Bewitched


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

Tabs

About

Bewitched, a fantasy situation comedy featuring the suburban life of a witch housewife married to a mortal, aired on ABC from 1964 to 1972. In its first season, it was the highest rated of all the new series and for its first five seasons, the program found itself consistently in Neilsens' Top Twelve. By 1968, its re-runs had sold to ABC for nine million dollars.

Set in Westport, Connecticut, Bewitched chronicles the difficulties Samantha (Elizabeth Montgomery) has negotiating her supernatural powers and her role as the suburban housewife of advertising executive Darrin Stephens (Dick York, replaced by Dick Sargent after the fifth season). Other major characters include Samantha's mother, Endora (Agnes Moorehead), who enjoys employing meddling witchcraft to complicate her daughter's marriage, a suspicious neighbor named Gladys Kravitz (Alice Pearce, later replaced by Sandra Gould)) and Darrin's neurotic boss Larry Tate (David White). Sporadically, Elizabeth Montgomery would appear as her cousin, Serena, embodied as a teeny-bopper, counter-culture type, with a knack for free-spirited and manipulative sorcery. Eventually, Samantha and Darrin have a daughter, Tabitha, and a son, Adam, both of whom display witchly powers. (In 1977, ABC attempted a spin-off called Tabitha, where the now grown witch (Lisa Hartman) works as assistant producer for a California news program--with Robert Urich as the anchorman. The spin-off failed before season's end.)

Bewitched's formula typically involves a disruption created by either Samantha or Darrin's family, or Darrin's boss Larry. Samantha's responsibility to keep up the family harmony comes into conflict with her vow not to exercise witchcraft. Usually the resolution does come about with witchcraft, but Samantha's role as a "good" wife undergoes re-inscription because she performed her spells for the sake of her family (Morey, 1993).

Samantha generally exercises her witchcraft by twitching her nose and mouth (known at the time of the show as the "witch twitch") or casting verbal spells. Either method may result in making objects and people disappear or appear, granting unearthly powers to herself or others, or turning herself or others into various kinds of animals. She constantly subordinates her supernatural powers at the request of her husband--he is particularly adamant that she not cheat her domestic duties. Samantha could easily have the entire house cleaned and dinner on the table with a single "witch twitch" but, for Darrin's sake, she chooses to perform the labor of housework herself.

At the same time, Samantha takes a keen interest in Darrin's job and gets him out of many a campaign jam with her "imagination" and "intuition"--sometimes attributed to her witchcraft, sometimes not. She often saves Darrin's job by producing sales concepts on the spot for his clients or sometimes even going to the extent of turning his clients into animals to prove a point or buy him time. Her mastery in this area includes shoring up Darrin's ego and making him feel that it was his ideas that saved the day. In this way, Bewitched brings forward a host of questions pressing mid-1960s middle class culture such as anxieties about women's place in the public and private spheres and general mistrust between the sexes: What is the appropriate woman's role? How should a woman exercise her own agency to the best of her abilities? What do we do with female power since it has been relegated to a place outside of culture for so long? Toward the end of the run of Bewitched, Samantha often travels to far away places and times or interacts with historical figures, somewhat displacing the centrality of the home and middle class suburban life.

Notably, Elizabeth Montgomery's real-life husband was William Asher, the director of the series (who also directed I Love Lucy, Danny Thomas, and Patty Duke). Asher and Montgomery owned a percentage of profits of Bewitched as well as a percentage of the merchandising rights which involved the conception of a Samantha doll, jewelry, cosmetics, and a flavor of Bewitched ice cream. The couple's first child was born three weeks before the production of the first episode leading much of the popular press at the time to refer to the initiation of the show as a birthing process.

That series premier remains one of the series' most memorable episodes in many ways. When Samantha reveals to Darrin that she is a witch, he seeks the advice of others (best friend, doctor, bartender), each of whom refuses to take him seriously. So he returns home, resolving "So my wife's a witch. Every married man has to make some adjustments." His conclusion rings true, and continues to define much of the series--marriage may not be what it appears on the surface and the commitment to marriage and family, certainly in late 20th century America, means confronting male fears about women's sexuality and otherness, women's power, and the changing social and cultural significance of domestic institutions.

-Christina Lane

CAST

Samantha Stephens/Serena........ Elizabeth Montgomery

Darrin Stephens (l964-69).............................. Dick York  

Darrin Stephens (1969-72)........................ Dick Sargent  

Endora............................................ Agnes Moorehead  

Maurice................................................ Maurice Evans  

Larry Tate................................................. David White

Louise Tate {1964-65)............................... Irene Vernon

Louise Tate (1965-72)............................. Kasey Rogers  

Tabitha Stephens (1966-72)........ Erin and Diane Murphy  

Adam Stephens (1971-72)...... David and Greg Lawrence  

Abner Kravitz.........................................George Tobias  

Gladys Kravitz (1964-66)........................... Alice Pearce  

Gladys Kravitz (l966-72)........................... Sandra Gould

Aunt Clara (1964-68)................................ Marion Lorne

Uncle Arthur (l965-72)................................. Paul Lynde  

Esmerelda (1969-72).............................. Alice Ghostley  

Dr. Bombay (1967-72)............................... Bernard Fox

PRODUCERS

Harry Ackerman, William Froug, Danny Arnold, Jerry Davis, Bill Asher

PROGRAMMING HISTORY

306 Episodes

ABC

September 1964-January 1967   Thursday 9:00-9:30

January 1967-September 1971   Thursday 8:30-9:00

September 1971-January 1972   Wednesday 8:00-8:30

January 1972-July 1972   Saturday 8:00-8:30

FURTHER READING

Amory, Cleveland. "Bewitched." TV Guide (Radnor, Pennsylvania), 24 October 1964.

