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Buy from Amazon

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Sony Pictures Home Entertainment presents
The Partridge Family: The Complete First Season (1970)

"The family that plays together, stays together."
- Chris Partridge (Jeremy Gelbwaks)

Review By: Jeff Ulmer  
Published: May 02, 2005

Stars: Shirley Jones, David Cassidy, Susan Dey, Danny Bonaduce, Suzanne Crough, Jeremy Gelbwak, Dave Madden
Other Stars: Gordon Jump, Harry Morgan, Farrah Fawcett, Ray Bolger, Rosemary DeCamp, John McMartin, Jaclyn Smith, Janette Lane Bradbury, Pat Harrington Jr., Barbara Rhodes, Richard Bakalyan, Vic Tayback, Morey Amsterdam, Stuart Margolin, Ronald Feinberg, Ken Swofford, Mark Hamill, Jonathan Daly, Jean-Michel Michenaud, Johnny Cash, Dick Clark, William Schallert, Gino Conforti, Richard Mulligan, Reva Rose, Richard Pryor, Lou Gossett, Jr., Herbert Jefferson, Jr., Harvey Lembeck, Michael Lembeck, Cathleen D'Arcy, Laurie Prange, Sandy Kenyon, Dick Wilson, Bernard Fox, Ned Glass, Jim Connell, Annette O'Toole, Michael Ontkean, Bobby Sherman, Wes Stern
Director: various

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 10h:02m:20s
Release Date: May 03, 2005
UPC: 043396056565
Genre: television


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A A-A-A- B

DVD Review

"C'mon now and meet everybody, and hear us singin'..."

In the mid-1960s, Screen Gems launched a new television series staged around a fabricated musical group. The Monkees became a major hit, with their weekly television appearances bolstering crossover sales of albums, eventually landing the group the number one hit of 1967. With the show's cancellation, Screen Gems was anxious to mine the concept further.

Having launched two previous series for the company (Love on a Rooftop and The Flying Nun), Bernard Slade conceived The Partridge Family, inspired by a real-life family group named The Cowsills, who had a string of hits during the 1960s. The producers were looking for a group of actors to carry the show, but had no intention of finding real musicians, the exception being Shirley Jones, (who had been offered the part of Carol Brady on The Brady Bunch), a certifiable star already. As luck would have it, the casting of her stepson, David Cassidy, would be a stroke of genius that would help propel The Partridge Family to the heights of popularity.

The show's brilliant casting appealed to a wide audience, and the characters gel right off the bat, although the youngest stars take a while to warm to their parts. Jones is instantly loveable as TV's hippest single, working mom (a bold move in its day), trying to juggle her own personal life with the needs of her kids. Cassidy's star power is plainly evident, despite his character, Keith, being less than bright, and also taking the brunt of the jokes, which helps keep his humility in check. Like TV contemporaries Marcia Brady and Mary Ellen Walton, Laurie Partridge would attract a large following of young male admirers. Susan Dey gets the job of family conscience, as the first to bring up social issues that find their way into the stories. I can recall being critical of Jeremy Gelbwaks (Chris) as a kid, principly due to having more familiarity with his replacement, Brian Forster, but I was pleasantly surprised by his performance as the season wore on, with a few choice lines—the exception being his complete ineptness on the drums, which is as likely a function of poor direction and editing as lack of initiative. Suzanne Crough (Tracy) is similarly stiff in the beginning (and likewise has less than considerable talent on the tambourine), but is allowed more presence as the series progresses. The most outstanding performance has to be that of Danny Bonaduce (Danny), who steals every scene he is in as the outspoken, business savvy, red-headed middle son. This kid is simply brilliant, and given ample opportunity to strut his stuff. His chemistry with thankless fallguy Dave Madden (as manager Reuben Kincaid) is priceless.

