“Hello, world, here’s a song that we’re singin’,
C’mon get happy!
A whole lotta lovin’ is what we’ll be bringin’,
We’ll make you happy!”
This catchy, keyboard-driven ditty led viewers into the musical world of The Partridge Family each week. This TV classic combined the sitcom format with pop music and a serious dose of teen-dream appeal to create a show that had something for everyone. As a result, it became a long-running hit on the television and also inspired a series of singles and albums that lit up the 70’s pop charts.
Drawing its inspiration from a real-life musical clan, The Cowsills, The Partridge Family focused on the exploits of a very musical family. The story began when Shirley Partridge, a widow living in the suburbs, added her vocals to a tune her four children were recording in the garage. The song, “I Think I Love You,” made its way to a record company, got released, and surprised everyone by becoming a big hit. This newfound success inspired the family to go professional with their musical hobby, and the show chronicled their adventures as they divided their time between recording, touring the country in a multicolored bus, and trying to live their life as a normal family in the time in-between.
The focus of the group was Keith, the eldest son and resident heartthrob. And deservedly so: David Cassidy, who played Keith, was the only P-Fam member who actually performed on the group’s recordings. Laurie was a lovely teen lass who played the keyboards, while the befreckled and smart-alecky Danny played bass. Danny was also the resident con man of the family, always plotting outrageous schemes to make money. Chris played the drums, and littlest sister Tracy played the tambourine. Rounding out the cast was the group’s perpetually flummoxed manager, Reuben Kincaid.
The combination of comedy, pop music, and a photogenic family presented by The Partridge Family was too good for audiences to resist, and the show quickly became a major hit. Both David Cassidy and Susan Dey (Laurie) quickly became the fantasy of many a love-struck teen, and Danny Bonaduce won much praise for the comedic skills and timing he used to bring the scheming Danny to life. His regular battles of wits with the kid-hating Reuben were often a highlight of the show.
In addition to this television success, life imitated art when the Partridge Family’s music soared to the top of pop charts: “I Think I Love You” sold four million copies in the U.S. alone, followed by smash hits like “Doesn’t Somebody Want To Be Wanted” and “I Woke Up in Love This Morning.” A string of successful singles blazed up the charts in the early 70’s, and David Cassidy embarked on an equally successful solo career.
With success both on the small screen and the pop charts, the longevity of The Partridge Family was assured, and the sitcom continued to run for four seasons. Notable episodes included “Soul Club,” in which the family helped save a financially ailing soul music nightclub, and “The Eleven Year Itch,” which had Danny falling head over heels in love with a Partridge Family fan played by Jodie Foster. As the show progressed, new cast members were added in to increase variety. The most notable example was Ricky Stevens, a neighbor’s child who joined the band during the 1973-1974 season.
The Partridge Family ended its successful TV run in 1974. Most of the cast continued on to additional television and film roles: Shirley Jones (Shirley Partridge) starred in several television films, and Dey found a long-lasting role on the drama L.A. Law. Cassidy continued to record albums over the years and also extended his career to the musical stage. Meanwhile, The Partridge Family has become an enduring television favorite over the years through reruns. Various episodes have been released on home video, and the group’s albums were reissued to an adoring public in 2000. That hodge-podge bus design and those groovy duds may have screamed “early 70’s,” but The Partridge Family’s mixture of humor, pop music and family values is something that never goes out of style.
USA / ABC – Screen Gems / 96×30 minute episodes / Broadcast 25 September 1970 – 31 August 1974
Creator: Bernard Slade / Producers: Bob Claver, Paul Junger Witt
Shirley Jones as Shirley Partridge
David Cassidy as Keith Partridge
Susan Dey as Laurie Partridge
Danny Bonaduce as Danny Partridge
Suzanne Crough as Tracy Partridge
Jeremy Gelbwaks as Chris Partridge
Brian Forster as Chris Partridge (2)
Dave Madden as Reuben Kincaid
Rosemary De Camp as Amanda Renfrew
Ray Bolger as Walter Renfrew
Jackie Coogan as Walter Renfrew (2)
Nita Talbot as Doris Stevens
Ricky Segal as Ricky Stevens
Ronne Troup as Donna Stevens
Bert Convy as Richard Lawrence
Carol Anne Pearson as Cathy Lawrence
Jodie Foster as Julie Lawrence
Patti Cohoon as Gloria Hickey
Elaine Giftos as Bonnie Kleinschmitt
Gary Dubin as Punky Lazaar
Gerald Hiken as Dr. Bernie Applebaum
Claire Wilcox as Cindy
Rob Reiner as Snake
Stuart Margolin as Snake; later
Alan Bursky as Alan Kincaid