Monday, December 31, 2012

Classic TV: Bewitched (1964)

Seeing as how this classic sitcom is airing nightly on Me-TV starting tonight, let's take a look back at Bewitched. I had previously reviewed this series over on my other blog, Saturday Morning Archives, several months back, since the series began daytime reruns on Saturdays during the 1971-2 season.

Series creator Sol Saks wanted to break the stereotype surrounding witches, and came up with the perfect romantic comedy in a sitcom format. On the surface, Samantha (Elizabeth Montgomery) is your typical suburban housewife, married to advertising ace Darrin Stephens (Dick York). However, as Darrin discovers in the opener, she is much more than that. However, her mother, Endora (Agnes Moorehead) disapproves of the union of witch & mortal, and is forever sabotaging Darrin's work and/or homelife, demanding respect from her son-in-law, more than anything else.

However, it seems Endora is in the minority, amazingly. Darrin finds some compassion for Samantha's Aunt Clara (Marion Lorne) and Aunt Esmerelda (Alice Ghostley), and while he was initially annoyed, he seemed to warm up to wisecracking, prank-happy Uncle Arthur (Paul Lynde).

York's health problems would not allow him to finish the series, and so, veteran actor Dick Sargent, who had nothing but bad luck with earlier series (Broadside & The Tammy Grimes Show), was brought in to succeed York as Darrin. The height difference between the two actors was obvious (Sargent was slightly taller). The series ended in 1972, though reruns continued as part of ABC's Saturday morning lineup for another year, due largely to ABC not ordering enough new animated programming.

As we have documented previously, Bewitched spawned a delayed spinoff, Tabitha, which lasted one season in 1977, and launched the career of star Lisa Hartman. A year earlier, a pilot, under the respelled title, Tabatha, with Louise "Liberty" Williams in the title role, had been shot, but went unsold. As for Tabitha, we'll bring that up for discussion in the new year.

Here's a rarity, a network promo for the first season:

Perhaps the closest thing to a spiritual successor would be Sabrina, The Teenage Witch, which spent 7 seasons on first ABC, then WB, from 1996-2003. Sabrina (Melissa Joan Hart) had a mortal boyfriend who was not privy to her being a witch until the end of the series, based on the Archie Comics series. Some genius at Sony decided a few years ago to make a feature film version of Bewitched that didn't do justice to the source material. Another example of today's Hollywood in that it's easier to make a movie based on a beloved classic in name only, taking too many liberties and hoping fans won't notice. Unfortunately, the fans do notice and stay away in droves. "Bewitched", the movie, with Nicole Kidman as Samantha, was a bomb.

Rating: B-.

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