"What's a woman my age doing singing with a bunch of kids that are old enough to be, well, my kids?" - Shirley Partridge

There are a lot of classic episodes in this bunch. The series opens with What? And Get Out of Show Business? as single mom, Shirley Partridge, narrates the story of how her family group got together. Her five kids are set to record a home demo in their garage when they learn the tragic news that their intended singer has fallen ill. Desperation forces mom to join in as a replacement, which magically works. With a potential hit single in the bag, Danny stalks record industry bigwig, Reuben Kincaid, who reluctantly becomes the group's manager. With their trademark multicolored 1957 Chevrolet Superior round top tour bus, the group embarks on their first live performance in Vegas, with unexpected results. The credits sequence is nowhere to be found here, featuring Together as the opening song. Gordon Jump (W.K.R.P in Cincinatti) makes the first of his many Partridge appearances.

As the show continues, the family runs into a slew of hilarious situations. The Sound of Money has the family dealing with a gold digger (M*A*S*H star, Harry Morgan) after a fender bender (the episode also features a bubbly cameo by Farrah Fawcett—trivia note: The Partridge Family would feature three future Charlie's Angels stars—Jaclyn Smith also appears in the first season, with Cheryl Ladd showing up in season three). Richard Pryor and Louis Gossett, Jr. guest star in the series' nod at race issues in Soul Club.Danny gets the spotlight while being drafted (See Here, Private Partridge,); by seeing an older woman (Danny and the Mob,); for letting his ego get the best of him in Have You Heard the One About Danny Partridge?; in Star Quality where fame goes to his head after a favorable review by an esteemed critic, and A Partridge By Any Other Name, which has Danny questioning his lineage. In a twist on a similar Brady Bunch episode from the previous year, Laurie finds herself dealing with braces in Old Scrapmouth, which not only spoil her looks for an important TV appearance, but also can pick up radio signals.

"Mom, you don't understand women at all." - Keith

Keith has trouble dealing with groupies in Love at First Sight, signs the band up for a feminist rally to impress his girlfriend in My Son, the Feminist, becomes overly protective when he learns Laurie will be dating a boy with a reputation in Not with My Sister, You Don't, and learns the value of a dollar—with Danny's help—when he buys a car in A Partridge Up a Pear Tree.

The kids interfere with mom's love life in When Mother Gets Married, and Shirley questions the family career in Why Did the Music Stop? Reuben finds himself quitting as manager in They Shoot Managers, Don't They?

Musically, the Partridge sound was an offshoot of the vocal-heavy folk scene. Producer Wes Farrell was brought in to create the musical numbers that would be featured in each episode, which were penned and performed by many top names in the industry. The original plan didn't include the actors performing musically, with vocals by John and Tom Bahler (of the Love Generation), Jackie Ward and Ron Hicklin. Once Jones and Cassidy began participating, the Partridge sound was established. Interestingly, the producers had David sing to a slowed down backing track, which when played back normally raised the pitch of his voice to make him sound younger. The show would launch Cassidy as a major teen idol, despite his dislike for the direction of the material he was supposed to be performing.

By the time of its television debut, The Partridge Family already had their signature single, I Think I Love You attracting attention. The song hit Billboard's number one spot a week after it was featured on But the Memory Lingers On, and became the group's first gold record in November 1970, when The Partridge Family Album was released. The second Partridge album, Up to Date shipped in February 1971, the week To Play or Not to Play aired. The first season spotlights a number of great Partridge Family songs, including I Can Feel Your Heartbeat, I'll Meet You Halfway, Doesn't Somebody Want to Be Wanted, Umbrella Man, On the Road, You Are Always on My Mind and Point Me in the Direction of Albuquerque (which had the episode Road Song written around it).

The first season is unique in a number of respects. First, the theme song uses its original lyrics, When We're Singin', getting a rewrite to the more familiar trademark C'mon Get Happy with the second season, which also replaced Jeremy Gelbwaks as son Chris. Many of the musical numbers were recorded before the producers discovered David Cassidy's talent, which meant he was lipsyncing to someone else's voice on several occasions. The family dog (who plays a pivotal role in But the Memory Lingers On a.k.a. the skunk episode) also only appears in the inaugural season. The final episode was actually the pilot for the lone Partridge Family spinoff, Getting Together, featuring Bobby Sherman, but with the obvious shift in focus, becomes one of the weaker installments. Even if some of the music and styles are dated, some 35 years later it is easy to see why The Partridge Family garnered such a positive response, and this series remains thoroughly fun and entertaining.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: I was initially sceptical about fitting all these episodes on only three single-sided DVDs, but I have to admit that Partridge fans are in for a treat—the transfers here are nearly perfect! Colors are rich and saturated without blooming, black levels are consistent and strong. The source prints are extremely clean, detail is amazing, and even in areas that usually cause major problems like tight patterns, polka dot fabrics and so forth, the image is clear and artifact free. The odd shot has a bit more grain, but that appears to be more of an original production issue than something recent. The credits have some minor shimmer, but nothing too distracting. I have never seen this show (or most others for that matter) looking this good.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno


