Bewitched is an American situation comedy originally broadcast for eight seasons on ABC from 1964 to 1972. The show stars Elizabeth Montgomery, Dick York (1964–1969), Dick Sargent (1969–1972), Agnes Moorehead and David White. It continues to be seen throughout the world in syndication and it is the longest running supernatural themed sitcom of the 1960s–1970s.
Samantha's mother Endora (Agnes Moorehead) loathes mortals, and disapproves of Darrin, as do most of Samantha's family. Endora refuses to use Darrin's name, variously calling him "Derwood," "What's-his-name," "Darwin," "Dum-Dum," etc., all much to his annoyance. She refers to him as "Darrin" only eight times during the entire series. Samantha's father, Maurice usually follows this pattern, calling him "Duspin" and the like, getting his name right only three times. Serena and Dr. Bombay also regularly get Darrin's name wrong. Throughout the series, several characters were turned into animals, especially Darrin, who was turned into a veritable menagerie, including a goose, chimpanzee, turtle, penguin, seal, and gorilla, among others.
The witches and warlocks usually carry out their magic with elaborate gestures and/or spoken spells. Magical exits almost always were done with a wave of the arms, accompanied by the sound of a harp strum. Other musical sound effects highlighting magic included xylophones (for Samantha's nose twitching and other spells), trumpets, and bells.
Many episodes revolve around Endora, or another of Darrin's in-laws, using magic to undermine the union. Although Endora casts countless spells on Darrin, she never threatens to outright destroy him, as she could easily do. Endora's ploy seems to be to provoke Darrin into leaving Samantha, but the mortal's love for his wife overcomes every obstacle. During a sequence when High Priestess Hepzibah (see below) expresses surprise that Darrin has withstood years of Endora's harassment, Endora can only shrug and admit, "He loves my daughter."
The pilot shows the two meeting and eloping. Endora is in the pilot but does not meet Darrin until early in the season. Later in the first season, Darrin meets Samantha's father, Maurice, and Samantha meets Darrin's parents, Phyllis and Frank Stephens. The second episode shows the couple buying a home in Westport Connecticut, at 1164 Morning Glory Circle, the main setting for all episodes except several at the beginning of the seventh and eighth seasons, which take place in Salem, Massachusetts and Europe respectively. The premise of the Salem episodes is they are there for a witches convention, but this was done of necessity as the set of their house had burned down and was being rebuilt.
Darrin works for advertising agency McMann and Tate in Manhattan. Profit-obsessed Larry Tate (David White) is an almost constant presence on the show, even though Tate's partner, Mr. McMann, appears only twice during the series. Tate's opinions would turn on a dime to appease a client and land a deal. Despite witnessing plenty of oddities, Larry and his wife Louise (Irene Vernon later Kasey Rogers) never discover that Samantha is a witch, except in a magically induced dream of Darrin.
Several episodes begin with Darrin becoming the victim of a spell, the effects of which interfere with his interactions with a client at work. The climax would often occur at one of the many hectic last minute dinner parties Larry would force Samantha to hold for the clients and their wives. By the epilogue, however, Darrin and Samantha would embrace and confound the devious elements that failed to separate them.
Some storylines take a backdoor approach to such topics as racism, as seen in the first season episode, "The Witches Are Out." Samantha objects to Darrin's demeaning ad portrayal of witches as ugly and deformed. Such stereotypical imagery, she believes, ignites biases which have often caused Endora and her to flee the country until November. One episode, "Sisters At Heart" (season 7), was written and submitted by a tenth-grade class. It involved Tabitha altering her and her black friend's skin tones with coordinating polka-dots, so that people would treat them alike. (A similar white-with-black vs. black-with-white concept had been seen earlier in Star Trek:"Let That Be Your Last Battlefield," in which Frank Gorshin had appeared versus Lou Antonio.)
Bewitched is unique for the mid-1960s in that it portrays an estranged married couple—Samantha's parents, Endora (Agnes Moorehead) and Maurice (Maurice Evans). Maurice was portrayed as an urbane thespian not unlike Elizabeth Montgomery's real father, Robert Montgomery. Maurice occasionally pops in with a young, attractive female escort. The couple's separation is implied and subtextual. In the episode "Samantha's Good News," Endora threatened to file for an "ectoplasmic interlocutory" (code for divorce), only to wrangle Maurice's affection. In another episode Endora threatens to live with Maurice, thus acknowledging a separation. Endora once introduced Maurice as "my daughter's father."
