1 9 7 0 – 1 9 7 4 (USA)
96 x 30 minute episodes
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.
The Partridges were a fatherless family of six who lived at 698 Sycamore Road, San Pueblo, California, and 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 (the gorgeous 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 drummer 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 neighbour, Ricky, and Reuben’s nephew, Alan, who joined the show in 1973.
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 mould. But 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 singers John Bahler, Tom Bahler, Jackie Ward, and Ron Hicklin supplied the rest of the vocals. The Family never toured (since they did not play their own music), but David Cassidy had a brief and wildly successful career as a pop singer. At the height of his popularity, he could fill stadiums with pre-pubescent girls.
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.
A wave of Partridge Family merchandise hit the American public: Partridge books, magazines, comic books, lunch boxes, dolls, love beads, three-dollar colour photos, bubblegum, cereal, T-shirts, children’s dresses, blouses, diaries, astrological charts, and something called the “David Cassidy Love Kit.”
For the princely sum of $2, kids could be the proud owners of “a life-size, full-length portrait; an autographed maxi-poster three times life-size; a complete biography & childhood photo album; 40 wallet-size photos; a secret love message from David and a lovers’ card with his name & yours,” according to an ad for the product in 16 magazine, which offered it.
One kids’ clothing manufacturer came out with an entire line of clothing, boasting in a press release that “fashions from the collection are frequently worn by Suzanne Crough (Tracy) and Susan Dey (Laurie) and are directly identifiable with the show. Jeans, dresses and jumpers are printed with the bus which the family uses to travel.”
A special Partridge Family magazine, published by Tiger Beat, sold briskly, as did memberships in its Fan Club. Four Partridge Family albums sold a total of 200,000 copies in a single day at $4.98 a pop.
By 1972 the merchandising bucks were rolling in, but the actors didn’t see much of them. At the time, Danny Bonaduce’s mother said her son received a merchandising cheque for “a couple of hundred dollars,” but nothing more. Dave Madden said he “hadn’t seen a nickel”, and even David Cassidy‘s manager said the merchandising percentage of his yearly gross was “less than 1%”.
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 cancelled 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.
The Partridges were 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, flares and polyester outfits, the Partridges epitomised the early 1970s.
Suzanne Crough, who played Tracy Partridge, died suddenly at her home in Laughlin, Nevada, on 27 April 2015, at the age of 52. According to the coroner, Crough’s cause of death was arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia, a rare form of cardiomyopathy.
Jeremy Gelbwaks (1)
Brian Forster (2)