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Reliving the Partridges
ABC’s ‘Come On Get Happy’ is bad, but it’s campy fun

SHARE Reliving the Partridges
ABC’s ‘Come On Get Happy’ is bad, but it’s campy fun

There are so many things wrong with ABC's biopic "Come On Get Happy: The Partridge Family Story" it's hard to know where to begin.

The acting is bad. The direction is worse. The script is largely dreadful. And the subject matter is pretty much ridiculous.Still, in the end, "Get Happy" (Saturday, 8 p.m., Ch. 4) is great fun to watch. It's one of those things that's so bad it's good -- the sort of TV movie you can't help but laugh at, even if you're not laughing when you're supposed to.

Anyone old enough to be watching TV or listening to the radio in the early 1970s couldn't help but be aware of the Partridge Family. It was a wacky family sitcom -- widowed mother (played by Shirley Jones) joins the rock band formed by her five children (the oldest three played by David Cassidy, Susan Dey and Danny Bonaduce), and they become famous.

With the exception of Jones and her real-life stepson, Cassidy, who both sang on the records, none of the actors actually had anything to do with the music. And they all did an extremely poor imitation of singing and playing instruments in the musical scenes on the series.

(There really is something absolutely delicious about "Come On Get Happy," which features a bunch of actors pretending to be the members of a fake rock band. And bad actors accurately re-creating the bad acting done on "The Partridge Family." It's sort of hilariously ironic.)

Yet the show became a hit, running from 1970-74. And, even more astoundingly, the Partridge Family's music hit the top of the charts. "I Think I Love You" was winging its way to the top of the charts before the show even premiered.

Weird.

"Come On Get Happy" manages to capture a good degree of that weirdness, at least in part because this is the story as seen through the eyes of a child. Bonaduce served as a consultant on the project, and this is almost "The Danny Bonaduce Story."

Through his eyes, Jones (played by Eve Gordon) is a mother figure -- and a better one than his own mother (Roxanne Hart). Cassidy (Rodney Scott) is a whiny baby who wants so badly to be taken seriously that he's a royal pain -- a lothario made famous by a show he comes to hate.

There's no mention of Dey's (Kathy Wagner) anorexia, but she pines for Cassidy throughout the show's four-year run. And co-star Dave Madden (Michael Chieffo), who played band manager Reuben Kincaid, is sort of a reluctant father figure.

The movie is an odd amalgam of show-biz goofiness and child abuse. Bonaduce's (Shawn Pyfrom) real-life father (played by William Russ) was a frustrated TV writer who, consumed by jealousy, would smack his son around.

Fellow cast members were apparently aware of the situation, and Jones and Madden tried to keep Bonaduce away from his father, but no one ever reported the abuse to the authorities. Of course, as portrayed in the movie, no one was too worried about 10-year-old Danny's smoking and drinking, either.

Where "Come On Get Happy" shines, in a ludicrous sort of way, is portraying the sheer goofiness of it all. There's a priceless (if awkwardly staged) scene in which the TV Partridges confront TV's Brady Bunch, complete with music from "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" -- and Danny challenges Mike Lookinland to a fight.

As the fictional counterparts to Jones and Mrs. Brady herself, Florence Henderson, hold the boys back, Bonaduce shouts, "My family's better than your family!"

"Is not!" Lookinland responds.

"Is too! We still get higher ratings, don't we, Mom?"

"That's not true! Your ratings suck!"

And when a reporter confuses Henderson with Jones, Henderson cattily responds, "Just remember -- I'm the mother on the TV family that acts."

But she's one-upped by Jones, who says, "And I'm the mother who happens to have won an Oscar."

Meow.

Then the Brady girls freak out over Cassidy.

Some of what seems the most ridiculous in the movie is actually factual. Cassidy really did wear those awful, hip-hugging jump suits when he performed as a solo act, and girls really did freak out over him.

Maybe director David Burton Morris was going for something so bad it's good. Although he failed with "And the Beat Goes On: The Sonny & Cher Story" -- a movie so bad it was awful -- earlier this year. He's certainly carving out a kitschy niche for himself.

"Come On Get Happy" is entertaining almost in spite of itself. However it happened, it's a hoot.