BewitchedBewitched is an American television sitcom fantasy series, originally broadcast for eight seasons on ABC from September 17, 1964, to March 25, 1972. It is about a witch who marries an ordinary mortal man and vows to lead the life of a typical suburban housewife. The show was popular, finishing as the second-rated show in America during its debut season, staying in the top ten for its first three seasons, and ranking in eleventh place for both seasons four and five. The show continues to be seen throughout the world in syndication and on recorded media.
Bewitched was created by Sol Saks under executive director Harry Ackerman and starred: Elizabeth Montgomery as Samantha Stephens; Dick York (1964–1969) as Darrin Stephens, her husband; Agnes Moorehead as Endora, Samantha's mother; David White as Larry Tate, Darrin's boss; Irene Vernon (1964–1966) and later Kasey Rogers (1966–1972) as Louise Tate, Larry's wife; Alice Pearce (1964–1966) as Gladys Kravitz; George Tobias (1964–1971) as her husband Abner Kravitz; and Erin Murphy (1966–1972) as Tabitha Stephens. Dick Sargent replaced an ailing York for the final three seasons (1969–1972). In 1966, Sandra Gould took over the part of Gladys Kravitz (1966–1971) when Alice Pearce died. Annual semi-regulars included Maurice Evans as Maurice, Samantha's father; Marion Lorne as Samantha's Aunt Clara (1964–1968); Alice Ghostley as Esmeralda, Samantha's babysitter (1969–1972); Paul Lynde as Samantha's Uncle Arthur (1965–1971); Mabel Albertson as Darrin's mother Phyllis Stephens (1964–1971); and Robert F. Simon and Roy Roberts alternating the role of Frank Stephens, Darrin's father (1964–1971).
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 beautiful witch named Samantha (Elizabeth Montgomery) meets and marries a mortal named Darrin Stephens (originally Dick York, later Dick Sargent). While Samantha complies with Darrin's wishes to become a normal 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, 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 incantations. To perform magic, Samantha often twitches her nose to create a spell. Special visual effects are accompanied by music to highlight such an action.
SettingThe main setting for most episodes is the Stephens' house at 1164 Morning Glory Circle, in an upper-middle-class suburban neighborhood, either in Westport, Connecticut or Patterson, New York as indicated by conflicting information presented throughout the series. Many scenes also take place at the fictional Madison Avenue advertising agency McMann and Tate, where Darrin works
During its run, the series had a number of major cast changes, often because of illness or death of the actors. In particular, the performer playing Darrin was replaced after the fifth season, during which he missed several episodes.
PrecursorsCreator Sol Saks' inspirations for this series were the film I Married a Witch (1942), developed from Thorne Smith's unfinished novel The Passionate Witch, and the John Van Druten Broadway play Bell, Book and Candle, which was adapted into the 1958 film Bell, Book and Candle.
In I Married a Witch, Wallace Wooley (Fredric March) is a descendant of people who executed witches at the Salem witch trials. As revenge, a witch (Veronica Lake) prepares a love potion for him. She ends up consuming her own potion and falling for her enemy. Her father is against this union. In the film of Bell, Book and Candle, modern witch Gillian Holroyd (Kim Novak) uses a love spell on Shep Henderson (James Stewart) to have a simple fling with him but genuinely falls for the man.
Both films were properties of Columbia Pictures, which also owned Screen Gems, the company that produced Bewitched.
Production and broadcastingSol Saks received credit as the creator of the show; he wrote the pilot of Bewitched but was not involved with the show after the pilot. Creator Saks, executive producer Harry Ackerman, and director William Asher started rehearsals for the pilot on November 22, 1963; this coincided with the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Asher felt personally affected by the event, as he knew Kennedy; he had produced the 1962 televised birthday party where Marilyn Monroe sang "Happy Birthday, Mr. President". The pilot concerned "the occult destabilization of the conformist life of an upwardly mobile advertising man". For that first episode, "I Darrin, Take This Witch, Samantha", Academy Award-winning actor José Ferrer served as the narrator. First season producer and head writer Danny Arnold set the initial style and tone of the series, and he also helped develop supporting characters such as Larry Tate and the Kravitzes. Arnold, who wrote on McHale's Navy and other shows, thought of Bewitched essentially as a romantic comedy about a mixed marriage; his episodes kept the magic element to a minimum. One or two magical acts drove the plot, but Samantha often solved problems without magic. Many of the first season's episodes were allegorical, using supernatural situations as metaphors for the problems any young couple would face. Arnold stated that the two main themes of the series were the conflict between a powerful woman and a husband who cannot deal with that power, and the anger of a bride's mother at seeing her daughter marry beneath her. Though the show was a hit right from the beginning, finishing its first year as the number 2 show in the United States, ABC wanted more magic and more farcical plots, causing battles between Arnold and the network.
