Free Spirit was a 1990 sitcom about a witch who is hired to take care of a couple of kids. Sounds like a nice enough premise, so where did it go wrong?
Take Who’s The Boss? and conbine it with Bewitched, and you’d have this lame 1989 sitcom. The basic premise is single father hires a housekeeper who is, yesÂ that’s rigt, a witch!
Corinne Bohrer and Franc Luz star. You may be asking, who? Well that was the first problem. The two leads were boing and just weren’t good actors. Who’s The Boss starred two big named stars who had great chemistry. Tony Danza had just spent years on Taxi and Judith Light in soaps, so while Tony was a pro at the comedy Judith was a great straight person. The chemistry and the gags worked on that show, on Free Spirit they did not. Both leads made a career doing forgettable small parts and commercials, never really going further than that. To be fair Luz was not the first actor for the role, he was the replacement which may explain a lot!
Not only were the leads boring, but so were the kids. They were just stock sitcom kids with nothing original about them at all. The brother made fun of the sister, and the little boy was cute. That was it. Ok the sister was played by Alyson Hannigan so I guess that’s something good that came from this show.
In the pilot Winnie is summoned by the youngest child and ends up hired to be a housekeeper. She is a witch but whileÂ the kids know, they have to keep it a secret from the husband named Thomas. Of course they do. Also Winnie was not that great at her magic, causing all kinds of foul up’s. As you can imagine, hijinks ensue! The show had nothing original about it at all. The real core of the show was the “romance” between Winnie and Thomas. Not only were the actors boring, but the characters had no chemistry. But the worst thing they did was rush the relationship. On Who’s The Boss? they gave Tony and Angela’s relationship time to grow and develop. On Free Spirit the couple went out on a date in the third episode!
Why did this show fail? I think I made that pretty clear. But the other reason was the time slot. I mean it was put on a Sunday night with other shows no one remembers from the 1989-1990 season.
I remember a few episode, which I still have on tape. The pilot I already descibed, it ended with Thomas asking Winnie to stay on. Another episode was the one I mentioned where Winnie and Thomas went on a date. There was a conflict because Thomas wanted her to act like his ex but Winnie was her own person…and we didn’t care. Another episode guest starred Dave Coulier as Winnie’s fiancee’. Dave Coulier was great in the episode, bringing a sort of energu sorely lacking from the regulars. And there was a memorable episode where Robert Reed and Florence Henderson play a couple who hate each other. But again, it was the guest stars who make that episode memorable not the leads. There is a reason most new shows avoid stunt casting early on, it’s so the audience to can learn get to know the regular cast of characters.The episode guide reads like a laundry list of sitcom cliche’s.
Of course Winnie being a witch meant there were lots of magic and special effects. But you need more than cool magic tricks to make a good show. In fact the magic often took a backseat to the corny romance stuff. Who’s The Boss worked because they kept it a family show, while hinting at the romance stuff here and there. This show was much more obvious about the romantic stuff, and it wasn’t interesting.
The show vanished after eight episodes. Honestly, this show could have worked if they recasted it and maybe put it in a better time slot, meybe on TGIF.Â I mean, the whole premise was Winnie getting into trouble when her magic goes awry, something that Sabrina also did. Also having to keep it a secret from Thomas was lame, it meant the same gag every episode. In fact Betwitched and Sabrina were great shows despite the magic tricks, not because of them. So what did those shows do right that Free Spirit missed? Ah, that is the subject of another article coming soon my friends!