So excuse the drool and the starry-eyed stare, when it comes to The Partridge Family: The Complete Second Season on DVD, Judge Cynthia Boris says, "I think I love you."
"Hello, world, hear the song that we're singin', C'mon get happy!
They were groovier than the Bradys, cooler than the Osmonds and they were led by a bona fide teen idol—what more could a studio ask for? And since I was a bona fide teenage girl in the era, I'm here to tell you there is nothing better in this world than a pretty boy crooner with a shag haircut and velvet pants. Like teenaged girls across the planet, I had the posters, the record albums, the T-shirts, and dreamed of what it would be like to be that string of puka beads around David Cassidy's neck! So excuse the drool and the starry-eyed stare, when it comes to The Partridge Family: The Complete Second Season on DVD, I'm here to say, "I think I love you."
Facts of the Case
The Partridge Family was loosely based on the life of real live family and pop group The Cowsills. Series creator Bernard Slade had been toying around with the idea of a musical TV series and by luck happened to see the Cowsills perform on Johnny Carson. The idea gelled and Slade went to work on the pilot script. (He was already the creator of sitcoms Love on a Rooftop and The Flying Nun.)
Though the show appears to be about a famous singing group, it's really about a family who just happens to be famous, which is what makes the show quirky and different from your average family sitcom. Sure, they have their showbiz problems, like the time the skunk sneaked on to the tour bus or when they played host to a contest-winning fan. But they also had the typical suburban sitcom problems such as tonsils that must come out, teenagers with impossible crushes, and the tribulations of being a single parent.
The series featured major movie and Broadway star Shirley Jones as mom, Shirley Partridge. Face facts people, Shirley was one of the original MIL…okay, you know the rest (and if you don't, I'm not going to tell you). She was pretty (love those false eyelashes), built, talented, and a firm but loving parent. All that and the mother of five, count 'em, five children. The two youngest Partridges, Chris and Tracy, were played by Suzanne Crough and Brian Forster. Forster came in as a second season replacement when the original Chris left the show because his family moved back East. (No one noticed the change.)
The Partridge middle child was Danny, AKA hard-driving, hard-drinking, hard-headed Danny Bonaduce. Danny was the schemer, always looking for a way to make an easy buck. He was quick witted and the weekly foil for the family's band manager Reuben Kincaid (David Madden, Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In).
Susan Dey was the oldest Partridge girl, Laurie. This sweet and wholesome, former teen model was the object of…shall we say…adoration for many a teen boy. (Don't you tell me boys weren't watching The Partridge Family. They'd never admit it, but they were.)
And then we come to…drum roll please…be still my heart…can hardly write his name without swooning, David Cassidy, AKA Keith Partridge. (Give me a moment to regain my composure. There. Better.) The rumor mill says that it was a total coincidence that David ended up playing the son of his real-life stepmother Shirley Jones (his father and her husband being that marvelous actor, Jack Cassidy). Whatever their relationship off screen, on screen it was delightful to watch.
The Partridge Family is all about getting your groove on, so we rate these episodes as groovy, groovier and grooviest and the occasional bummer (that's bad for those of you who were born after 1980).
• "Dora, Dora, Dora"
• "In 25 Words Or Less"
• "A Man Called Snake"
• "The Undergraduate"
• "Anatomy of a Tonsil"
• "Whatever Happened to Moby Dick?"
• "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Partridge"
• "Days of Acne and Roses"
• "Tale of Two Hamsters"
• "The Forty-Year Itch"
• "I Can Get it for You Retail"
• "Guess Who's Coming to Drive?"
• "Don't Bring Your Guns to Town, Santa"
• "Where Do Mermaids Go?"
• "Home is Where the Heart Was"
• "Fellini, Bergman, and Partridge"
• "Waiting for Bolero"
• "I Am Curious Partridge"
• "My Heart Belongs to a Two-Car Garage"
• "Promise Her Anything, But Give Her a Punch"
• "The Partridge Papers"
• "All's War in Love and Fairs"
• "Who is Max Ledbetter and Why is He Saying All Those
Come on, who hasn't dreamed about being a rock star or dating a boy like Keith or a girl like Laurie (or even a woman like Shirley, for that matter). Who hasn't wished they could make a living doing something they love—something creative? The Partridges had that and every week, we got to come along for the ride. They were a happy, loving family who learned to get along in the absence of a bread-winning father by banding together and having a ball.
