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VH1 is returning an American TV classic to the airwaves with a breath of the new millennium...

But first they need to cast it. That's where you, the viewing public, come in.

Recaps by Chico Alexander, GSNN


FACT FILE:
Host:
Todd Newton
Judges:
Bill Oakley, Josh Weinstein, Mary Jo Slater, Tim Palmer
Creator:
JD Roth
EP: Jeff Margolis, Elizabeth Bronstein, Dan Jbara
Packager: Jeff Margolis Productions, VH1
Airs: Sundays at 9:00pm ET on VH1


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"Audition Special" - September 5

Altogether now... You know the words:

"Hello world, here's a song that we're singin',
C'mon, get happy!
A whole lotta lovin' is what we'll be bringin',
We'll make you happy!"

Now, to find someone who isn't Shirley Jones, David Cassidy, Susan Dey, Danny Bonnaduce, Brian Forster (I don't count Jeremy Gelbwaks for some reason), and Suzanne Crough to sing them. Time to go "In Search of the Partridge Family," a nation-crossing series to find the next great sitcom singing family. And here's how it works. Tonight, you'll meet many of the hundreds of people that VH1 has time to cram into an hourlong episode. From there, we go to eight for each role -- eight for Shirley, eight for Keith, eight for Laurie, eight for Danny, and so on and so forth until there are just one of each. Wait a sec, where's Chris and Tracey? Oh well...

We went to New York, Orlando, Minneapolis, and LA to find the best amateur talent that American Idol hasn't yet shown up. Among them, an all-American mom, a pop-star teenager, a younger mousy sister, and a little stuck-up brat. And speaking of which, guiding us on this initial whirlwind tour on the familiar bus is Danny Bonnaduce, once-and-future Danny Partridge. The audition phase attracted mothers and sons, as well as the occasional sibling rivalries. For example: Ben and Jonathan Cohen, Dannys #542 and #541.

Before we cast any partridges in this pear tree, first, a history lesson for those who missed that episode of Behind the Music. "The Partridge Family" was an instant hit for ABC back in 1970. The story of a widowed mom, her music-making kids, and their tricked-out schoolbus is old hat by now, especially given the fact that their story was loosely based on the Cowsills, a real traveling family of musicians. Unlike the Cowsills, though, the Partridges were just a front for Shirley, David, some professional musicians, and... well, we in the biz like to call it "studio magic". Initially a showcase for the Tony-award winning Shirley Jones, her own stepson pretty much (and we do mean that... literally) stole the spotlight and the hearts of young impressionable girls everywhere.

But fastforward three decades and you'll see that the look is very much a part of Partridge folklore, as so many auditioners can attest to. From Shirley's bob and... well, bobbing, to Laurie's plain Jane brunette locks, to Keith's shag baby... Very authentic, and that's what we're looking for, per Shirley herself. They're looking for singers, actors, musicians, basically the whole package.

But of course, who's the judge what's the whole package than.. judges, yay! We have executive producers Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein, whose credits include "The Simpsons" (hopes start out a bit high there), casting director Mary Jo Slater, and Grammy-award-winning record producer Tim Palmer, who's worked with everyone from U2 to Ozzy Osbourne. According to them (and Danny), to be a Partridge, you have to sing, act, and look the part. So someone like me, a shaven-bald Latino man... No chance.

Choreographer Carrie Ann Inaba guides our hopefuls through the audition process... and so far, it looks like it ain't working. Only a handful can make it through "Joy to the World" without me saying "Oy." As for "Ain't No Mountain High Enough", #72's a lock.

Tim Palmer... did they purposefully go for a British guy or was it just a coincidence... notes that the screen test went over "like the Captain Kirk School of Acting." We'll just see how bad they went over when we slot in the eight Keiths. Some facts to take in: David Cassidy was the top-selling rock star of 1972 and women loved him. That's pretty much it. He was basically the triple-threat before there was a triple-threat. He sang, he played the guitar, and he can act. Oh yeah, and he's a little bit lost... up here.

