TV Special Showdown: Tabitha and Adam and the Clown Family

Today’s TV Special Showdown is about Bewitched.

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Well, kinda sorta.

Today TV Special Showdown looks at a Hanna-Barbera and Screen Gems collaborative produced installment of the ABC Superstar Movie from December of 1972, which aired after Bewitched had ended its’ 8-season run on ABC, entitled Tabitha and Adam and the Clown Family.

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M’kay. Already we’ve got a redundancy. It should be Tabitha, Adam and the Clown Family. We’re off to a rollicking start: right at the title, we get served by the Grammar Police.

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Tabitha and Adam and the Clown Family featured animated versions of Tabitha and Adam Stevens from Bewitched (because as we learned from Jason’s Retro Box on Fonzie & Friends, TV stars are more fun when they’re turned into cartoons) now teenagers. Our friend Hobbyfan from Saturday Morning Archives takes a stab at explaining their growth spurt:

“My theory is built around Marvel Comics’ concept of time for some, if not all, of their characters. Bear in mind that Tabitha & Adam were not yet 10 years old when Bewitched ended a few months prior to Clown Family. Let’s assume that from the point where Tabitha debuted, the series covered about one day in her life per episode, and the same would apply to Adam a couple of years later.”

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“Magic. Got it.”

Like their live-action counterparts, Tabitha and Adam are witches, able to perform magic by twitching their noses.

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“Oh, yeah! We gots the skills that pay the bills! If witches actually paid bills, and couldn’t just conjure money out of thin air or turn bill collectors into newts, that is.”

Like its’ title suggests, this special not only had cartoon versions of Tabitha and Adam Stevens, but it also features a clan of clowns.

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No, not that clan of clowns, though that would’ve been a heck of a crossover.

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“Thanks. I just smurfed in my pants!”

As our special unfolds, T&A are on their way to spend a three week vacation with some relatives.

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Specifically their aunt Georgia, Darren’s mortal sister (voiced by Janet “Judy Jetson” Waldo; if you were gonna make an H-B production in the 1970’s you were gonna give Janet Waldo a spot in it), her husband Glenn (who bears a noticeable resemblance to John Butler, the dad from H-B’s Valley of the Dinosaurs, which would come later, white hair and all) and their 4 kids Mike (who could easily be the doppelganger of Freddy Jones from Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?, he even had the same voice provided by SatAM legend Frank Welker), Sue, Ernie and Julie who are all performers at the Magurk and McGuffin Circus…

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“I get it!”

…collectively known as the Clown Family. That’s not just a stage name, BTW, the family’s surname is actually Clown. Middle school must’ve been a blast.

-Funny, I’ve watched all 8 seasons of Bewitched growing up, and I don’t recall them ever mentioning that Darren had family who were circus performers. If I had relatives who lived in a striped tent, it would come up once in a while.

Speaking of, at the start of the special it’s vaguely implied that T&A’s aunt Georgia knows that the kids are witches, but just keeps it on the down-low. The Clown kids, however, have no clue that their cousins are magic; they have no idea where that ice cream cone which just poofed on Adam’s face came from.

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Really? They’ve honestly never told their favorite cousins that they’re witches? Come on. These guys live among 500-pound fat ladies, fire-breathers and sword-swallowers, the presence of witches shouldn’t really be a thing for them. Keeping your special powers secret from your enemies makes sense, keeping them secret from your family and loved ones just makes you a jerk.

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As if a family actually named Clown wherein the 2 older siblings are Flying Wallenda style acrobats and the younger siblings are bona fide clowns wasn’t premise enough, the Clown kids are also a rock band. (They also had a pet baby elephant who was totally NOT Dumbo named Trumpet who, not surprsingly, played the trumpet.) Keep in mind this was the era of The Archies and Josie and the Pussycats. Even Charlie Chan’s kids had a rock band in cartoon form. If you were a cartoon franchise in the 70’s, you had to also be a rock band.

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I think that 70’s toons were issued bubblegum rock instruments, like those little sample packs of detergent that we suburbanites get through the mail.

So we were treated to frothy musical numbers whenever someone, usually Tabitha or Adam, would announce…

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“HERE COME THE CLOWNS!”

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“And here comes my lunch!”

 

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Very Mod.

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Incidentally, the character of Ernie Clown was obviously based on Danny Partridge; he was constantly wanking on the business side of fame and on the lookout for extra money making opportunities, which reminds me of my favorite Danny Bonaduce quote:

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“Being a child star is great. Being a former child star, that sucks.”

Since this special is 51 minutes without commercials, there’s also a plot. It seems that a rival circus owner has hired a Bela Lugosi lookalike named Count Crumley (aka Obvious Bad Guy) and his thick-witted gnome of a lackey Ronk to sabotage the circus so it’ll go out of business. As it happens, Ronk is a warlock, just not a very good one obviously, or he wouldn’t be a sawed-off sidekick. Crumley makes Ronk cast various spells on the circus performers, such as turning the usually docile circus lion into a vicious, foul-tempered brute and putting the whammy on Ernie to make him a lousy drummer so the Clowns will blow their big audition. On noes!

Tabitha and Adam of course detect witchy activity and catch wind of what’s going on and inform their clowny cousins that there’s black magic afoot. Each time one of the Clown kids ask T&A how they know about all this witchery stuff, Tabitha issues some lame excuse like “We watch a lot of scary movies” or “I read it in a book at the library”.

Why don’t you just [bleep]ing tell them you’re witches?! Ronk has already been outed as a warlock by this point, so they know that witches and witchcraft exist, would it really send the Earth spinning off of its’ axis if your cousins know you’re craft users?? Geez, if you can’t trust circus folk, who can you trust?

Anyways, T&A and the Clown Kids track down Crumley and Ronk Scooby-Doo style, T&A perform some nose-twitching tricks and force Ronk to undo all of his spells. T&A then take Ronk aside and have a little private coven pow-wow, informing him that just because he’s a warlock it doesn’t mean that he has to serve evil jerks. This leads to Ronk pulling a face turn and telling his former boss Crumley to Take This Job and Shove It (TM), saying that he’ll be sticking around with the good guys and hopes to get a job working at the circus as a stage magician, after a little makeover…

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“ABRACADABRA, BEEYOTCHES!”

So the good guys win, the Magurk and McGuffin Circus gets to stay open, the Clowns score a big-time record contract, Tabitha and Adam get to continue their vacation and the day is saved. Yippe-Ki-Yi-Yay.

Tabitha and Adam and the Clown Family was billed as a special, but I personally think that it was a pilot for a new series which didn’t get greenlit. Perhaps folks felt that the mixture of teenage witches and circus performers who were simultaneously rock stars was two great tastes that tasted weird together. Hard to believe, but Tabitha and Adam and the Clown Family might have been too original.

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“Let’s wrap things up with another song from the Clowns!”

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“Let’s NOT and say we did!”

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