comes from the chemistry of the dark-haired cast, who could pass as real-life siblings, and the gritty, emotional storylines.

Just in the last few months, the Salingers have dealt with racism, mental illness, suicide and flagrant affairs.

“It is the most realistic, heart-wrenching drama on prime time,” says fan Lisa Hemameh, 24, “everyone can relate to their problems.”

The series, some critics say, is too melodramatic at times, and the characters too angst-ridden.

“The truth is we’re writing a show that is not a genre show, where drama doesn’t come from a patient, someone you’ve never seen wheeled in on a gurney,” Lippman says.


“Because we don’t have that, what happens in their [the regulars’] lives, to be worthy of dramatizing, means that they go through a lot of stuff.”

“Yeah,” chimes in Keyser, “you’re not going to get excited watching Claudia get a cavity filled.”