Cities rising in the sky,
It's the Partridge Family,
2200 A. D.? If you're like most fans, you've probably wondered what in the world possessed the producers at Hanna-Barbera Productions to throw the Partridge Family from the tranquility of San Pueblo to the far reaches of San Pluto. For the answer to that, we have to flashback to late 1973. Thanks to the parental groups which deemed Saturday Mornings too violent, the trend of the day was to turn harmless prime time sitcoms into animated children's fare. Gilligan's Island, The Addams Family, My Favorite Martian, Lost In Space, Star Trek, Nanny and the Professor, I Dream of Jeannie, Lassie and Emergency! were just some of the series transformed into ink and paint. Filmation Associates even re-dressed and reused their schlocky animation from The Archies to resemble the kids from The Brady Bunch(look closely and you'll see Greg Brady's head on Jughead's body).
But when Joe Barbera marched into his sales meeting with CBS, it was to pitch a new updated version of The Jetsons -- not a space age version of the Partridges. His idea was to bring Elroy into high school, make Judy an ace reporter, and add a wild assortment of far-out friends to hang out with them and their dog Astro. CBS said they loved the idea -- with one "small" suggestion: "Get rid of the Jetsons, add the Partridges, and we'll give you the 9:30 AM time slot." It seems CBS felt they could generate the same high ratings showing reruns of the old Jetsons, rather than spending money to create new ones. With over 600 studio artists to keep employed, Joe Barbera quickly agreed. So, with the stroke of an eraser, Elroy became Keith, Judy became Laurie, Astro was turned into a robot dog named Orbit, and the far-out friends of the Jetsons were now the far-out friends of the Partridges. And there you have it: 2200 A.D.
The premise was fairly simple: From a club date in Cucamonga to a concert on Mars; from a Hollywood recording studio to a TV station on Venus, or a college prom on Jupiter -- the kids were still the same. Their tastes, habits and personalities hadn't changed a bit. In fact, Danny Bonaduce, Brian Forster and Suzanne Crough all returned to voice Danny, Chris and Tracy Partridge, having done so the previous season on eight episodes of ABC's Goober and the Ghost Chasers. Susan Dey signed to voice Laurie, but left after completing the second episode when she was cast in a film role. She was replaced by ex-Mouseketeer, Sherry Alberoni -- who audiences recognize as the voice of cranky Alexandra on Josie and the Pussycats. Shirley Jones and David Cassidy declined invitations to reprise their roles of Shirley and Keith, and were replaced by Joan Gerber and Chuck McClenan (who also provided lead vocals for the new group). For unexplained reasons, Dave Madden recorded the role of manager Reuben Kincaid, but was replaced by HB veteran voice artist, John Stephenson. Oddly enough, this isnít the first time a network tried to cash in on the "Cassidy craze" Ė NBC aired Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kids in 1973, with a lead character looking all too familiar!
However, the family may have been the only thing that didn't change. The clothes were different, and the slang, and the jalopies were now jet-powered and could fly. True, they still attended school, dated, and ate like there was no tomorrow, but the schools didn't even have teachers in the classrooms . . . just robot-like sensors that acted as monitors, with the instructional process consisting of educational tapes being fed directly into the brain via electronic skull caps. And a date consisted of a trip to a giant amusement park on the moon (where the lack of gravity made for the most spectacular rides in history) or a fast run to a great drive-in on Venus. Happily, the family still traveled around the cosmos in their trademark psychedelic bus. Only this time it was a psychedelic painted space-bus!
As in the prime-time sitcom, the stories revolved around Danny Partridge (and his robot dog, Orbit). Writers even borrowed themes from many of the episodes, including "The Strike Out King" by writing "My Son the Spaceball Star" in which Danny joins a Spaceball team in order to please Shirley. In order to appeal to the younger crowd that tunes into Saturday Morning cartoons, Chris and Tracy were given more to do. Writers created a rivalry between the two, in which Tracy always tried to get the upper hand and boss brother Chris around. This also enabled producers to get more use out of actors from the original series.
Music played an integral part of the animated series as well. Space-age versions of each instrument were designed, and far-out stages were created for the family to play on. Studio singers were assembled to crank out generic-sounding pop music, all of which were forgettable with the exception of "Take Good Care Of Her", a cover of the song found on the "Notebook" album, written by Danny Janssen and Bobby Hart (of Boyce & Hart fame). Danny Janssen was no stranger to Hanna-Barbera, having written and produced the music for Josie and the Pussycats and Scooby Doo a few years earlier. As Mr. Janssen recalls:
In fact, the series itself was considered a disappointment. CBS was hoping to cash in on the popularity of the prime time series, but by this time PF audiences were too old to view cartoons, and had already tuned out the prime time series, which had finished third from the bottom in the Neilson Ratings, the year before. The ink and paint Partridges were cancelled midseason (rare for a cartoon) and ended on March 8, 1975. Reruns were syndicated for a season in 1977 and included on the Fred Flintstone and Friends series. It has never been released on VHS or DVD.
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