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
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
Release
Original network ABC (1991–1997),
CBS (1997–1998)
Picture format 480i (SDTV)
Original release September 20, 1991 – June 26, 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 John Thomas (who went by the nickname J.T.), Brendan and daughter Alicia (who went by the nickname, Al, in accordance to her tomboyish personality) – and Carol Foster, a divorced beautician who also has three children – daughters Dana and Karen, and son Mark – both of whom resided in Port Washington with their children, 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 between him and Carol 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 1994–95 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 J.T. and the family after becoming Dana's boyfriend. Meanwhile J.T. meets the woman of his dreams Samantha (known as Sam) and they date off and on for seasons six and seven. Also in season six Carol gets a partner, Jean-Luc Rieupeyroux, at her hair salon. In season seven son Brendan is written out of the show as is Jean-Luc.

Characters[edit]

Cast of Step by Step (seasons 2–5)

Foster family[edit]

  • Carol Foster-Lambert (née Williams) (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 as an in-law). She and J.T. generally do not get along.
  • Karen Foster (Angela Watson) – Karen is the middle child 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 into computers and academics.

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 laidback 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 four 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. Actor Josh Byrne appeared on television series Who's The Boss? and The Family Man.[1] He portrays the younger version of Billy Crystal's character in Mr. Saturday Night, which also features Jason Marsden, who later appears in later run of the series.
  • 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,[2][3][4] charges which were later dropped and he was cleared of wrongdoing. Cody returned as a guest star for one episode in season seven.

Others[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 Meyering and Kristina Meyering; seasons 4–5), (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 after the character is SORASed. For her age she is very smart and is always asking questions of everyone.
  • Rich Halke (Jason Marsden; 1 appearance in season 3, seasons 5–7) – 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. His one appearance in season 3 he plays a guy named Doug.
  • Jake "Flash" Gordon (Jeff Juday; season 5) – Flash (only appears in 4 episodes) is a goofy, but well-meaning handyman hired by Frank towards the end of the fifth season. Flash joined the family on their trip to Walt Disney World, where he attempted to visit every attraction in the park. At the very end of season, Frank and Carol invited Flash to move in with them, which he accepted. Afterwards, Flash was never mentioned again. According to Jeff Juday, the character was written in as a replacement for Sasha Mitchell's Cody.[5] The following season, Flash was replaced by Jean-Luc.
  • 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 Bronson 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).
  • Samantha "Sam" Milano (Alexandra Adi; seasons 6–7) – Sam is J.T.'s one-time girlfriend, who was introduced in the season six episode "The "L" Word" at the very end of the episode. She and J.T. date off and on for 2 seasons. She worked as a mechanic in a garage.

Episodes[edit]

Season Episodes Originally aired
First aired Last aired Network
1 22 September 20, 1991 April 24, 1992 ABC
2 24 September 18, 1992 May 21, 1993
3 23 September 24, 1993 May 20, 1994
4 24 September 23, 1994 May 19, 1995
5 24 September 22, 1995 May 17, 1996
6 24 March 7, 1997 August 15, 1997
7 19 September 19, 1997 June 26, 1998 CBS

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.[6] The series was produced by Bickley-Warren Productions, Miller-Boyett Productions and Lorimar Television (the latter producing the show from 1991 to 1993, when Warner Bros. Television assumed production responsibilities for Step by Step and Lorimar's other television series after shared corporate parent Time Warner consolidated the two production companies). 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, playing characters with no familial relation (Keanan – who played Lindsay Bowen, the teenage neighbor of the show's adult characters – as a series regular, Castile as a recurring character). Keanan was the first of the two Going Places stars to be cast on 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. In a similar instance of hiring actors over from their other TV series, the producers also cast Josh Byrne as Brendan Lambert on Step By Step, after he had just finished a supporting role as Patrick Kozak on Miller-Boyett's single-season CBS sitcom The Family Man.

