Step by Step (TV series)

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Step by Step
StepByStepOpening.jpg
Genre Family sitcom
Created by William Bickley
Michael Warren
Developed by Thomas L. Miller
Robert L. Boyett
Starring Patrick Duffy
Suzanne Somers
Staci Keanan
Brandon Call
Patrika Darbo
Angela Watson
Christine Lakin
Christopher Castile
Josh Byrne
Peggy Rea
Sasha Mitchell
Jason Marsden
Bronson Pinchot
Emily Mae Young
Theme music composer Jesse Frederick
& Bennett Salvay
Opening theme "Second Time Around",
performed by Jesse Frederick and Teresa James
Ending theme "Second Time Around" (instrumental)
(season 1, used sporadically afterwards)
Composer(s) Jesse Frederick &
Bennett Salvay (both; seasons 1–2)
Gary Boren (seasons 3–5)
Steven Chesne (seasons 3–7)
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 7
No. of episodes 160 (List of episodes)
Production
Executive producer(s) Thomas L. Miller
Robert L. Boyett
William Bickley
Michael Warren
Alan Eisenstock & Larry Mintz (season 1)
Ross Brown (seasons 2–7)
Bob Rosenfarb (seasons 6–7)
Location(s) Sony Pictures Studios
Culver City, California (1991-1993)
Warner Bros. Studios,
Burbank, California (1993-1998)
Camera setup Film; Multi-camera
Running time Approx. 23 minutes (per episode)
Production company(s) Bickley-Warren Productions
Miller-Boyett Productions
Lorimar Television (1991–1993)
Warner Bros. Television
(1993–1998)
Distributor Warner Bros. Television Distribution
Broadcast
Original channel ABC (1991–1997),
CBS (1997–1998)
Picture format 480i (SDTV)
Original run 20 September 1991 – 26 June 1998

Step by Step is an American television sitcom that aired for seven seasons, originally running on ABC as part of its TGIF Friday night lineup from September 20, 1991, to August 15, 1997, and then moved to CBS where it aired from September 19, 1997 to June 26, 1998. The series starred Patrick Duffy and Suzanne Somers as two single parents (each with three children), who spontaneously get married after meeting one another during a vacation, resulting in the two of them becoming the heads of a large blended family.

Premise[edit]

Set in a substantially fictionalized version of the city of Port Washington, Wisconsin, the series begins with Frank Lambert, a divorced contractor with three children – sons J.T. and Brendan and daughter Al – and Carol Foster, a widowed beautician who also has three children – daughters Dana and Karen and son Mark – who were residents of Port Washington, but met while vacationing separately in Jamaica, where they impulsively get married after a whirlwind courtship. Their children are surprised and angered when they learn of the marriage, after Frank accidentally blurts out what was supposed to be a secret to J.T. when he makes a snide remark about Carol at a barbecue to introduce each other's children to one another. Stories in each episode depicted typical situations of a new blended family, and their differences causing arguments and resentments between them, over time though the family eventually grew to tolerate and develop loyalty to one another.

During the series' seven-season run, the main cast changed as the storyline progressed. Frank's nephew Cody Lambert was introduced early in the first season as a recurring character (becoming a series regular in season two) and lived in his van in the family's driveway; he then left the series in 1996. In the 1994–1995 season finale, Carol gave birth to a daughter named Lilly. Like many other sitcom babies, Lilly was suddenly aged five years in the sixth season, after having spent the entire fifth season depicted as a baby. In the show's sixth season, J.T.'s friend Rich Halke moved in with the family after becoming Dana's boyfriend.

