VH1 to revive 'Partridge Family' as reality-competition show
By Wade Paulsen, 11/19/2003
Hollywood Reporter reports that Viacom's VH1 network is looking to bring back the 1970s hit sitcom The Partridge Family ... as a reality show.
Sony Pictures Television, which owns the rights to the show, will film a seven-episode reality series while casting the new "family members," with the winners receiving parts on the show as members of the Partirdge Family. The reformed "family" will then star in a scripted half-hour pilot, although VH1 has made no commitment to pick up more scripted episodes. The series, which will be executive-produced by Ken Mok, who also did Making the Band for MTV/VH1, is about to enter preproduction.
Although Sony anticipates keeping six central characters, as in the original show, nothing else about the show is set in stone. For example, Mok promises that he'll find people who are first and foremost musicians, and then who might be able to act -- a reversal from the original show, which featured actors who knew virtually nothing about music.
During the reality series, hopefuls will be invited to open casting calls across the country. A panel of judges will pick the winners, although there may be viewer voting as well in the final stages.
Considering that a huge part of the appeal of the show was the "sex appeal" among preteens and young teens of series stars Keith and Laurie Partridge (David Cassidy, who could at least sing, and Susan Dey, who didn't have a clue about music) -- and that the biggest musical star among "tweens" at this time is former Lizzie McGuire actress Hilary Duff, who is definitely an actress first, we wonder whether an approach that focuses on musicianship first, to the exclusion of acting, is likely to lead to a short-lived scripted series.
Mok is clear about what he doesn't want his group to be: the Monkees. Said Mok, "It's not like The Monkees, where you saw Mickey Dolenz play the drums and it was embarrassing."
Say what? Dolenz was indeed not a great drummer -- but he was competent as a drummer, about at the level of an average bar-band musician, and he was playing in a bar band when cast in the show. Anyway, his real instrument was his voice, as evidenced by such performances as the scat-influenced Goin' Down, in addition to the wide range of Monkees hits which he sang. Meanwhile, two of the Monkees were professional musicans with no acting experience, Mike Nesmith (who was a good guitarist, a very good singer, and a great songwriter/producer) and Peter Tork (who played guitar, piano, bass, banjo and just about everything else). Only the fourth member of the group, Davy Jones, was an actor first.
It should come as no surprise that, despite their campy and often lame acting, the Monkees emerged as a great musical group, especially on their albums Headquarters and Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones, Ltd., which were the only two of their albums that featured the Monkees as a studio group, and Head, which was a collection of solo performances by the band members (and featuring Tork's friend Neil Young on guitar on his tracks).
Despite the Monkees' image as the "Prefab Four," the reality was quite different -- and now that the Monkees' entire catalog of performances is available on CD, it's revealing to hear how much excellent material was never even released, sometimes because of contractual issues and sometimes because of tensions between the band's two primary musicians, Nesmith and Tork.
All of this leads us to wonder how much Ken Mok really knows enough about the process of building a "band," as opposed to casting a show. On the other hand, since there is no commitment to continue with the scripted series, perhaps casting the new Partridge Family is all that's needed. We look forward to seeing the new versions of Keith and Laurie.