Party of Five: The Complete Second Season is the absorbing follow-up to the first season's introduction of the Salinger children and their initial trauma following the death of their parents at the hands of a drunk driver. After a year of seemingly endless individual sacrifices, where the older kids did what they had to do to keep their family together at the expense of schoolwork, jobs and relationships, year two finds everyone a little wiser about how to balance priorities. Oldest son Charlie (Matthew Fox) and his fiancee Kirsten (Paula Devicq) have wedding plans, though there are a number of obstacles that will get in the way of reaching the altar, including doubts between them and, eventually, other lovers. Bailey (Scott Wolf) has regained some footing at school, but his relationship with Sarah (Jennifer Love Hewitt) will prove complex, including Bailey's wrong-headed involvement in Sarah's search for a very important person in her life. Julia (Neve Campbell) has settled down a bit from her partying ways, but she is now involved in a love triangle and will face serious personal issues this season that will affect her future, one way or another. Young Claudia (Lacey Chabert) will keep company with a bad influence--another girl who is trying to grow up too fast (at least, faster than Claudia) with boys, smoking and drinking. Moreover, Claudia is no longer sure about the things that once seemed important to her, including playing the violin.
Carroll O'Connor signs on as the Salingers' long-lost grandfather, and Patricia Heaton ( Everybody Loves Raymond) and Jane Kaczmarek (Malcolm in the Middle) turn up in supporting roles. In a different way, the things that were important last season--such as holding on to what really matters, against all odds--are just as important in the second season. The fate of the restaurant, the outlook for the next generation of Salingers, college--all of this and more will continue to be a part of the family's future (or not). --Tom Keogh