The one of the few members of Samantha's family who truly liked Darrin and for whom Darrin shows any affection is the lovable but bumbling Aunt Clara (played by Marion Lorne). She often appeared in the fireplace, or attempted to leave by walking through a wall, which she would inevitably bump into. Aunt Clara was very proud of her doorknob collection. The collection, sometimes shown, was of Lorne's real collection. Lorne won a posthumous Emmy in 1968 for the role of the aged witch, whose powers had begun to wane, and whose well-intentioned spells often end in disaster. She appeared in 27 episodes; when Lorne died during the fourth season, the absence of Aunt Clara was left unexplained. Because Lorne was so popular and loved by the cast, another actress taking the role was never considered. A similar character, the anxiety-ridden witch-nanny/maid Esmeralda, played by Alice Ghostley, would later make appearances starting during the 1969–1970 season. (Both Ghostley and comic actor Paul Lynde, who later played Samantha's Uncle Arthur, had guest roles the first season as mortal characters before being cast as magical semi-regulars.)
Samantha's far-out and egocentric lookalike cousin Serena is another important character, first appearing in season two. Serena was played by Elizabeth Montgomery, credited as "Pandora Spocks" between 1968 and 1972. Ever mischievous, Serena often chases after Darrin and Larry Tate (calling the white-haired Tate "Cotton-Top"), just for fun. Serena is the antithesis of Samantha, sporting a heart-shaped beauty mark on her cheek, raven black hair, and mod mini-skirts. More progressive than the typical witch or warlock, who generally abhor mortals, Samantha's counter-culture cousin occasionally dates some (including a character played by Jack Cassidy).
During the show's run, both Aunt Clara (to Louise Tate) and Serena (to Phyllis Stephens) state they are from Maurice's side of the family, though Serena sometimes plots with "Auntie" Endora. Despite her wild behavior, Serena ultimately supports Samantha and Darrin, even though she finds them both a bit "square."
Endora's prank-loving brother Arthur (Paul Lynde) makes several memorable appearances. In one episode, Arthur befriends Darrin and teaches him a phony ritual that will set Endora straight. Darrin performs the silly ritual to the outright bewilderment of his wife and mother-in-law. After Arthur erupts in rip-roaring laughter, it becomes clear that Darrin was set up. The trio get even with Arthur when Darrin's own practical joke seemingly obliterates Endora. Despite the hoax, Arthur genuinely likes Darrin. Unlike Endora, Arthur seems to find mortals quite amusing and enjoys befuddling them with displays of magic. In another episode, Serena and Uncle Arthur go toe-to-toe with the Witch's Council to support the Stephens' union, only to have their own powers suspended.
Veteran actress Mabel Albertson, the sister of Jack Albertson, plays Darrin's straightlaced mother, Phyllis. The character often complains of "a sick headache" when she witnesses a magic spell in motion. Adding to the fun are the Stephens' witch daughter Tabitha (spelled Tabatha in production credits until season five) played by (Erin Murphy), and her baby brother Adam. Along the way are various witches, warlocks, and mere mortals, as well as an occasional elf, leprechaun, nymph, and other supernatural being. The program made full use of the period's modest but effective special effects wizardry.
Across the street lives a retired couple, Abner Kravitz (stage and movie actor George Tobias) and his nosy wife, Gladys, the latter of whom was always trying to prove that Samantha was a witch, only to have her husband steadfastly refuse to believe her allegations. Gladys Kravitz was played first by Alice Pearce who won a posthumous 1966 Emmy for the role; following Pearce's death in 1966 from ovarian cancer, the character was played by Sandra Gould. On the studio backlot, the Kravitzes' house was actually near the Stephens' house exterior. Both homes' exterior doors opened to an unfinished eighteen-by-fifteen foot entry, as the interiors were shot elsewhere. The exterior of the Kravitz's house later became the home of The Partridge Family. In 2003, Kasey Rogers, Alice Ghostley and Bernard Fox visited the Stephens lot together to rekindle old memories.
