This is long but I have to get it out because no one’s seen this show to talk about it. I never saw this show as a kid so I can only judge it now as an adult. I feel like it starts with potential then gets really bad by the end. I never would have watched a second season. 1982 seemed like exactly the wrong year to have made this. It could have been really fun 10 years earlier, sort of like McMillan & Wife, which I love and have seen many times. It could even be updated and remade now. However, what little I remember of the time though, pretty much the whole world was sick of the Laurel Canyon scene and I’m sure was turned off from the premise.
The show seems to have been originally titled The Good Witch of Laurel Canyon. And it seems the the producers planned a show based on this very bohemian couple and the mother in law who lived there. Maybe they really did unintentionally capture the authentic spirit though because, in the first handful of shows, you really like these people and their world. But by the end, they’re not very likeable and you don’t want to be there anymore. Also, I’ve been a lifelong Tim Matheson fan but his character, especially, gets kind of creepy and sleazy once you notice it. He openly flirts with other women or checks them out even over his wife’s constant anger and jealousy. Plus he’s always very touchy with every woman, sometimes even getting cringey cuddley with his mother in law. Once he even does it with a high school girl - even though the actress is mid 20s (and plays Bart Simpson!)
It is partly fun though to see all the people who went on to more success, like Ted Danson just before Cheers. Or even people like Miss Patty from Gilmore Girls for a hot second as a belly dance instructor. Also from the time of the first pilot was made in 1981 to the end in early 83, you can really see the tail end of the 70s become extremely 80s, which is pretty much exactly as I remember 1982.
This is probably the biggest problem with the show. It starts still trying to be 70s, which is fun to see now. And they make an effort to show (what little I know now of) Laurel Canyon. The typical house with a goat and garden. Barbara Barrie’s character especially was more developed and boho. She grew herbs to sell. Her daughter even points out some customers might smoke them. They seemed like they were giving her a special touch with animals. Then all that goes away. Her character becomes smaller and becomes a generic ditsy mother. The house changes design to very ugly and generic. The show itself tries to be more general LA and metropolitan. It’s like they were trying to be closer to Remington Steele, which came out the same month and was tons more successful. It really just gets generically bad.
There is one episode towards the end that they set in a Laurel Canyon-like music scene. Somehow it’s the highest rated but I found it to be about the worst because it’s so cheesy and cringe inducing. The low point is Amanda going undercover as a singer. You do have to see her audition because of the cheese factor and it’s so over the top. I guess she decided her undercover persona is a major cokehead. The director had to have been on coke for sure to make the choices he did. She’s twitching and manic then has to sing a terrible song, shot like a music video. It happens simultaneously as Rick is looking for a killer. She tunelessly sings the word “dangerous” about 50 times while we see Rick, shot at Dutch angles, walking through dark wet alleys. I could imagine Catherine Hicks’ family teasing her with the clip when she’s old!
Also the gimmick of Amanda being “a witch” does not work. There’s no occult involved. Amanda is a mediocre psychic with telekinesis like a less powerful Samantha on Bewitched. It’s always a problem when shows give a character lots of power that they can never really use to solve the crime because then there is no plot. She’ll say stuff like “I have a bad feeling” or “I see a triangle shape”. But she literally comes face to face with the killer in every episode yet never knows they are the bad guy. Also she always seems to forget her powers when there is real danger. Like she can snap her fingers and control their fireplace, but when she’s trapped in a room set in fire, she doesn’t even make an attempt to put it out. Or she can make a forklift go crazy and fry a car’s fuses, but when their car’s brakes are cut, again, no powers. Stuff like this happens at least once an episode.
It is also interesting to see the first pilot with Kim Cattral and a different guy playing Rick, mainly because you can see what a difference casting and few script changes can make. I usually like Kim Cattral but she was so wrong for this part! I guess it really is true that an actor can be good but just miscast.