TV Reviews : Angelic ‘Clarence’ a ‘Wonderful Life’ Spinoff

The Family Channel premieres a movie about a guardian angel, “Clarence,” at 8 tonight. Robert Carradine’s entitled angel is an ingenuous character arriving from heaven to save a suicidal mother and her children from ruin.

If that sounds familiar, it’s because the plot is a variation of Frank Capra’s “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Even closer at hand, “Clarence” is a moderately flavorful spinoff of the 1977 TV movie remake of the Capra classic called “It Happened One Christmas,” which starred Marlo Thomas.

“Clarence” has a piquant touch, and director Eric Tull and writers Lorne Cameron and David Hoselton create a children’s picture-book heaven in the opening sequences with a youthful head angel dispatching the reluctant Carradine to Earth, looking snappy in a trench coat.

As a Thanksgiving show, families could do a lot worse than “Clarence,” and for young viewers who don’t know about the genre’s antecedents (such as those ‘40s classics “Heaven Can Wait” and “Stairway to Heaven”), this production has sufficient fantasy to nudge the imagination.


Carradine is self-effacing and angelic, and Kate Trotter is earnest as the widowed wife battling to save her video-game company. The script’s payoff could be stronger; the tone is a shade too fragile. But you do understand the flustered chief angel up there when he looks through the clouds at one of his file clerks in the opening moments and says, “The way the world is these days, our guardian angels are working overtime as it is.”