Mr. Merlin’s half-hour episodes presented an intriguing cross between situation comedy and the supernatural. Barnard Hughes portrayed the title character, a 1600-year-old magician who was once in the employ of King Arthur. In the present day he was known as Max Merlin, owner of an auto repair shop in San Francisco. He needed an apprentice to replace him and decided on a neighborhood boy, one Zac Rogers.
Zac at first dismissed Merlin as a crazy old man, but quickly became impressed when he found the old man’s magic was for real. The show chronicled Merlin’s attempts to teach the boy the ways of sorcery and the attempts of Merlin and Zac to restore things to order when Zac would cast the wrong spell or put both of them in danger of being revealed to the mortal world. Also along for the magical ride were Leo, Zac’s best friend, and Alexandra, the lovely sorceress who functioned as the go-between for Merlin and his superiors in the world of magic.
The show lasted one season, ending in September of 1982. Would-be kid magicians were spellbound, but to the non-magically-inclined, Mr. Merlin was a mere TV footnote. To the latter group, we offer a footnote of our own: certain episodes of this series were directed by two former fantasy-themed sitcom stars—Bill Bixby of My Favorite Martian and John Astin of The Addams Family.
USA / CBS – Columbia – Larry Larry Co Prod / 22×25 minute episodes / Broadcast 7 October 1981 – 15 September 1982
Producers: Larry Rosen, Larry Tucker / Theme: Mr. Merlin by Ken Harrison
Barnard Hughes as Max Merlin
Elaine Joyce as Alexandra
Clark Brandon as Zack Rogers
Jonathan Prince as Leo Samuels
Mickie MacKenzie as Laurie
Sandy Rosenberg as Diane Fishman
Betty Garrett as Elizabeth Rogers