THE PARTRIDGE FAMILY

U.S. Situation/Domestic Comedy

The Partridge Family was broadcast on ABC from 1970 to 1974. A modest ratings success, the show peaked at number sixteen in the ratings for the 1971-72 season. While The Partridge Family never attracted huge audiences, it was a major hit with younger viewers. The series was also distinguished for spawning highly successful, if short-lived, commercial tie-ins. Children's mystery books and comic books featured the Partridges; their musical albums were heavily promoted; and David Cassidy, one of the actors, became a teen idol.

The Partridges were a fatherless family of six who decided, in the premier episode, to form a rock band and tour the country in a psychedelically-painted school bus. Most episodes began at the family home in California. Under the leadership of 70s supermom Shirley Partridge (Shirley Jones), the five Partridge kids survived various capers that almost always culminated in successful concerts. Mom covered lead vocals. Teenage stepson Keith (David Cassidy) helped keep the family in line. Keith sometimes clashed with sister Laurie (Susan Dey) and everyone clashed with ten-year-old brother Danny (Danny Bonaduce), the freckle-faced bass player who was always looking for the big score. Danny's special nemesis was band manager Reuben Kinkaid (David Madden), an irritable man with a knack for getting the family into trouble when the plot needed fresh complications. Two younger Partridges, Chris and Tracy, rounded out the cast, along with a next-door neighbor, Ricky, and Reuben's nephew, Alan, who joined the show in 1973.

The show was not a sustained hit in syndication. During the 1990s, however, a retro-vogue endowed The Partridge Family with minor cult status. With their shag hairdos, flair pants, and polyester outfits, the Partridges epitomized the early 1970s. MTV vee-jay Pagan Kennedy praised the show for having made rock 'n' roll culture seem both exciting and benign: "The Partridge Family took drug culture, made it square, and added kids. It was hipness for the under-10 crowd."

The dramatic formula of the show--something between The Brady Bunch and Scooby Doo--rarely receives scholarly attention. References occasionally note Shirley Partridge's status as a supermother in the Donna Reed mold. For the most part, the show is remembered for its successful commercial tie-ins. Several Partridge Family songs became genuine hits, including the theme, "Come On, Get Happy," and "I Think I Love You," which sold four million copies. On the Partridge Family albums, Jones and Cassidy sang their own parts, but studio artists supplied background vocals and music. The Family never toured (since they did not play their own music), but Cassidy had a brief and wildly successful career as a pop singer. At the heights of his popularity, he could fill stadiums with pre-pubescent girls.

In 1973-74, The Partridge Family was switched from Friday nights to Saturday nights, opposite All in the Family and Emergency. The ratings quickly fell and the show was canceled before the next season. A cartoon sequel, Partridge Family: 2200 AD, brought the Partridges back to life in space. The show played Saturday mornings for one season (1974-75), featuring voices from the prime-time cast.

-J.B. Bird

 


The Partridge Family

CAST

Shirley Partridge....................................... Shirley Jones Keith Partridge........................................ David Cassidy Laurie Partridge............................................ Susan Dey Danny Partridge................................... Danny Bonaduce Christopher Partridge (1970-1971)........ Jeremy Gelbwaks Christopher Partridge (1971-1974)............... Brian Forster Tracy Partridge.................................... Suzanne Crough Reuben Kinkaid .......................................David Madden Ricky Stevens (1973-1974)......................... Ricky Segall Alan Kinkaid (1973-1974) ............................Alan Bursky

PRODUCERS  Bob Claver, Paul Junger Witt, Mel Swope, William S. Bickley, Michael Warren

PROGRAMMING HISTORY 96 Episodes

ABC
September 1970-June 1973                    Friday 8:30-9:00 June 1973-August 1974                      Saturday 8:00-3:30

FURTHER READING

Brooks, Tim, and Earle Marsh. The Complete Directory To Prime-Time Network TV Shows; 1946-Present. New York: Ballantine, 1992.

Kennedy, Pagan. "I Think I Love You." The Village Voice Literary Supplement (New York), 10 December 1991.

Mitz, Rick. The Great TV Sitcom Book. New York: Perigree, 1988.

Steinberg, Cobbet. TV Facts. New York: Facts on File, 1985.

 

See also Comedy, Domestic Settings; Comedy, Workplace