Asimov, Isaac. "Beware of Bewitched." TV Guide (Radnor, Pennsylvania), 22 March 1969.

Marc, David. Comic Visions: Television Comedy and American Culture. Boston: Unwin Hyman, 1989.

____________. "Every Witch Way But Loose." Village Voice (New York) 20 August 1985.

Pilato, Herbie J. The Bewitched Book: The Cosmic Companion to TV's Most Magical Supernatural Situation Comedy. New York: Dell, 1992.

Spigel, Lynn. "From Domestic Space to Outer Space: The 1960s Fantastic Family Sit-Com." In Penley, Constance, Elisabeth Lyon, Lynn Spigel and Janet Bergstrom, editors. Close Encounters: Film, Feminism, and Science Fiction. Minneapolis, Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press, 1991.

Stang, Joanne. "The Bewitching Miss Montgomery." New York Times, 22 November 1964.

Highlights
Sol Saks on writing the pilot episode (and creating) Bewitched
02:04
William Asher on directing Bewitched; on directing Elizabeth Montgomery
Grant Tinker on turning down Bewitched for NBC 
05:23
Burt Metcalfe on recasting the role of "Darrin Stephens" on Bewitched
01:53
William Froug on producing one year of Bewitched
05:50
Who talked about this show

William Asher

View Interview
William Asher on the genesis and production of Bewitched
20:50
William Asher on directing Bewitched; on directing Elizabeth Montgomery
William Asher on "Samantha's" nose-twich on Bewitched, the sound effect for it, and technical elements of the show
William Asher (Director) on how the special effects were handled on Bewitched, which had a relatively small budget for a TV show
William Asher on Bewitched 's animated title sequence and theme song
William Asher on the writers on Bewitched; on Agnes Moorehead
William Asher on a comparison between Betwitched and I Dream of Jeannie
William Asher on Bewitched and I Love Lucy being his career highlights
03:32

Bruce Bilson

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Bruce Bilson on directing ensemble casts
01:30
Bruce Bilson on directing Bewitched
01:00

Henry Colman

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Henry Colman on working as a Screen Gems production executive on Bewitched (and his run-in with William Asher)
03:07

Fred De Cordova

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Fred de Cordova on producing and directing several series for Screen Gems including The Donna Reed ShowThe Farmer's Daughter, and Bewitched
06:28

Michael Dann

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Michael Dann on how he lost Bewitched
02:58

Elinor Donahue

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Elinor Donahue on husband, Harry Ackerman
01:46

Ron Friedman

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Ron Friedman on writing for Bewitched and The Odd Couple starring Jack Klugman and Tony Randall, and working with producers William Asher and Garry Marshall
05:03

Chuck Fries

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Chuck Fries on the inception of Bewitched at Screen Gems
03:17

William Froug

View Interview
William Froug on producing one year of Bewitched
05:50

Burt Metcalfe

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Burt Metcalfe on recasting the role of "Darrin Stephens" on Bewitched
01:53

Howard Morris

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Howard Morris on directing The Patty Duke Show, and on directing Bewitched starring Elizabeth Montgomery
01:52

Bill Mumy

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Bill Mumy on appearing on Bewitched
03:04

Carroll Pratt

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Carroll Pratt on providing laugh track for Green Acres, Bewitched, Beverly Hillbillies, My Three Sons, and I Dream of Jeannie
04:26

Sol Saks

View Interview
Sol Saks on writing the pilot episode (and creating) Bewitched
02:04
Writer Sol Saks on quitting My Favorite Husband, and how this led, years later, to getting an offer to write a pilot that became Bewitched
03:07
Series creator Sol Saks on why he was credited on the second episode of Bewitched
00:57
Writer Sol Saks on the Bewitched pilot's appeal
01:17
Writer Sol Saks on being offered to write the pilot for the Bewitched spin-off Tabitha, which he refused
00:40
Show creator Sol Saks on his suggestion to producers that they not use magic too much on Bewitched
00:25
Show creator Sol Saks on his suggestion that they play the real-lie pregnancy of Elizabeth Montgomery on the show in Bewitched
01:36

Sidney Sheldon

View Interview
Sidney Sheldon on similarities between I Dream of Jeannie and Bewitched
00:53

Grant Tinker

View Interview
Grant Tinker on turning down Bewitched for NBC 
05:23

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