During the 1970s, '80s, and '90s, Patrick Duffy quickly evolved into one of prime time's old standbys for handsome, sturdy, dependable, and reliable leading men. Two key patterns hallmarked the majority of Duffy's career choices: he culled his broadest appeal and most substantial workload on television in lieu of the big screen, and exceedingly rare were those occasions in which he played a villain. In terms of audience recognition, Duffy maintained his strongest ties with two ongoing series roles -- his famous portrayal of Southfork Ranch stalwart Bobby Ewing on the blockbuster CBS prime-time soap Dallas (1978-1991), and a subsequent tenure as Frank Lambert on the ABC "TGIF" Friday-night sitcom Step by Step (1991-1998).
Born born March 17, 1949, in Townsend, MT, as the second child of two saloonkeepers, Duffy grew up in dire poverty. He attended high school in Everett, WA, then attended the actor's training program at the nearby University of Washington, graduating in 1971. The actor relocated to Southern California and began receiving screen credit only a few years after college, initially with roles in telemovies such as the 1976 Last of Mrs. Lincoln and the lead in the short-lived television series Man from Atlantis (as a half-man, half-fish). Dallas, of course, brought Duffy his big break, and as its ratings shot skyward, turning it into not simply the number one program on the air but an international phenomenon, Duffy's character became intertwined with the program's legacy. The series' premise is by now iconic -- it dealt with the Ewing family, a wealthy Texas oil clan with a history rooted in scandal. Its patriarch, John Ross "Jock" Ewing Sr. (Jim Davis), had driven himself into fabulous wealth by cheating his business partner out of a fortune and his one true love, with whom he started a family and launched an entire oil dynasty. Passing on the family torch were three sons: J.R. Ewing (Larry Hagman), the megalomaniacal evil brother; Bobby Ewing (Duffy), the decent and moral brother, who had married the daughter of his father's partner; and the weak-willed Gary (Ted Shackelford), who grappled continually with emotional problems and quickly snagged his own series.
As Bobby, Duffy attained popularity second only to that of co-star Hagman -- popularity that prompted national headlines when Duffy opted to leave the program at the end of the 1984-1985 season. Series producer created and aired a scenario where he was killed by a hit-and-run driver, but the audience demand for Bobby Ewing grew so overwhelming during the following season that -- in an obvious bid to re-boost ratings and extend Dallas' longevity -- Hagman personally summoned Duffy to re-join the series. The writers then reposited the entire 1985-1986 season as the bad dream of Bobby's on-camera wife, Pam (Victoria Principal)! It may have seemed far-fetched to many, but as an attempt to bring the actor back to the program and draw a larger audience, it worked like a charm.
Not long after Dallas finally wrapped in May 1991, Duffy turned up on ABC's aforementioned Step by Step, a kind of unofficial update of The Brady Bunch; he played Frank Lambert, a divorced Wisconsin contractor with several kids who impulsively married a widowed beautician (Suzanne Somers) with several tykes of her own. Episodes dealt with the complications wrought when the two clans moved under the same roof together. As produced by William Bickley and Michael Warren, that program also connected with a large audience. It folded in 1998.
Duffy acted in several Dallas telemovies during Step by Step's run, and then ushered in guest roles on numerous additional series, including Touched by an Angel, Justice League, and Family Guy. Additional made-for-television feature credits in the late '90s and early to mid-2000s included such outings as Heart of Fire (1997), Don't Look Behind You (1998), Desolation Canyon (2006), and Falling in Love with the Girl Next Door (2006). Duffy landed another series assignment in 2006 with an ongoing role -- that of Stephen Logan Sr. -- on the CBS daytime drama The Bold and the Beautiful.