The Partridge Family (1970-1974)
In Search Of The Partridge Family (2004)
The New Partridge Family (2005)
The people at VH-1 managed to be surprisingly brilliant and amazingly dumb at almost the exact same moment. It's a wonder they didn't hurt themselves. Pull a muscle or something.
Okay, here's the deal. Survivor hits the air (if you don't know what Survivor is you're a lost cause and I can't help you. Beat it!) and suddenly reality TV shows are the hot snot. The first wave was just flat out reality show variations. Then came the wave of celebrity based reality shows. We follow Paul Anka around everywhere where he goes and get to really find out what it's like to be the Anka-Man. Now the newest wave seems to be taking classic written TV shows and turning them into reality shows. First they took the show Fame about a bunch of kids going to the Julliard School For The Performing Arts and turned it into an American Idol style talent show. And Gilligan's Island got retrofitted into a Survivor knock off called The Real Gilligan's Island. People representing all the characters from the original show competed against each other while trapped on an Island.
That brings us to In Search Of The Partridge Family (which actually did actually hit the air before The Real Gilligan's Island for all you sticklers out there). The idea actually was kind of clever. VH-1 was going to (supposedly) create a new updated version of The Partridge Family. Not a reality show but a new sitcom. In Search Of The Partridge Family would be a reality show talent competition chronicling the casting process for the new show. That's the real clever bit.
There have been so many times in the past where a new show or movie is being made and the makers build up hype for the project by highly publicizing the casting process, the hunt for the right stars. Usually the hunt does garner a lot of attention but also, usually, the end project the hunt is hyping falls on its face. I remember a big stink over the casting for a new TV version of Charlie's Angels. They went all over creation looking for girls to star in the show. Then when they found their stars they made a big stink about that. Then the show fell apart and evaporated before it ever went into production. And that just plain stunk. All that build up for nothing. Likewise when The New Monkees were created they made quite the fuss about the talent search only to have the show and the band go belly up after a single season.
VH-1 hit on a genius bit of thinking. Since the talent search always got attention, often even more than the show it was for, why not make that search into a show itself? At the best In Search Of The Partridge Family would get lots of attention and then that attention would hopefully fuel interest and attention for The New Partridge Family which would then also become a hit. At the worst, In Search Of The partridge Family would be not too excessively expensive show that could get some ratings on its own and then if The New Partridge Family bombed they at least got a show out of the talent search show.
Now here is where I initially thought VH-1 had lost there mind. Their plans for The New Partridge Family seemed utterly insane. Now the original show was set in the 70's and was about a family who was also a rock and roll band. In reality the actors playing the parts didn't actually play their instruments though. They just mimed out the actions to music done by studio musicians. For the new show they wanted the following things of the cast. They wanted actors who resembled the original cast members who could also act, sing and play their own instruments. Yow! That's more stuff than was required of the original stars fer cryin' out loud! Not only that, it seemed that the New Partridge Family was going to be some sort of period piece since it looked like the cast would be wearing the same sort of 70's wardrobe! Insanity! Adding that on top of the other stuff it looked to me like the New Partridge Family part of this process would explode on the launching pad.
And maybe that's what VH-1 had in mind. Maybe they were trying to stack the deck so they could get their reality show and really not have to fuss over the sitcom. But a funny and impossible thing happened on the way to the sitcom: all the impossible elements kinda meshed together and actually worked.
I was as stunned as anyone. It sure shouldn't have. Watching the first episode of the show I was really pretty pleasantly surprised. Turns out they didn't make it a period piece. Set in the present, the show told the story of a weird, struggling family band called (duh) The Partridge Family. Keeping with the reality show angle, The New Partridge Family was staged as a faux reality show with cameras following the family on their quest for fame. The Partridges did in fact wear the same old 70's costumes but it was turned into a joke. Seems Danny Partridge, the family's young wheeler dealer, had bought them for cheap from a circus. As he explained, the littlest kids' outfits had been worn by monkeys (that actually made me laugh).
Keith Partridge, the oldest son, was head of the band but wasn't doing such a good job. He was getting them gigs playing at tattoo parlors. Danny took it upon himself to try and get them a high powered agent.
In the original show, the band's manager was Reuben Kindcaid. Reuben had been an eager if greedy supporter of The Partridges. In the new version he was the high powered agent Danny was trying to get in to see. He was an arrogant ass. In fact that is partly what helps Danny get an appointment. One of Reuben's assistants gives Danny and his crazy band an appointment to get a little revenge on his boss. The revenge scheme goes better than expected as through a series of poorly chosen statements Reuben alienates his coworkers and gets himself fired. At this point Reuben has no choice but to go into Jerry Maguire mode. He runs out to sign The Partridge Family as they are now his only hope for keeping his career going. As the first show closed, a new never before seen character was introduced. On the original show Papa Partridge was never seen but this episode ended with him showing up, played by the original Danny Partridge Danny Bonaduce, to see how the family was doing.
Now we get to the real meat of VH-1 being dumb. Against all the odds The New Partridge Family actually worked. It was funny. It had a nice look and feel similar to Arrested Development. It wasn't quite as funny as that show but it WAS funny. It also looked like a show that might not break the bank to make. Most of the leads were newcomers so they would be cheap to pay. The only expensive star really was Reuben who was played by 3rd Rock From The Sun's French Stewart. The reality show angle also meant the show didn't have to have a super perfect look. Since it is supposed to being shot on the fly in the real world, the less perfect the camera work the more real it feels. They can even get another camera in the shot and that just helps sell the the premise more. Funny, cheap, unique... it seems good. What could the problem be?
The problem is that VH-1 apparently doesn't intend to move forward with The New Partridge Family. Despite all the hoopla all that has actually been shot of the new show is the pilot episode. Why that is I'm not 100% sure. It could be that they never intended to take it past the pilot unless In Search Of The Partridge Family went crazy in the ratings. Maybe they really did set the show up to hopefully fail so they could can it quick and easy and now find themselves in the odd position of having a show that could work and not knowing what to do with it. Or it is also possible that in the time between the conception and the show and now something has changed behind the scenes. Maybe way back their was a lot of heat on the show and now the powers-that-be are now interested in the next new thing. I Love The Fifties or something.
Whatever the reason they seem to be just throwing The New Partridge Family off to the side. While I couldn't seem to turn on the TV without getting hit in the head with an ad for In Search Of The Partridge Family, the pilot for The New Partridge Family seemed to get thrown on the air with almost no promotion at all. I stumbled on it utterly by accident and was shocked that I hadn't seen tons of publicity for it. It is such a non-entity that I couldn't even find an entry for it on The Internet Movie Database! That's insane! I think the IMDB has entries for shows and movies that haven't even been thought of yet and even IT doesn't know about The New Partridge Family?!?!? Holy crap.
Apparently the hope is that maybe showing the pilot on VH-1 will inspire some other network to take a chance on it and make it a series. I hope maybe one of them does. I'm as surprised as anyone to hear myself saying that (The show shouldn't have worked!!!) but I am.
Normally I wouldn't even include a pilot on this list as a full fledged series. But I can't very well discuss In Search Of The Partridge Family without discussing the pilot for The New Partridge Family. Plus, the show was hyped as a full series not as just a pilot. Others might feel like dismissing the show but I figure it should get at least a little respect even if it's just from me. Come on get happy!Other Partridge Family Links
Getting Together and The Partridge Family
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