Cast[edit]

Cast of Step by Step (seasons 2–5)

Foster family[edit]

  • Carol Foster-Lambert (née Baker) (Suzanne Somers) – the matriarch of the Foster family, who works as a beautician and runs a hair salon out of a room in her home (which is located next to the kitchen), originally with the cooperation of her mother Ivy and her sister Penny. Eventually, with Frank's help, she opens a bigger studio at a stand-alone location in the show's sixth season.
  • Dana Foster (Staci Keanan) – Dana is Carol's eldest daughter, who is depicted as a smart, wisecracking feminist. She is often seen being openly hostile to the Lamberts, particularly J.T., (with whom she frequently trades barbs regarding his hormonal tendencies with girls, his lack of intelligence and his poor hygiene), Frank (due partly to his perceived "caveman" behavior), and Cody (who has an unrequited crush on Dana, despite being technically related to her). J.T. and her normally do not get along.
  • Karen Foster (Angela Watson) – Karen is the second-oldest daughter of the Foster family. She is an aspiring model and sometimes a country singer, and is portrayed as vain and not very bright, but with frequent moments of level-headedness.
  • Mark Foster (Christopher Castile) – Carol's only son and the youngest child in the family, who is depicted as a nerd, and is into computers and academics. Later on, he matures to be "a normal teenager" and has friends and a girlfriend, while still a high academic achiever.

Lambert family[edit]

  • Frank Lambert (Patrick Duffy) – Frank is the patriarch of the Lambert family, and works as a contractor with his own company. He is laid-back and an avid sports fan, particularly of the Green Bay Packers.
  • John Thomas "J.T." Lambert (Brandon Call) – J.T. is Frank's eldest son and the oldest child in the family; he is depicted as a slacker, is into sports (like his father, J.T. is a Packers fan), and is portrayed as academically challenged, which is later attributed to dyslexia. He resents his new step-family members, particularly Dana, whom he often calls "Barky" and also trades other various insults at her expense.
  • Alicia "Al" Lambert (Christine Lakin) – Al is Frank's only daughter, who is depicted as a tomboyish all-American girl, who later matured and softened. She is typically addressed by her nickname, the more masculine name "Al", and is rarely referred to as "Alicia". Several episodes during the seventh and final season centered on her newfound interest in acting. She is openly hostile towards Dana, Karen and Mark.
  • Brendan Lambert (Josh Byrne) – Brendan is the youngest of Frank's three children, who is portrayed as a shy, carefree youngster, and one of the most accepting of his new family. Brendan appeared less and less as the show progressed, especially after Lilly was introduced in the season five episode "A Foster/Lambert Production". When the show moved from ABC to CBS, the character was written out of the series; the series' producers later admitted in a TV Guide interview that despite his absence, the Lamberts would still refer to their "seven children", making Brendan an unseen character for the final season.[citation needed]
  • Cody Lambert (Sasha Mitchell) – Frank's nephew, who appears as a recurring cast member in season one, then is upgraded to a regular character in season two. Sporting a crew cut and a Valley teen accent and vocabulary (such Valley-isms as "dude" and "cheesed off"), Cody often shows maturity and intelligence belying his dimwitted nature. Cody lived in his van in the driveway. Cody was written out of the series after the show's fifth season after legal problems that began with Mitchell's 1995 arrest on accusations of domestic violence by his first wife Jeannette Robbins,[1][2][3] charges which were later dropped and he was cleared of wrongdoing. Cody returned as a guest star for one episode in season seven.

Other cast members[edit]

  • Penny Baker (Patrika Darbo; season 1) - Carol's man-hungry younger sister; the character is written out of the series after season one.
  • Ivy Baker (Peggy Rea; season 1) - Carol's outspoken mother; the character is written out of the series after season one.
  • Lilly Foster-Lambert (Lauren and Kristina Meyering; season 5, Emily Mae Young; seasons 6–7) – Lilly is Frank and Carol's biological child, who is introduced in the season four episode "A Foster/Lambert Production". Originally depicted as a baby, Lilly's age is retconned to 5-years-old in the show's sixth season.
  • Rich Halke (Jason Marsden; appearance in season 5, seasons 6–7) – Rich is J.T.'s best friend. He is depicted as being both a slacker and a seriously devoted person. He later began dating Dana (to the others' dismay) in the sixth season. The character was named after Richard P. Halke, who served a member of the series' writing staff from seasons one through three, and served as a story editor during the third season.
  • Samantha "Sam" Milano (Alexandra Adi; seasons 6–7) – Sam is J.T.'s one-time girlfriend, who was introduced in the season six episode "She's the One". She worked as a mechanic in a garage.
  • Jean-Luc Rieupeyroux (Bronson Pinchot; season 6) – Jean-Luc is a male beautician, and serves as Carol's business partner. He was brought in to take the place of Sasha Mitchell's character on the series, but disappeared when Pinchot took the title role in the short-lived CBS sitcom Meego (which aired alongside Step by Step when the latter moved to CBS for its seventh season in 1997).

