It's TV's favorite family of rock ' 'rollers, who hit the road in their groovy bus and turn the world on to the catchy pop songs such as "I Think I Love You," "I Woke Up In Love This Morning," and "Somebody Wants to Love You." The Partridge Family's six members feature mom Shirley (Shirley Jones) and her five kids: Keith (David Cassidy, who is also Jones' real-life stepson), Laurie (Susan Dey), Danny (Danny Bonaduce), Tracy (Suzanne Crough), and Chris (Jeremy Gelbwaks). And who can forget the Partridge's frequently exasperated manager, Reuben Kincaid (Dave Madden), who would become an important member of their family whether he liked it or not? The show debuted in September of 1970 and made a teen idol of David Cassidy, selling millions of records along the way. They may have parked that bus a long time ago but The Partridge Family
is still making fans happy.
Like a groovy Family von Trapp, The Partridge Family
arrived in 1970 with matching velvet outfits and wholesomeness bursting from every pore. Watching it now, you expect little more than kitsch--but the show, though certainly a sitcom representation of the world, is curiously fresh and appealing. This sheer likeability comes partly from the cast--Shirley Jones (The Music Man
) looks foxy in miniskirts while still being the cool mom everyone wishes they had; teen idol David Cassidy is unexpectedly engaging as an actor (his charisma is all the more apparent when another teen idol, Bobby Sherman, makes a wooden appearance); and Danny Bonaduce's child-star rise sprang not from cuteness but his genuine comic timing. It doesn't hurt that many of the troubles the characters faced--swelled heads, rivalry, groupies (!)--were undoubtedly problems the actors were facing as their show became a hit.
Sure, there are utterly ridiculous episodes, such as when Danny is tutoring a mob boss's girlfriend about the stock market and the gangster, not knowing Danny is only 10 years old, gets jealous--but most episodes feature ordinary show business conflicts or straightforward family issues, like how the kids cope when their mother starts dating or how teenager Laurie (Susan Dey, who later went on to L.A. Law) feels ugly when she gets braces. This simplicity, combined with some classic vaudeville-style humor, proves surprisingly durable. Plus, the list of guest stars ranges from Ray Bolger (best known as the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz) to a young Richard Pryor, as well as other soon-to-be-famous folk like Charlie's Angels' Farrah Fawcett and Jaclyn Smith and a pre-Star Wars Mark Hamill. The first season collection includes a bonus CD with four of the Partridge Family's actual radio hits; their sound, a fusion of the Monkees and the Mamas and the Papas, is pure pop sugar (created by a host of Brill Building songwriters like Neil Sedaka). If the Mondrian-inspired paint job on the Partridge Family bus gives you childhood flashbacks, you'll happily regress when you watch this box set. --Bret Fetzer