I say, it's the familial relationship that made The Partridge Family a success and it's the reason the show is still very watchable today. These five kids act like real siblings, meaning they aren't that nice to each other. They play tricks on each other, they verbally berate each other, and they chase each other up and down the stairs. Like real teenagers, they lay on the couch with headphones while mom dusts, they leave their clothes lying on the floor, and they sneak out of the house when they're not supposed to. For a family of pop stars, the Partridges are ten times more normal than the Bradys, not to mention the fact that they're quite a bit more talented. But like real siblings, they always come through for each other in a pinch. Keith defends Laurie from a biker stalker (even though she can defend herself better than he can, it's the thought that counts). Danny and Chris risk life and limb to buy mom a fur coat for her birthday. And the whole family hatches a plan to pull Danny out of the dumps when he's stricken with tonsillitis.
Now, I'm going to go out on a limb here and get really sappy. In the musical sequence of "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Partridge," Keith walks around the stage and settles in next to each of the other family members as he sings. Let me tell you, my heart just melts every time I watch the sweet non-verbal exchanges between each of them, topped off by Keith stooping down to be eye-to-eye while he sings to baby sister Tracy. Okay, you can moan and groan if you like, but stuff like that just makes me smile and that's what The Partridge Family is all about—making you happy! And don't get me started on the Christmas episode. I'm a sucker for Christmas episodes. I laughed ("I guess I'll lick my lolly later."), I cried (Tracy with the mistletoe getting kisses from her brothers), I thoroughly enjoyed myself.
From a purely practical standpoint, this is a very nice DVD set. The visuals are terrific, so much so, it's hard to believe the show is more than thirty years old (unless of course you notice the avocado kitchen appliances and the granny gown on Laurie). Just wait until you see the colors in this show. Brilliant blues, bright reds, wild purples. The colors are almost eye-popping and nothing beats the candy-colored western town they created for the Christmas episode.
The audio quality is also very good. The music doesn't have the full sound that I would have liked, but I'm not sure that's the fault of the DVD—it's more likely the way the show was recorded in the first place. And, for a show of the '70s, it has an amazingly non-invasive laugh track and I really appreciate that.
The DVD has 24 episodes on three DVDs, housed in two plastic cases that fit into a cardboard slipcover. The box art features the distinctive and colorful Partridge bird logo, the famous bus, and a family portrait. The studio was even careful to use second season photos throughout the package—noticeable by the fact that Cassidy's hair is longer and they have the proper "Chris."
The menu and navigation makes good use of the Partridge signature squares. And I liked the placement of a screen grab next to each episode title. A baby partridge bird is your pointer—another great use of the shows distinctive graphic style.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
On the downside, this DVD has no bonus materials unless you count a feature that allows you to jump right to the musical selections. The first season had a making-of featurette and commentary by Shirley Jones and Danny Bonaduce. This may have been because both actors were involved in VH1's In Search of the Partridge Family at the time (and whatever happened to that project?).
Musically, the second season also doesn't live up to the promise of the first. The majority of The Partridge Family's hit songs were used in Season One, leaving them scrambling for new tunes for this second year. There are a fair number of repeated tunes, and the songs on this set don't come close to the hits of the first season such as "I Think I Love You," "I Can Feel Your Heartbeat," and "Point Me In The Direction Of Albuquerque."
And finally, what's with the music on the DVD menu? The theme to the show is so wonderfully catchy with those opening keyboard bars; why didn't they use it instead of some generic soundalike piece? Don't tell me they couldn't get the rights!
Everyone loves to pick on The Partridge Family. Sure, it's a light-hearted sitcom. No, they aren't a real band, and yes, they're lip syncing (and pretending to play their instruments), and yeah, they wore velvet vests and polyester pantsuits. But still, I'll defend them here, now, and always. The series has had tremendous staying power, evidenced by the fact that thirty years later people are watching the train wreck that is Breaking Bondauce and that the show was the subject of a tell-all movie and an American Idol style TV series. Though the youngest Partridges have faded into the woodwork, Susan Dey gained notoriety in the late '80s for her role on L.A. Law and Shirley Jones is still welcome anywhere she wants to go.
The series' largest claim to fame, though, has always been the launch of teen idol David Cassidy. After years of grumbling about how tough he had it (all those screaming fans ripping off his clothes), Cassidy has mellowed some and seems to be re-welcoming his former status. Though his records don't make it quite as high on the charts these days—there are some things that never change. I had the pleasure of seeing Cassidy perform his Partridge hits on stage and he's still got it. That boyish charm, that sexy smile, those skinny hips (how does he do it?), and that sultry, unique singing voice…sorry…was gone for a moment, but now I'm back.
You don't have to be a child of the '70s to enjoy The Partridge Family: The Complete Second Season, but I'll admit that it helps.
I hereby find Keith Partridge guilty of stealing my heart. As for The Partridge Family: The Complete Second Season on DVD, it is as innocent as they come.
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Scales of Justice
• Jump to the Musical Performances
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