Favorite Fictional Characters, #197: Bailey Salinger
There are certainly guilty pleasures in life, and Party of Five was one of mine at the tail end of college and right after. For those unfamiliar with the show, the Salingers were five siblings orphaned by their parents' deaths in a car crash: Charlie (Matthew Fox of Lost fame), Julia (Neve Campbell of Scream fame), Claudia (Lacey Chabert of limited fame) Owen, the baby, and my favorite, Bailey (played by Scott Wolf). They're all a mess, struggling to deal with the loss of their parents and the management of the family restaurant on top of their own plethora of issues. It was a teen soap opera, no doubt, though it did deal with some weighty matters with a modicum of nuance and maturity: Charlie's cancer, Julia's domestic abuse victimization, and Bailey's battles with alcohol.
Poor Bailey. While the mantle of leadership for the rudderless Salingers should have fallen to his older brother, womanizing slacker Charlie wasn't cut out for responsibility. So Bailey, all of 16 when the accident took place, tried to step up. Naturally his siblings resented his attempts at leadership, especially Julia and Charlie. But somebody had to at least try to make the trains run on time. Together with his perky-sad girlfriend Sarah (Jennifer Love Hewitt in her early pro bowl years - reason enough to tune in), Bailey labored to fill a substitute parental role. It was too much for him, despite his efforts, and it led him into alcoholism, ruined his relationship with Sarah, and contributed to the derailment of his dreams of athletics and college. He was a tragic figure, a cautionary tale against early maturity and growing up too fast.