Bewitched has often been imitated but never successfully duplicated (thank goodness!). Here's a bit of the history behind the related shows which have come & gone since Bewitched ended in 1972.
After Bewitched ended, 1973 brought us a Saturday morning special (airing once) from Hanna Barbara entitled "Tabitha and Adam and the Clown Family", which had the 2 Stephens kids singing in the circus (huh?).
This was apparently aimed at the younger fans of Bewitched. Neither the Murphy girls' nor the Lawrence boys' voices were used for this show. Click the photo to hear the theme song.
In 1975 (correct me if this date is wrong) William Asher helped do the pilot of a show called "Tabatha" (spelled with an "a"), which starred Liberty Williams and aired once. It was not picked up by ABC. A fan (Sean AKA Yaudit) saw this episode at the UCLA Film Archive Library and described it as follows:
"In this pilot, Tabatha lived in San Francisco, seemed closer to 30, and wanted to avoid using her powers and live a mortal existence. Adam, on the other hand was a full fledged warlock trying to get Tabatha to give up this dreary mortal life and become a swinging full time witch. Tabatha had a new mortal neighbor/friend that just moved in to the building and gets dazzled by the broken vase reassembly "aka end of Bwtchd eps #201" and this friend seems to be fiendishly stalked by Adam at one point. Tabatha had a love interest in this pilot, (can't remember the name) who did not know she was a witch. The pilot centers on her contemplating to tell her boyfriend she's a witch. She finally tells him and this scene is almost a complete word for word copy of the Samantha/Darrin confession scene of episode #1 where Sam tells Darrin she's a witch. The magic effects, sights, and sounds are mid 70's cheesy and disappointing. No mention is made of Samantha/Mom or Darrin/Dad and no other relatives are present or mentioned. A few gay references are tossed around for location sake. Definitely no sparkle in the eye of this pilot. William Asher or another former producer/director was credited and it was produced by Ashmont (Last Bewitched season production co)."
A few years later in 1977, they again attempted a Bewitched spinoff called "Tabitha" which WAS sold to ABC. A few other people who wrote or worked on Bewitched in some way were involved with the Tabitha series, and much of the crew such as make-up was the same. Elizabeth Montgomery and Dick Sargent were not involved. Unfortunately, Erin & Diane Murphy were also not involved in the show since they were only young teens at the time and the show focused on a 22 year old young professional who worked as a Production Assistant at TV station KXLA on the Paul Thurston Show (Paul was Tabitha's romantic interest). This time, Tabitha ended up being played by Lisa Hartman (Susan Dey of Partridge Family fame was asked to play the role, but she turned it down - a brunette Tabitha??? I don't think so!) Many fans were disillusioned by the fact that Erin & Diane were not playing the role, as they had apparently forgotten that "Tabitha" would not have been old enough to fill the bill in 1977; many fans even wrote Elizabeth Montgomery to complain! Interestingly, even though Erin did not star in the show, she still gets small royalty checks because she supplied the show with photos of herself as a child which were used in the opening sequence. It is still being shown SOMEWHERE around the world! Lisa Hartman sang the opening theme herself.
Hear the audio ONLY of the opening of Tabitha here. See clip 1 of "Abner & Gladys" on Tabitha here. (757K) See clip 2 of "Abner & Gladys" on Tabitha here. (699K) See clip 3 of "Abner & Gladys" on Tabitha here. (913K) See a video of the opening of the Tabitha show here. (3.3 MB - go have coffee)
The main theme of Tabitha was similar to Bewitched in that Tabitha was now a grown-up witch with a mortal brother, a witchly aunt Minerva, which set up a similar conflict triangle similar to the Endora-Darrin-Samantha one. Adam discouraged his sister's use of witchcraft, while Aunt Minerva encouraged it. The similarity ended there though, and personally, I remember watching the show in 1977 only 1 time. I longed to see more "real people" from Bewitched, and it just did not hold my interest. A few years ago, I watched the episodes again on tape, and I am afraid I had no more feeling for the show today than I did at age 17. The only discovery I made was that Bernard Fox, Sandra Gould and George Tobias had made guest apperances, something I had missed originally because I didn't watch any of the shows past the first one. These shows were more entertaining because of the addition of these actors, and remain the best episodes of the series.
Tabitha Series Episode Guide:
Pilot Directed by Bruce Bilson. (9-77)
The Halloween Episode (10-77)
Tabitha's Weighty Problem - Bernard Fox guest stars.
A Star Is Born
Tabitha's Triangle - Dack Rambo guest stars.
Minerva Goes Straight
Mr. Nice Guy
The Arrrival Of Nancy - Directed by William Asher, Sandra Gould/George Tobias guest star.
That New Black Magic
What's Wrong With Mr. Right?
Paul Goes To New York
Tabitha's Party - Bernard Fox guest stars.
While Lisa Hartman was certainly perky and cute tooling around in her little yellow VW bug, nothing was able to overcome the poorly written storylines and too-close-for-comfort Bewitched themes. Had the show not been pre-empted for specials, or had it come less close on the heels of the end of Bewitched (5 years isn't that long, especially since Bewitched had made such a lasting impression in people's minds) it might have succeeded.
The 90s brought us shows that really could not be considered "spinoffs", but are shows that borrowed the magical themes. Shows like Free Spirit (1989), Teen Angel (1997), and You Wish (1997) were fairly short-lived. The show Sabrina, The Teenage Witch has enjoyed moderate popularity, though not with most Bewitched fans. I personally have been bothered by the blatant "Bewitched" flavor the Sabrina show has used from the beginning. (NOTE: Much of the public thinks Sabrina is a ripoff of "Serena" from Bewitched, but the Archie comic Sabrina, The Teenage Witch has been around since BEFORE Bewitched premiered!) Many people DO like the show though, especially younger children, and Melissa Joan Hart is very cute on it. The merchandising of Sabrina has been very heavy, with everything from dolls to comic books carrying Melissa's likeness on it.
Through all of the attempts to duplicate the feelings, flavors, characters and the ideas used in Bewitched, I must say that the "real thing" cannot in any way be even NEAR equalled by any of them. Bewitched remains as a snowflake, perfectly made, unlikely to be successfully "done" again. It will always be the standard to which others will judge against. A tall order for anyone to fill, indeed.
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