this under what were they thinking, or more accurately, why
weren’t they thinking enough? Tabitha is undercooked through and
through, with a half-assed premise and an ever-weakening attempt to
recapture old magic.
idea itself is brimming with promise: take Samantha and Darren’s children
from Bewitched, move them to ‘70s LA, and see what they can conjure
up. Even better, give it a Mary-Tyler-Moore-Show vibe, with
Tabitha toiling like a mortal as a production assistant at a local TV
station. She even gets put to the test, having to tolerate the
Ted-Baxter-like on-air personality and egomaniac (played well by Robert
Urich, the only good thing in the series).
Though in human years, Tabitha should only be a pre-teen by this time, we’ll
look the other way and accept the fact that she is a comely young adult,
barely out of college, and played the best way she knows how by Lisa
Hartman. Though likable enough, Hartman is no Elizabeth Montgomery;
Hartman’s nose twitching looks more like sinus congestion than hocus-pocus.
her mother, Tabitha chooses to live in the workaday world, rather than enjoy
the benefits of witchcraft and thinking outside the box. We’re asked to
admire this as noble, but we only find it disappointingly boring.
Still, we know she’s a happy camper, because in the opening credits she
tosses her graduation cap into the air and also hugs the hood of her
brother, Adam (David Ankrum), does not come into the magical talents of his mother, but
does inherit the sour-pussiness of his father(s). He’s uptight in an unfunny
way – the polar opposite of the purpose of the Darren role. Ultimately,
having a brother reminding his sister of the golden rule of “no witchcraft”
makes even less sense than a husband badgering his wife about it. As the
brief series lumbers on, Adam has less and less to do, until he himself
practically disappears. Some trick.
pizzazz, we are asked to find the kids’ Aunt Minerva adorable and
irrepressible, but she’s ultimately annoying and sure to slow down the
already bumbling pace of the series. Although Minerva seems to have
unlimited access to a TV station (her only security ID seems to be that
she’s Tabitha’s aunt, and nobody ever questions why she’s constantly hanging
around her niece’s workplace), she’s not entertainingly intrusive, and we
don’t welcome her unwelcome visits.
Admittedly, she has a hard act to follow. Agnes Moorehead, who played the
witchy antagonist Endora in the original series, had major acting credits, grand dramatic gestures, makeup and costumes going for her. Here, in the
down-to-earth seventies, Karen Morrow plays it like a low-rent Carol Burnett
in a pantsuit, but she’s still no cherished memory.
one instance, Aunt Minerva “freezes” Adam’s friend, and Adam acts as if he
has never seen that trick before. As well, Tabitha seems to be amazed by
witchcraft – when magic makes it snow in LA, Tabitha is as genuinely amazed
as everyone else, not for a moment suspecting that it could be a result of
the dark arts.
“This is incredible,” Tabitha exclaims. “It’s actually snowing!” But
shouldn’t we being saying that, not her?
Unfortunately, because Tabitha is working so hard at being normal, the magic
in the series is small and low-budget, to say the least. Sudden,
trick-photography appearances and disappearances are old hat by this era,
and the plots are too lazy to include much more ambitiously magical
“Minerva,” Tabitha asks her aunt with that trademarked seventies delivery,
“have you been flying too low over the poppy fields of Turkey again?” The
laugh track thrives on this attempt at updatedness, including a girl at “The
Dirty Disco” asking Adam, “Wanna boogie?” and an African-American witch
(Tracey Reed) named Porsche, who identifies herself, like her car/namesake
as “sleek, black and shifty.” In addition, and as some kind of badge of
pride at its contemporary handle, we get references to CB radios, Farrah
Fawcett-Majors, Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman and waterbeds.
what is meant to be hilarious but actually works against the very fabric of
the story, the “witches council” begins pushing “mixed marriages,” after
seeing that Samantha and Darren have been successfully married for
twenty-five years. Don’t worry – these original characters spare us the
humiliation of making an appearance on this short-lived series, but Sandra
Gould and George Tobias, as former-neighbors Gladys and Abner Kravitz, make
a half-hearted attempt to revive their roles on one episode. And Dr. Bombay
(Bernard Fox) does his usual shtick as the loud-talking,
nurse-chasing physician, which successfully stands on its own, even in a
show as bad as this one.
desperately clinging to that easy sitcom shortcut, the bad people are
clearly bad (a sassy ski instructor, a conniving weathergirl, a competitive
witch). There are absolutely no shades of gray, which would have made the
series two-dimensional at least.
original pilot episode stars Liberty Williams as a brunette Tabitha (which
is inherently wrong!), and they don’t even get the title of the series right
(they call it Tabatha, with an a; this is odd, considering it was
produced by the very people who worked on the original series). Also
unforgivable: Adam calls Tabatha his “kid sister,” when she is clearly the
older sibling and everyone in the world knows it, except
for the people producing the show.
lots of eye-rolling, and determined to ape that Mary Tyler Moore Show
formula, Tabatha works as an editorial assistant at a San Francisco
publication, even getting a plain, Rhoda-like girlfriend to comment on the
bizarre happenings. In the spirit of the seventies, everybody is coming out
of the closet: Tabatha confides in her brand-new boyfriend that she is a
witch – unusually casual and careless for a breed of immortals determined to
keep their talents a dark secret, especially from a virtual stranger.
this pilot version, Adam (played by future theatrical
producer Bruce Kimmel here) actually has strong magical powers and is not afraid to use them,
and yet the plot contrivance still doesn’t work. Again, Tabatha is meant to
be the level-headed, “normal” sibling, constantly cleaning up the messes
that Adam causes. And Adam just looks insensitive and careless
(materializing in a cab and confounding the poor cab driver).
we desperately try to understand the yearning of beautiful witches to be
normal, we are at least thankful that this lethargic, uninspired attempt at
revival did not last longer than it could have.
PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: September 4, 2006.