Note that all the female witches' names ended with a soft "-a" sound: Samantha, Endora, Tabitha, Esmeralda, Clara, Hepzibah, Serena, Hagatha, even Contessa Piranha.
In I Love Lucy, Lucy's and Ethel's candy wrapping efforts start okay but quickly get out of hand, leading both Lucy and Ethel to eat and/or hide all the left over chocolates. In Bewitched, the man running the ice cream stand makes a pass at Serena, who rejects him. The banana dipping goes well early on until the boss retaliates by speeding up the conveyor belt, leading Serena and Arthur to panic and hide and toss the bananas to avoid being dismissed from their jobs.
The 1959 Columbia Pictures' Gidget filmed on location at a real home in Santa Monica (at 267 18th Street) as seen in the film. The blueprint design of this home was later reversed and replicated as a house facade attached to an existing garage on the backlot of Columbia's Ranch. The reversed Gidget house was primarily used on the Columbia/Screen Gems hit television show Bewitched which premiered in 1964. The patio and livingroom sets seen in Columbia's Gidget Goes to Rome (1963) were soon adapted for the permanent Bewitched set for 1964. In the TV series from 1965-66, Gidget (played by Sally Field) is often shown with a "Samantha" doll in her bedroom (a merchandise cross promotion for the other Columbia tv show), and in 1986's The New Gidget (produced by Columbia executive and producer Harry Ackerman) the facade used in shots for her home is the reversed Gidget house (better known by TV audiences from those subsequent decades of reruns as Samantha's home on Bewitched).
The show was a ratings success during its first five seasons, but it lost some viewers when Dick York, who had originated the role of Darrin Stephens, lost his ability to continue in the role due to a severe back condition. When he left the cast in 1969, Ray Fulmer of Hazel, was mentioned as a possible replacement (as per an episode of The Virginia Graham Show, Fulmer's name was suggested to Agnes Moorehead by her friend and former co-star Shirley Booth). But the role went to Dick Sargent. He had been the original first choice for the role, to play opposite Tammy Grimes, the original choice for Samantha, but he was under contract elsewhere in 1964. Sargent's version of Darrin was a more acidic, smarmy character, in contrast to York's hyper, high octane portrayal.
On E! Entertainment Television, Erin Murphy (Tabitha) stated that Elizabeth Montgomery "probably preferred Dick Sargent's Darrin." York's disability caused ongoing shooting delays and script rewrites, which would have been a financial liability to the newly formed Ashmont Production Company (owned by Montgomery and then husband, William Asher). Kasey Rogers, Bernard Fox, and Sandra Gould said that Dick York's "mugging" or animated facial expressions were what really made the character. William Asher claimed that Dick York's screen kisses were more "passionate." The series also had two Gladys Kravitzes, two Louise Tates and two Frank Stephenses. However, the switch between the two Darrins has become the epitome of TV's major cast changes, far more so than such other recastings as the two John-Boy Waltons or the two Lionel Jeffersons, and others.
In 1966, the show saw Samantha give birth to daughter Tabitha, played by fraternal twins Diane and Erin Murphy. Tabitha took after her mother with her magical abilities, adding to Darrin's worries. By 1968, the Murphy twins began looking less alike, so Diane was dropped. The Tates' son Jonathan, who was 1 1/2 years older than Tabitha, was seldom seen or referenced after 1966, but made a final appearance in season 7. The character had been named Jonathan after David White's real-life son. In 1969, Bewitched introduced Adam Stephens, played by Greg and David Lawrence. The writers sought new familial challenges, but some pessimists saw the birth as an economical means to retool past Tabitha plots. Adam initially didn't display any powers, but started to do so in the last few episodes of the series. In Episode 175, "Naming Samantha's New Baby," Adam was originally named Frank Maurice, after his grandfathers, but Frank Stevens revealed to Samantha's father that not want his grandson to be called "Little Frank" all his life. Samantha was fond of the name Adam, which turned out to be Maurice's great-grandfather's name.
The death of actress Marion Lorne (Aunt Clara) in 1968 prompted the creation of a replacement character, actress Alice Ghostley as Esmeralda. Coincidentally, Lorne and Ghostley appeared side by side in the hotel scene of Mike Nichols's film version of The Graduate, which had been released in 1967.