In its first season, Bewitched was American Broadcasting Company's number one show and the best rated sitcom among all three networks. It was second in ratings only to Bonanza. Bewitched aired at 9 pm Thursday evenings. It was preceded on the air by another sitcom, My Three Sons, and followed by the soap opera Peyton Place. My Three Sons finished 13th in the ratings and Peyton Place ninth. The block formed by the three shows was the strongest ratings grabber in ABC's schedule. Arnold left the show after the first season, 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, misunderstandings and farce became more prevalent elements, though this season still included a number of more low-key episodes in which the magical element was not strongly emphasized. 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. According to William Froug's autobiography, William Asher (who had directed many episodes) wanted to take over as producer when Jerry Davis left, but the production company was not yet ready to approve the idea. Froug, a former producer of Gilligan's Island and the last season of The Twilight Zone, 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. The first two seasons had aired Thursdays at 9:00, and the time was moved to 8:30 shortly after the third year (1966–1967) had begun. Nevertheless, the ratings for Bewitched remained high and it placed among the top fifteen shows through the 1968–69 season. It was the seventh highest-rated show in both the U.S. '65–'66 and '66–'67 schedules. Similarly, it was number 11 the following two years.At the time, the show had won three Emmy Awards. William Asher won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series in 1966. Alice Pearce posthumously won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for her portrayal of Gladys Kravitz and Marion Lorne won the same award posthumously in 1968 for her portrayal of Aunt Clara. Producers were faced with how to deal with the deaths of both these actresses. When Pearce died in the spring of 1966, only a few episodes of season two remained to be filmed. Mary Grace Canfield was hired to play Gladys's sister-in-law Harriet Kravitz in four episodes. Comedienne Alice Ghostley was approached to take over the role of Gladys the next season, but turned it down. Instead, Sandra Gould was hired. Marion Lorne was not replaced, and the character of Aunt Clara was not seen after the fourth season (although she was referred to a in a few episodes at the beginning of the fifth season). Rather, beginning in the show's sixth year, Ghostley was finally used to play the character of Esmeralda, a kind but shy and inept witch. In another notable casting change, Louise Tate, played by Irene Vernon during the first two seasons, was played by Kasey Rogers thereafter.
The fifth season of Bewitched (1968-1969) proved to be a watershed for the series, most notably with the death of Marion Lorne and the frequent absences of Dick York in many episodes. York was suffering from recurring back problems, the result of an accident during the filming of They Came To Cordura (1959). As a result, many episodes featured Samantha and Tabitha on their own with York's character of Darrin out of town on business. It was during this time that Serena (Samantha's identical cousin, also played by Montgomery) was used more frequently. Filming of scenes involving both Samantha and Serena was accomplished by using Melody McCord, Montgomery's stand-in. Towards the end of the season, York's increased disability which caused numerous shooting delays and script rewrites resulted in his collapsing on the set in January 1969 while filming the episode "Daddy Does His Thing". He was immediately rushed to the hospital and after a long talk with producer-director William Asher, York decided to leave the series. At about the same time, Montgomery and Asher announced that they were expecting another baby and it was decided that Samantha and Darrin would also have another child in the fall of that year. On screen, Samantha tells Darrin over the phone the news of her second pregnancy. That same month, Dick Sargent was cast to play Darrin beginning in the sixth season.Beginning with the sixth season's (1969–1970) opening credits, in addition to York being replaced with Sargent, Elizabeth Montgomery was billed above the title, and David White now received billing as well, after Agnes Moorehead's. During this year, the show saw a significant decline in ratings, falling from eleventh to 24th place. In mid-1970, the set of the Stephens' home was being rebuilt due to a fire. In June, the cast and crew traveled to Salem, Magnolia, and Gloucester, Massachusetts to film an eight-part story arc in which Samantha, Darrin, and Endora travel to Salem for the centennial Witches Convocation. These location shoots marked the only times the show would film away from its Hollywood studio sets and backlot. Season seven premiered with eight so-called 'Salem Saga' episodes. On June 15, 2005, TV Land unveiled a Samantha statue in Salem to mark the show's 40th anniversary. On hand were three surviving actors from the show, Bernard Fox (Dr. Bombay), Erin Murphy (Tabitha), and Kasey Rogers (Louise Tate), as well as producer/director William Asher.
These on-location episodes helped the show's sagging ratings, but after the Salem episodes, viewership again dwindled. Scripts from old episodes were recycled frequently. The year's ratings for Bewitched had fallen and the show did not even rank in the list of the top thirty programs. ABC moved Bewitched's airtime from Thursdays at 8:30 pm to Wednesdays at 8:00 pm at the beginning of the eighth season. The schedule change did not help ratings as the show was now pitted against CBS's popular The Carol Burnett Show. Fewer recurring characters were used this season, with the Kravitzes, Darrin's parents, and Uncle Arthur not appearing at all. Filming ended in December 1971, and in January 1972 the show was finally moved to Saturday night at 8:00 pm, opposite television's number one show, All in the Family, where it fared even worse, with Bewitched finishing in 72nd place for the year.