Episodes[edit]

Season Episodes First air date Last air date Nielsen ranking
Season 1 22 September 20, 1991 April 24, 1992 #36
Season 2 24 September 18, 1992 May 21, 1993 #35
Season 3 23 September 24, 1993 May 20, 1994 #34[4]
Season 4 24 September 23, 1994 May 19, 1995 #39[5]
Season 5 24 September 22, 1995 May 17, 1996 #54[6]
Season 6 24 March 7, 1997 August 15, 1997 #61[7]
Season 7 19 September 19, 1997 June 26, 1998 #102[8]

Production[edit]

The series was created and executive produced by William Bickley and Michael Warren, and developed and executive produced by Thomas L. Miller and Robert L. Boyett.[9] The series was produced by Bickley-Warren Productions, Miller-Boyett Productions and Lorimar Television (the latter producing the show from 1991 to 1993, when the show became produced by Warner Bros. Television after it absorbed Lorimar). The casting of Patrick Duffy fulfilled a contractual obligation that Lorimar made to give him a new show after his previous series, the 1978-1991 serial drama Dallas (which was also produced by Lorimar), had ended its run. The show was created off of the idea of combining two of the most popular television stars from the 1970s known for their good looks (Duffy and Somers) to star as parents to attract adult viewers, with current teen celebrities (Keanan from My Two Dads and Going Places, Call from Baywatch and Mitchell from Dallas) to star as their children to attract children and teen viewers.

Staci Keanan and Christopher Castile had previously appeared on the Miller-Boyett-produced ABC sitcom Going Places, which debuted the season prior to Step By Step (Keanan as a series regular, Castile as a recurring character). Keanan was the first of the two Going Places stars to be cast in Step By Step in the spring of 1991. Castile, who had played gawky child Sam Roberts on Going Places, brought the same character traits to the Mark Foster role, which was speculated to be Miller-Boyett's continued attempt to give the Family Matters character Steve Urkel a white counterpart.

When Step By Step was casting its characters, child actor Jarrett Lennon originally landed the role of Mark Foster. Lennon had been chosen by the producers after guest starring in the last original episode of the Miller-Boyett series The Hogan Family, which was produced in late 1990. After shooting the original (unaired) pilot for Step By Step, Lennon was dismissed from the role of Mark, and the producers later replaced him with Castile (who had blonde hair like on-screen mother Somers, as opposed to Lennon having brown hair). Most of Lennon's pilot scenes were reshot with Castile, but during Step By Step's first season, footage of Lennon remained in the show's opening title sequence. Lennon only appeared in wide shots with the Lambert/Foster family or, in the case of Suzanne Somers' credit scene, fleetingly appearing at the bottom of camera view as the kids huddled around Somers. All traces of Lennon were edited out by the second season. In 1996, these two actors had the tables turned on each other; Castile served as the original voice of Eugene Horowitz on the Nickelodeon animated series Hey Arnold!, but after a few episodes was replaced by Lennon, who voiced Eugene for the remainder of the show's first season.

Going Places creators Robert Griffard and Howard Adler would end up employed with the show as co-executive producers and members of its writing staff until the fifth season of Step By Step; Adler and Griffard later wrote an episode as freelancers in the seventh season. Patrick Duffy directed several episodes of the series, starting with the second season. The house shown in establishing shots for scenes set at the Lambert-Foster home is located at 2011 Fletcher Avenue in South Pasadena, California, although the series was actually filmed at Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank, California.

