"Come On Get Happy: The Partridge Family Story" should rightfully be called "Danny Bonaduce's Petty Payback Movie." The two-hour ordeal, which airs tonight at 9 on Channel 7, is one more inexplicable expression of the television industry's adoration of itself as it never was.
Bonaduce, who played the obnoxious little red-headed member of the family during its four-season run from 1970 to 1974, narrates the film and served as its "consultant," which means he wrote a script they didn't use.
The movie purports to tell the story--an immortal one, to be sure--of the creation of "The Partridge Family" series and what it was like on the set. While it limns some well-known anecdotes, like the time frustrated teen heartthrob David Cassidy commandeered the Partridge bus--most of the history is told through Bonaduce's beady and embittered eyes. Who said he is a significant enough piece of popular culture to deserve his own movie?
This film is basically his way of getting even with his real-life abusive father and with series star Cassidy, who apparently wasn't very nice to him. You can tell right away that this is a payback because the kid actor playing Bonaduce (Shawn Pyfrom) is better-looking than the original, while Rodney Scott, who plays Cassidy, is about as attractive as a chunk of Styrofoam. And Dad (William Russ) is only shown snarling, screaming, hitting, drinking or sulking.
Bonaduce is first seen as a 10-year-old, sitting in his treehouse looking at Playboy and smoking a cigarette. He auditions for the "The Partridge Family," a TV series about a widowed mom who turns her five kids into a soft-rock band and tours the country with the help of their dorky manager, Reuben Kinkaid.
The original series starred Shirley Jones and Cassidy, her real-life stepson, who insisted on actually singing his songs and became a humongous teen idol with a bunch of chart-making records. (And--I know I'll never hear the end of this--some of them weren't bad.) Eventually Cassidy got fed up with being the love object of teeny-boppers and, after one of them died at one of his concerts from a preexisting heart condition, he fled. Not quite into obscurity, but close.
In "Come On Get Happy," Cassidy is portrayed as sullen and arrogant, a royal prima donna. Jones, on the other hand, is shown as kind and responsible, trying to keep Danny away from his real home after his real father, an unevenly employed TV scriptwriter, has given him a black eye.
But this movie is so cheesy you could spread it on toast. They couldn't even keep track of which eye has the shiner! And the hair is so bad! If there is one thing Americans rightfully demand of trash TV, it's good hairdos. The kid playing Bonaduce is either wearing an acrylic wig or was strapped down for a bad dye job, and Scott looks more like a drag-show reject than the shag-haired Cassidy.
The only actors worthy of the name are Roxanne Hart as Danny's mother, Betty, and Eve Gordon as Jones. Debby Boone (yes--Debby Boone!) has a brief role as Cassidy's agent and is effectively snappish.
Normally we would just ignore incompetent dreck like this. But I sat through the whole thing out of some no-doubt misguided sense of civic duty--for one reason: Like the Ebola virus, these filmic exercises in nostalgie de la boue are threatening to become an epidemic (nonliteral translation from the French: fond memories of crap). "The David Cassidy Story" is reported to be on the way, and we've already been through way too many "Brady Bunch" revisits.
Let's get something straight: Just because these shows are 30 years old doesn't mean they were good! They were terrible! They can rerun on Nickelodeon forever, but let's take all the proposals for remakes, retrospectives and retreads and drop-kick them into the Pacific Ocean. Starting with this one.