Bewitched Show: It Takes One To Know One
Bewitched is an American situation comedy originally broadcast for eight seasons onABC from 1964 to 1972, starring Elizabeth Montgomery, Dick York (1964–1969), Dick Sargent (1969–1972), Agnes Moorehead, and David White. The show is about a witch who marries an ordinary man and tries to lead the life of a typical suburban housewife. Bewitched enjoyed great popularity, finishing as the number two show in America during its debut season. The show continues to be seen throughout the world in syndication and on DVD and was the longest-running supernatural-themed sitcom of the 1960s–1970s era.
In 2002, Bewitched was ranked #50 on “TV Guide’s 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time.” In 1997, the same magazine ranked the season 2 episode “Divided He Falls” #48 on their list of the “100 Greatest Episodes of All Time.”
A young-looking witch named Samantha(Elizabeth Montgomery) meets and marries a mortal named Darrin Stephens (originally Dick York, later Dick Sargent). While Samantha pledges to forsake her powers and become a typical suburban housewife, her magical family disapproves of the mixed marriage and frequently interferes in the couple’s lives. Episodes often begin with Darrin becoming the victim of a spell, the effects of which wreak havoc with mortals such as his boss, clients, parents, and neighbors. By the epilogue, however, Darrin and Samantha most often embrace, having overcome the devious elements that failed to separate them.
The witches and their male counterparts, known as “warlocks,” are very long-lived; while Samantha appears to be a young woman, many episodes suggest she is actually hundreds of years old. To keep their society secret, witches avoid showing their powers in front of mortals other than Darrin. Nevertheless, the effects of their spells and Samantha’s attempts to hide their supernatural origin from mortals drive the plot of most episodes. Witches and warlocks usually use physical gestures along with their magical spells, and sometimes spoken incantations. Most notably, Samantha often twitches her nose to perform a spell. Modest but effective special visual effects are accompanied by music to highlight the magic.
The main setting for most scenes is the Stephens’ house at 1164 Morning Glory Circle. Many scenes also take place at the Madison Avenue advertising agency “McMann and Tate” for which Darrin works.
Samantha’s mother, Endora (Agnes Moorehead), is the chief antagonist. Like all witches, she never reveals her surname, indicating to Darrin that he would be unable to pronounce it. Endora loathes mortals, and disapproves of Darrin, as do many of Samantha’s relatives. Endora refuses to even use Darrin’s name, alternatively calling him “Durwood”, “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. Endora casts countless farcical spells on Darrin, but never attempts to destroy him outright. Endora’s ploys to provoke a breakup always fail as Samantha’s and Darrin’s love overcomes every obstacle. Endora admits to High Priestess Hephzibah that Darrin cast his own spell as, “He loves my daughter.”
Darrin works as an executive at the McMann and Tate advertising agency. His profit-obsessed boss Larry Tate (David White) is a regular character, but Tate’s partner, Mr. McMann, appears only twice during the series. Tate’s opinions turn on a dime to appease a client in an attempt to land a deal. Many episodes culminate in a dinner party with clients at the Stephens’ home that is humorously affected by magic. Samantha usually figures out a clever way to save the day and the account. Louise Tate (Irene Vernon, Kasey Rogers), Larry’s wife, eventually becomes Samantha’s closest mortal friend.
Across the street from Darrin and Samantha lives a retired couple, the nosy and tactless Gladys Kravitz (Alice Pearce, Sandra Gould) and her husband Abner (George Tobias). Gladys’ snooping often results in her witnessing witchcraft or its strange side effects. She frequently tries to prove Samantha is a witch, only to fail and be branded delusional by Abner.
Samantha’s father, Maurice (Maurice Evans), is an urbane thespian much like Elizabeth Montgomery’s father, Robert Montgomery. Maurice often embellishes his entrances and exits with strained Shakespearean verse. Bewitched is unique for pre-1970s sitcoms in that it portrays Endora and Maurice in, as Maurice describes, “an informal marriage”. Endora once introduces Maurice as “my daughter’s father”, and twice threatens to “move in” with Maurice. In the episode “Samantha’s Good News”, Endora threatens to file for an “ectoplasmic interlocutory” (i.e. divorce), only to wrangle Maurice’s affection. Maurice also refers to Darrin with incorrect names, including “Duncan” and “Dustbin”, with Endora going so far as to “correct” him, saying “That’s Durwood.”
Darrin’s parents, the strait-laced Phyllis and laid-back Frank Stephens, visit occasionally but never learn of Samantha’s supernatural powers. Phyllis (Mabel Albertson) makes inopportune surprise visits, and often complains of “a sick headache” after accidentally witnessing a spell in motion.
On Samantha’s father’s side of the family is her far-out, egocentric lookalike cousin Serena. Also played by Elizabeth Montgomery, she is credited as “Pandora Spocks” (a spin on the phrase “Pandora’s box“) from 1969 to 1971. Serena is the antithesis of Samantha, in most episodes sporting a beauty mark on her cheek, raven-black cropped hair, and mod mini-skirts. Ever mischievous, Serena often flirts with Larry Tate (calling the white-haired Tate “Cotton-Top”), just for sport. More progressive than typical witches or warlocks, who generally abhor mortals, Samantha’s counter-culture cousin occasionally dates some (including characters played by Jack Cassidy and Peter Lawford). Despite her wild behavior and frequent co-plotting with Endora, Serena often supports Samantha and Darrin, even though she finds them both a bit “square.”
Uncle Arthur (Paul Lynde), Endora’s prank-loving brother, makes several appearances. Despite many practical jokes at Darrin’s expense, Uncle Arthur has a less antagonistic relationship with him than Endora. In one episode, both Serena and Uncle Arthur go head-to-head with the Witches Council to support the Stephens’ union, only to have their own powers suspended.
The only one of Samantha’s relatives for whom Darrin regularly shows tolerance is the bumbling, elderly, absent-minded-but-lovable Aunt Clara (Marion Lorne). Though well-intentioned, Clara’s spells usually backfire, and her entrances and exits are often a grand fumble, such as entering via a chimney or colliding with a wall. She has a collection of over a thousand doorknobs (inspired by Lorne’s real-life collection). Rather than recast the role after Lorne’s death in 1968, a similar witch, the anxiety-ridden and magically inept housekeeper Esmeralda (Alice Ghostley), was introduced in 1969.
In the second season, Samantha gives birth to a daughter, Tabitha (spelled Tabatha in production credits until season 5) and later in the series has a son, Adam. Both eventually prove to have supernatural powers. The Tates’ son Jonathan is born several months before Tabitha.
A strange occurrence or condition caused by a supernatural illness is occasionally used as a plot device, and assistance is often sought from the warlock Dr. Bombay (Bernard Fox), a womanizer who is often accompanied by a buxom assistant, and who constantly cracks bad jokes. He could be summoned by the phrase, “Dr. Bombay, calling Dr. Bombay. Emergency, come right away.” His first name, “Hubert”, was revealed in the final episode of the spinoff Tabitha. Help for supernatural illnesses is also occasionally sought from the unnamed witches’ apothecary (Bernie Kopell), an amorous old warlock.