ABC canceled the series after six seasons in 1997, reportedly due to declining ratings; the network had delayed the show's fifth season to mid-season (premiering in March 1997) due to other series being scheduled as part of the TGIF lineup for the 1996-97 season. Along with Family Matters, Step By Step moved to CBS in the fall of 1997, as that network attempted to build its own Friday night lineup of family-friendly situation comedies called the "CBS Block Party". The show's ratings, which had been declining for several seasons, continued to fall, and the show ended its run in June 1998. Step by Step had no official series finale, although the series' last episode centered on Frank and Carol considering selling the house.

The show's theme song "Second Time Around" was written and composed by Jesse Frederick and Bennett Salvay (both of whom wrote the themes for other sitcoms produced by Miller-Boyett Productions such as Full House, Perfect Strangers and Family Matters); the theme was performed by Frederick and Teresa James. Only the first season of the series used the full 87-second version of the theme, with the song becoming progressively shorter during the subsequent seasons until it was reduced to 65 seconds during the fourth season. The season two edit of the theme removed the fourth verse and truncated the chorus, the kid chorus accompanying Jesse Frederick was cut by the third season, followed by season four with the removal of the electric guitar riff at the beginning of the song. The theme was dropped entirely for the sixth season, although it was restored upon the show's move from ABC to CBS for its seventh and final season in the form of an edited version that included only the chorus and the instrumental portion at the end of the theme (restoring the original longer symphonic instrumental heard in the original long version and the season two and three edits).

The amusement park seen in the opening credits is depicted as being located along the shores of Lake Michigan in Wisconsin (no amusement park exists that is located on the shores of this lake in Wisconsin). The amusement park used is actually Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia, California, located miles inland from the Pacific Ocean. The body of water depicted in the opening and closing credit sequences (the latter being seen on in season one) located next to the rollercoaster at the park – which is digitally inserted into that particular excerpt – is placed over what in actuality is the parking lot of Six Flags Magic Mountain.

Syndication[edit]

In September 1995, Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution began distributing Step by Step for broadcast in off-network syndication.

In the United States, ABC Family was the first to acquire cable television rights to the series, and it became one of the cable channel's longest-running off-network syndicated programs in its history. Reruns began airing on the channel in 2001 (on what was then known as Fox Family), airing in various timeslots during its run ranging from late afternoon to the morning hours. For much of its run on the channel, Step by Step aired twice daily in an hour-long block, but by early 2009, weekday reruns had been reduced to a single airing on weekdays (at 9 a.m. Eastern Time, as the lead in to the CBN-produced Living the Life). However, for several months afterward, episodes continued to be double-run on weekend mornings until September 2009, when it was replaced by Sabrina, the Teenage Witch and family-oriented movies. On March 26, 2010, ABC Family's contract expired after less than nine years, and Step by Step was replaced by Grounded for Life in its 9 a.m. Eastern weekday timeslot).[10]

Throughout its run on ABC Family, the tag scene of each episode (as well as the generic credit sequences used in the season one episodes) was generally omitted, replaced by marginalized credits to allow the airing of promos for ABC Family programs, even though the shorter instrumental version of the show's theme was heard over the closing credits for all episodes only during the first season and most episodes from season two onward replaced the instrumental theme with an additional scene over the closing credits.

The series returned to U.S. syndication after a two-year absence on October 7, 2013, when the Hub Network began airing reruns of the series. In Australia, Step by Step aired on the Seven Network from 1991 to 1998. In 2012, Step by Step was acquired by 7TWO in Australia.

DVD releases[edit]

Warner Home Video released a six-episode Television Favorites collection on DVD on June 27, 2006.[11] Much like other television shows from the Television Favorites series, the Step by Step edition has gone out of print. There are no current plans by Warner Home Video, Shout! Factory or Mill Creek Entertainment for complete season releases. Episodes of the series are also not currently available on iTunes, Hulu or at wbshop.com at this time.

References[edit]

External links[edit]