Lucais Reilly (143) thinks he's sexier than David Cassidy. Jonathan Redford (956) used to sell shoes at Nordstrom. Unfortunately, he may yet be back at Nordstrom after singing a horrid "Crocodile Rock". Paul Carpenter (1) may have it a bit nailed. But first, he'll have to deal a hard blow of reality (TV) to our resident Edgar Nova wannabe. Michael Lee Ponton (62) doesn't think he's THAT sexy, but he can fake it on TV. Bill says that he has a "John Cusack-y quality that (he) really likes. However, he's nothing like Keith Partridge." Leland Grant (887) may have an edge in the teen angst department, as he was adopted, and his biological mother is auditioning for Shirley. Unfortunately, unlike David, Leland can't sing. But who can? It's time to meet the Keiths:

David Petruzzi; Minneapolis
Sutter Zachman; Punta Del Mar, CA
Leland Grant; Norfolk, VA
Lucais Reilly; Pittsburgh
Jonathan Redford; Orange County
Teddy Geiger; Rochester, NY
James Snyder; Sacramento, CA
Paul Carpenter; Miami

Next, the Lauries. Of course, we won't hear what Susan Dey had to say about her, because last I heard, she wrote off the show. A very beautiful, very innocent, very skinny girl next door-type. Basically stood at the piano and looked pretty. And she was into the boys. Yeah, typical teenage girl with the braintrust of the ages.

Unfortunately, Laurie wasn't known for singing, as are everyone, with the exception of maybe Alana Allen (568). And those who did sound good only sounded good for a high school production, but perhaps I'm being a bit picky on young Crystal Dawn (37). Chloe Dolandis (57) started singing in a wedding band, and she says she can emphasize with Laurie, being second oldest and second-banana. Will second be first for these eight Lauries?

Emily Stone; Phoenix
Rachel Kimsey; Utah
Allison Considine; Dallas, PA
Alana Allen; New York City
Alison Miller; Tallahassee, FL
Christina Grace; Langley, VA
Essie Shure; Chicago
Alexis Merte; Ann Arbor, MI

So now we go to the Shirleys, the iconic anti-TV-mom. Supportive, firm, tough, and cool and bubbly under pressure. At the same time, she was a single mom. And the single mom is on the updated bus getting a look at the pretenders to the throne that is Partridge. Among them, the bubbly Mary Kay Twargowski (829), the cool Sandra Miller (847), the tough (looking) Susie Westerlund-Pizzi (731), and... a transvestite?

Cathy Merkel-Roddy (74) is looking to bank on her experience as a street performer at the Universal Theatre in Orlando. She was Betty Rubble. She could sing. Cathie Dakel (130).... couldn't. She was cut the first day. But she came back to the next-day callbacks anyway. KP escorts her out, but not without a self-delusional moment: "You called me back in my dreams." Yeah. Oh, by the way, you remember Leland Grant from earlier? Well Krissy Todd (21) is his biological mother. And it looks (and sounds) like we may have a reunion in the works. Especially given the casino showboat competition. Let's have the Shirleys out, please.

Mary Kay Twargowski; Pittsburgh
Krissy Todd; Oviedo, FL
Dee Nelson; Boston
Lisa Arnold; Leesburg, GA
Julie Wittner; Los Angeles
Judy Guinosso; Souderton, PA
Suzanne Sole; Chicago
Gabrielle Wagner; Los Angeles

And finally, we have Danny with... the Dannys. He was basically Bart Simpson before Bart Simpson was Bart Simpson. Danny was basically mature for his age in both wisdom and wise-ass-dom.

Well, Keaton Savage (902) has the wise-ass-dom part done up right (or is that just his mohawk). Michael Celentano (552) calls Danny his idol. He was literally floored when Danny shook his hand (and he has the bruise to prove it!). Clayton Griffin (23) recalls stink bombs. Another miscreant in the making. Matt Vrchota's (626) trip to the Partridge Family audition sounds more like a course in the Amazing Race: "It took five flights, 14 hours of travel, and three days sleeping in the airport." But the dead-ringer award goes to Matthew Chase (617). Best singer of the lot: Alexander Oyen (76). Most "WTF" from the crowd: the way-too-tall-to-be-12 Peabo Powell (18). But it takes more than a smart mouth, a mop-top, and a golden voice to take the mantle of Danny Bonnaduce to VH1. Here are the eight finalists.

Spencer Tuskowski; Plover, WI
Matt Vrchota; Southern Pines, NC (not too far from here)
Peabo Powell; Dalton, GA
Keaton Savage; Burbank, CA
Clayton Griffin; Lake Park, GA
Chris Farach; Miami
Alexander Oyen; Orlando
Blayze Dawson; Simi Valley, CA

That's it for Michael, as he does his pratfall out of here. And so will we, as next week David Cassidy will try to crown his successor in the Battle of the Keiths. Basically put, if you wanna be the man, you have to beat the man.

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