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 Step By Step as co-executive producers and members of its writing staff until the show's fifth season; Adler and Griffard later wrote an additional episode of the show 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 chose to delay the show's fifth season to the 1996–97 mid-season (premiering in March 1997), in order to make room on that season's fall schedule for freshman sitcoms Sabrina the Teenage Witch and Clueless, which joined established series Family Matters and Boy Meets World on the TGIF lineup; the network canceled Step By Step after six seasons in May 1997, due to declining ratings. CBS concurrently reached a deal with Miller-Boyett Productions to acquire the rights to Step by Step and Family Matters from ABC, as that network attempted to build its own Friday night lineup of family-friendly situation comedies for the fall of 1997, called the "CBS Block Party".[7] The show's ratings, which had been declining for several seasons, continued to erode, and the show ended its run in June 1998. Step by Step ended without an official series finale, although the series' last episode centered on Frank and Carol considering selling the house.

Theme song and title sequence[edit]

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), and was performed by Frederick and Teresa James. The full 87-second version of the theme was only used during the series' first season. The song was routinely edited over the following three seasons to allow additional time for scenes: the fourth verse was removed and the chorus was truncated in the season two edit, the kid chorus accompanying Jesse Frederick during the chorus' lyrics was removed in the version used during the third season, and the edit heard during most of season four and the entire fifth season (which lasted for only 65 seconds) eliminated the electric guitar/drum/symphonic instrumental at the beginning of the song.

The theme and title sequence were dropped entirely for the sixth season, relegating the credits for the show's main cast and principal producers to appearing over each episode's cold open (which was preceded for the final two seasons by an abbreviated opening bumper featuring the Lambert-Fosters applauding as Lilly blows out the candles on her birthday cake). The theme was brought back for its seventh and final season, upon the show's move from ABC to CBS, although it was edited down to include only the chorus and the theme's closing instrumental flourish (restoring the original longer symphonic instrumental heard in the original long version, and the edits used for seasons two and three).

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.

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. On March 26, 2010, ABC Family's contract expired after less than nine years.[8]

The series returned to U.S. syndication on October 7, 2013, when the Hub Network began airing reruns of the series;[9] the network dropped the show on October 12, 2014 as part of a change in the network's focus.

In Australia, Step by Step aired on the Seven Network from 1991 to 1994 and on the Nine Network from 1994 to 2004. In 2011, Step by Step was acquired by 7TWO in 2015, 111 Greats will show it from 2 March 2015.[citation needed]

DVD releases[edit]

Warner Home Video released a six-episode Television Favorites collection on DVD on June 27, 2006.[10] 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.

Reception[edit]

Reviewing the pilot episode, Jean Rosenbluth of Variety wrote that, despite being an unoriginal clone of The Brady Bunch, it is a "modestly amusing, occasionally heartwarming show".[11]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Dabnam, Betty (18 December 1993). "Meet Josh Byrne". The Bryan Times. Retrieved 7 December 2010. 
  2. ^ "Sitcom Star Pleads Not Guilty in Spousal Assault : Courts: Sasha Mitchell of 'Step by Step' is charged with three new misdemeanor counts in alleged beating. Attorney says police fabricated case.". Los Angeles Times. 
  3. ^ Arrest Warrant Issued for Actor Sasha Mitchell
  4. ^ Jake Jarmell. "Shocking! An Interview with Cody Lambert". oocities.org. 
  5. ^ Michael Portantiere (July 23, 2001). "Just Jeff – Theater News – Jul 23, 2001". theatermania. 
  6. ^ "Step by Step Review - TV Reviews and News - EW.com". EW.com. 
  7. ^ Hal Boedeker (July 18, 1997). "He's A Goober But CBS Has A Lot Riding On Urkel TV". Orlando Sentinel. Tribune Publishing. Retrieved April 12, 2017. 
  8. ^ Step by Step Leaving ABC Family After 9 Years; ABC Family March 2010, Sitcoms Online, February 10, 2010.
  9. ^ "'Step by Step' to Premiere October 7 on the Hub" (Press release). Hub Network. September 6, 2013. Retrieved August 22, 2016 – via TV By The Numbers. 
  10. ^ "Step by Step (Television Favorites Compilation) (1991)". amazon.com. Retrieved 2008-10-20. 
  11. ^ Rosenbluth, Jean (1994). Variety TV REV 1991–92 17. Taylor & Francis. September 20, 1991. ISBN 9780824037963. 

External links[edit]