Saturday, November 24, 2012

Reuben Kincaid: Television’s Worst Manager

 My age was still in the single digits when The Partridge Family debuted in 1970, and it remains one of my favorite shows to revisit on DVD. But even as a kid I questioned the managerial prowess of Reuben Kincaid. 

In the series’ first episode, the Partridge Family is introduced by music icon Johnny Cash, and headline Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. I’ve lived in the Las Vegas area since 1982 – you don’t play the Circus Maximus unless you’ve already made the big time.

So I assume viewers expected to then discover how this family from San Pueblo became major pop music stars. But no – one minute Shirley is working in a bank, and by the end of the show she’s standing on the same stage made famous by Sinatra, Ann-Margret and Diana Ross. 

Okay, so the show must be about what it’s like to be nationally famous recording artists, while also maintaining some semblance of a family life. But if that were the case, why did the Partridges spend the next four years playing tiny supper clubs and town picnics where the tickets were probably free? Why would a group that was charting a steady stream of top 40 hits have to fight for bookings at condemned fire stations and Girl Scout jamborees?

Of course, the real reason for the scale of their concert appearances is that Screen Gems wasn’t about to rent an arena and hire 20,000 extras for a three-minute performance in each episode. These are the moments that, as a classic TV fan, we are just meant to accept and move on.

Normally I’m not a nitpicker, and I don’t have much affection for those who gleefully expose continuity glitches. Star Trek fans are particularly obsessed with demonstrating their keen insight and powers of observation, some to the point that I wonder why they bother to watch at all.

But with The Partridge Family, the show seemed to want to have it both ways, and that couldn’t help but be confusing to even less discriminating viewers. Were they a local act that just made the rounds in Southern California? Well, no, because they got booked on that European tour in the first season. But if they were that successful, why play the kinds of dinner theaters where you expect to find Charo appearing in Hello, Dolly?

So clearly, Reuben was the kind of manager who would lure The Rockettes away from Radio City Music Hall and send them on a tour of supermarket grand openings. But that was not his only sin. Once he booked the Partridge Family into yet another Holiday Inn lounge, he permitted them to lip-synch a live performance for a paying audience. Watch almost any rerun and you’ll see them taking their bows while the voices and instruments are still fading out. This type of deception would later be adopted by Milli Vanilli, Britney Spears and Ashlee Simpson, among many others. That is not the way for a band to become trendsetters.

Here’s The Partridge Family with one of my favorite songs, “Summer Days.” It looked like the 50-60 people in attendance enjoyed it as well. 

1 comment:

  1. RIP, Dave Madden. I enjoyed reading his bio, "Reuben on Wry", and even he realized what a lousy manager Reuben was.