Montgomery wanted to end the series at the conclusion of the fifth season because both she and her husband, the show's producer William Asher, were getting tired of it and wanted to move on to other projects, but ABC did not want to drop one of its top-grossers. Since the series was one of the network's few hits, they offered Montgomery and Asher significant pay raises, plus part ownership of the series (via Ashmont, a production company owned by Asher and Montgomery), for another three seasons. By season eight, the story ideas had started to run dry – with some scripts from earlier seasons re-shot nearly verbatim. During the last season, (1971–1972) Abner and Gladys Kravitz were only referenced, and Uncle Arthur and Darrin's parents also did not appear. The series was moved to Saturday nights in January 1972 and was pitted against the hit show All in the Family, which proved to be a virtual death knell.
Bewitched finished the 1972 season at no. 72 in the ratings . ABC had planned a ninth season, according to the network's contract with Montgomery and Asher.
A number of historical, contemporary, and fictional characters also made appearances, among them:
Bewitched did very well the first six seasons it aired, but then the ratings began to drop off in the early 1970s.
The ratings for each season, at the end of the season, were:
ABC had planned Season 9 for Bewitched which would have been the 1972–1973 season, but Elizabeth Montgomery decided not to come back after Season 8. Then-husband William Asher told ABC that he would produce another series for them since Bewitched's ratings had dropped so low. He wound up producing two: The Paul Lynde Show, a sitcom starring the "Uncle Arthur" actor (and Hollywood Squares regular) Paul Lynde, which lasted only one season in 1972-73; and Temperatures Rising, a two-year comedy set in a hospital and starring James Whitmore in its first season. Because of the Lynde show's failure and contractual problems with Whitmore, Asher cast Paul Lynde as a manic, hospital chief in the 1973-74 season, and also signed Alice Ghostley as a hospital staff member. The show, absent of Whitmore's pragmatic, scholarly center was soon canceled.
Arnold left the show after the first season (he would later co-create Barney Miller with Theodore J. Flicker), leaving producing duties to his friend Jerry Davis, who had already produced some of the first season's episodes (though Arnold was still supervising the writing). The second season was produced by Davis and with Bernard Slade as head writer, with mistaken identity and farce becoming a more prevalent element, but still included a number of more low-key episodes where the magic element was not front and center.
With the third season and the switch to color, Davis left the show, and was replaced as producer by William Froug. Slade also left after the second season (he would later create another popular Screen Gems series, The Partridge Family, which, like Bewitched, went through a recasting of a role). According to William Froug's autobiography, Asher himself wanted to take over as producer when Jerry Davis left, but the production company wasn't yet ready to approve the idea. So Froug, a former producer of Gilligan's Island, was brought in as a compromise. By his own admission, Froug was not very familiar with Bewitched and found himself in the uncomfortable position of being the official producer even though Asher was making most of the creative decisions. After a year, Froug left the show, and Asher took over as full-time producer of the series for the rest of its run.
Samantha and Darrin Stephens were the first live-action TV couple, with the actors not married to each other in real life, to sleep in a double bed (A married couple, Mary Kay and Johnny Stearns, first shared a bed in the 1940s sitcom Mary Kay and Johnny). The episode, "Little Pitchers Have Big Fears," aired on October 22, 1964, preceding The Munsters episode "Autumn Croakus" broadcast on November 26, 1964..
In June 1970, Bewitched filmed on location in Salem, Magnolia and Gloucester, Massachusetts. The Massachusetts locations shoots marked the only time the show would film away from their Hollywood studio set, which had burned down. The eight "Salem Saga" episodes, as they became known, helped improve the show's ratings . Season 8 featured a European vacation for the characters, but the episodes were filmed in Hollywood using stock footage.
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment released the first two seasons of Bewitched on DVD in 2005, with the third and fourth seasons released in 2006, the fifth season in 2007 and the sixth season in 2008. Seasons Seven and Eight are to be released by decade's end. Because the first two seasons were produced in black and white, Sony released two versions of the sets in region 1: one with the episodes as originally broadcast and a second with the episodes colorized. The color sets outsold the black and white sets by a substantial margin. The colorized editions were the only ones released in regions 2, 3 and 4.