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'Party of Five - The Complete Third Season'
(Matthew Fox, Scott Wolf, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Lacey Chabert, et al / 5-Disc DVD / NR / (1994) 2008 / Sony Pictures)

Overview: The five-disc DVD set includes all 25 episodes from the third season which features guest stars Carroll O’Connor (TV’s All in the Family, Return to Me), Jeremy London (Mallrats, Gods and Generals), and Marla Sokoloff (Dude, Where’s My Car?). This season presents a whole new set of life-changing and soul-searching moments. Some of the emotional roller-coaster issues include the unpleasant consequences of Kristin losing her Ph.D. after plagiarizing; Charlie’s realization that the good old days of high school might have been more old than good; and Julia dealing with her guilt after a friend’s suicide. In addition, Claudia authorizes a $3,000 plumbing repair, and the family bands together to help Bailey confront his drinking problem.

DVD Verdict: After two and a half years of waiting and wondering if Sony would ever gather enough sense to release Season 3 of "Party of Five," it is finally, FINALLY here! I became an avid fan when I picked up the Season 1 DVD on a whim, and although I enjoyed the first year better than the second, I still looked forward to obtaining this set when March rolled around.

With the show's extremely heavy dose of melodrama and constant pain in the lives of the Salinger kids, it reminds me a lot of fellow 1990's phenomenon "Beverly Hills 90210," which provided another harrowing case study of a group of kids who slip in and out of trouble, make life-changing decisions, and find themselves presented with a mixed bag of happiness and pain at every turn. Bottom line, this is not exactly the best show to watch if you're looking for something uplifting and light, "Full House" or "7th Heaven" style.

Season 3 finds the five Salinger siblings--ranging from ages 3 to (approximately) 24--struggling to sort through their personal lives and somehow remain a family. Oldest brother Charlie might have lost it for good with former soulmate Kirsten, and as he continues with his fickle and often irresponsible ways by having a fling with a young African American woman, one has to wonder if he'll ever get it together and find what makes him happy. High school senior Julia suffers with everything from boyfriend woes to suicide, while impressionable young Claudia--who is now officially a teenager--is growing up quickly, but could still use some love and support from her family (which is in short supply, given the fact that her three older siblings have serious issues of their own to deal with, leaving Claudia to basically fend for herself).

Little Owen is approaching the preschool age and continues to amaze audiences with the fact that despite all the drama with his siblings, he somehow manages to get taken care of. I have to tell you, I don't know how it was done sometimes. Then, of course, there is 18-year-old Bailey, who seems to own this season as his once-responsible ways are challenged by the independence of college, which leaves him with an intense alcohol problem that his own family might not be able to help him with.

That's right, this is the season that contains the top-rate "Intervention" episode, and it is truly something to see. Be prepared for solid acting performances all around, particularly from Lacey Chabert, who--at the tender age of 13--blows her fellow, seasoned co-stars right out of the water with what is probably the most heartbreaking portrayal in the whole series.

Again, the show probably doesn't require much more explanation if you are considering buying it in the first place, so all I can say now is THANK YOU to the DVD manufacturers for doing the right thing and bringing Season 3 to DVD at last. It is arguably one of the show's very best years, with intense plot threads and knockout acting performances from beginning to end. With a little luck, they might release another season or two before the end of 2008, and that would really be a reason for longtime fans to "party." This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

"Silver Spoons" - Boys Will Be Boys
"The Facts Of Life" - An Into the Frying Pan