Audio Transfer Review: Presented in original mono, the presentation quality is very respectable. There are no technical issues to speak of—dialogue is clean and concise without excess sibilance, and the musical numbers sound great and natural without a hyped top end found on most modern mastering.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 25 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
6 Other Trailer(s) featuring Bewitched, Dawson's Creek, '80s movie compilation, Are We There Yet?, The Brooke Ellison Story, Urban TV comedies
1 Documentaries
1 Featurette(s)
2 Feature/Episode commentaries by Shirley Jones, Danny Bonaduce
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Bonus CD
  2. Jump To The Musical Performances feature
  3. Two The Partridge Family, 2200 A.D. episodes
Extras Review: Sony has provided some pretty sweet extras, although I would have liked to see the inclusion of the two original pilots, which featured a different cast.

Two documentaries are included. The first, Boarding the Bus (19m:27s) takes a look at the creation of the series, featuring interview segments with Shirley Jones, Danny Bonaduce, David Cassidy, series creator Bernard Slade, TV historian Scott Awley, and producer Mel Swope. The Sound of the Partridge (8m:13s) covers the musical aspect of the show, with Jones, Cassidy Bodaduce, Partridge singers John Bahler, Tom Bahler, Jackie Ward, and Ron Hicklin, and arranger/conductor Mike Melvoin participating.

Danny Bonaduce provides a lively commentary over the show's debut episode, What? And Get Out of Show Business?, which includes plenty of anecdotes about the set and shooting of the series. Shirley Jones adds commentary to When Mother Gets Married, although this is more like sitting down with the actor to view the show—there are plenty of giggles, but actual discussion is limited to sparse comments.

Two installments (Car Trouble and My Son, the Spaceball Star) of the short-lived 1974 Hanna Barbara cartoon, The Partridge Family, 2200 A.D. are also included. The show was originally pitched as an updated Jetsons, but CBS wanted to cash in on the soon to be cancelled live sit-com. While it features most of the original cast in the voiceover, with Cassidy and Jones gone, Dey only participating in a couple of episodes (there were just 16 in total, the show was cancelled mid-season), and character designs that resemble The Osmonds more than the Partridge Family, this show feels like The Jetsons meets Scooby-Doo. Still, it's nice to have these included, I just hope we get the whole series across the rest of the Partridge Family discs.

A Jump to the Musical Performances feature allows instant access to each episode's performance segments, a nice touch. Where the same song is featured more than once on the disc, each version is available.

A four-song CD premium is also included to tie in with the recent CD release, The Very Best of the Partridge Family featuring I Think I Love You, Point Me in the Direction of Albuquerque, I Can Feel Your Heart Beat, and second season theme song, C'mon Get Happy.

Previews are included for The Partridge Family, Bewitched, Dawson's Creek, an '80s movie compilation (Ghostbusters, St. Elmo's Fire, Stripes, Stand by Me, The Big Chill), Are We There Yet?, The Brooke Ellison Story, and "urban" TV comedies (What's Happening, Sanford and Son, The Jeffersons, Good Times).

Each disc has a "Play All" feature, and episodes are amply chaptered with eight stops apiece. Designed to take up minimal shelf spce, the set comes in two double-disc thinpak cases in a box.

Extras Grade: B

 

Final Comments

For those of us who grew up in the early 1970s, The Partridge Family were cultural icons. The show has not lost any of its fun over the years, and even the garish styles add to its nostalgic appeal. Sony has delivered the goods with this release, with a great presentation, a decent extras set, and consumer friendly pricing. This is classic television, and comes highly recommended. C'mon, get happy!

 


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