During its first five seasons, Bewitched was sponsored by both General Motors’ Chevrolet division and the Quaker Oats Company. As a result, Chevrolet vehicles were often prominently featured on the series, even as a part of the storyline (an example of product placement), and there were many scenes of the Stephens’ having breakfast in the kitchen. Sponsors in later seasons included Bristol-Myers, Eastman Kodak and Oscar Mayer.
Cancellation and aftermath
Despite the low ratings, Bewitched still had a contract for two more seasons on ABC. The network was willing to honor that contract by renewing the sitcom for a ninth season. However, by this time, Montgomery had grown tired of the series and wanted to move on to other roles. Also, she and her husband William Asher had separated and would divorce in 1974.
As a consolation, Asher pitched an idea to ABC for a sitcom starring Paul Lynde. The concept was based on the play Howie, about a lawyer (played by Lynde) whose daughter marries a slacker named Howard, or "Howie". The Lynde character despises him, as he is not interested in earning money or traditional pursuits. Howie was developed for CBS in 1962, as a replacement for The Dick Van Dyke Show, but when that series was saved from cancellation, plans for Howie were discarded. In creating a series for Paul Lynde, Asher decided to resurrect the Howie concept for ABC and Screen Gems as a replacement for Bewitched the following year. Asher designed The Paul Lynde Show to be ABC's counterpart to CBS's All In the Family; however, the show lacked the controversial and topical issues brought up by that series, due to ABC's restriction on social realism. This was despite Lynde's rewrite of the show's dialog in an effort to make the series more lively and comedic. When The Paul Lynde Show debuted on ABC in the fall of 1972, it inherited Bewitched’s time slot during its last season on Wednesday nights opposite the first half of the Top 30 hit The Carol Burnett Show on CBS and the Top 20 hit Adam-12 on NBC. As a result, the series garnered low ratings and The Paul Lynde Show was canceled after one season (26 episodes).
To help fulfil the network’s contract with Bewitched, Asher and Harry Ackerman created another ABC sitcom for the 1972–1973 season entitled Temperatures Rising starring James Whitmore and Cleavon Little, which, in its first year, was not only struggling with its format but with the ratings. In mid-season, Asher was replaced as producer by Bruce Johnson and Duke Vincent. Despite its challenges, the series ended its first year with a respectable 29 share and was renewed for the 1973–1974 season. To improve ratings, ABC wanted to make some changes. When The New Temperatures Rising Show debuted in September 1973, Whitmore was replaced by Paul Lynde and the emphasis on black comedy in the show became more prominent. As a result, the ratings for the series fell well below the levels of the previous season. The last of the thirteen episodes aired on January 8, 1974. The following Tuesday, January 15, ABC premiered Happy Days in its place.
When Screen Gems head John Mitchell and ABC chief programmer Barry Diller noticed that The New Temperatures Rising Show was failing, they contacted William Asher and asked him to come back and salvage the series. As a result, the show was resurrected on July 18, 1974 after a six-month hiatus with its original title Temperatures Rising. Joining Lynde and Little in the cast was Bewitched alum Alice Ghostley. Despite the changes in cast and format, the attempt to resuscitate the series failed and ABC finally cancelled it permanently. The final episode of Temperatures Rising aired on August 29, 1974 which ended William Asher’s original contract with Bewitched and ABC.
Sets and locationsThe 1959 Columbia Pictures film Gidget was filmed on location at a real house in Santa Monica (at 267 18th Street). The blueprint design of this house was later reversed and replicated as a house facade attached to an existing garage on the backlot of Columbia's Ranch. This was the house seen on Bewitched. The patio and living room sets seen in Columbia's Gidget Goes to Rome (1963) were soon adapted for the permanent Bewitched set for 1964. The interior of the Stephens' house can be seen, substantially unaltered, in the Jerry Lewis film Hook, Line & Sinker (1969). The set was also used several times in the television series Gidget and I Dream of Jeannie, as well as the made-for-television movie Brian's Song (1971). It was also used, as a setting for an opening tag sequence, for the final episode of the first season of another Screen Gems property, The Monkees and in an episode of The Fantastic Journey. The house served as Doctor Bellows' house on I Dream of Jeannie, and was seen in an episode of Home Improvement when Tim Taylor took Tool Time on location to the house of Vinnie's mother to repair a gas leak in the basement furnace (with a second gas leak at the kitchen stove, unbeknownst to Tim). The Stephens house was also featured in a Fruit of the Loom Christmas commercial and it was used as Clark Griswold's boyhood home in his old home movies in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.
On the Columbia studio backlot, the Kravitzes' house was actually down the street from the Stephenses' house exterior. Both houses' exterior doors opened to an unfinished 18 by entry, as the interiors were shot on studio sound stages elsewhere. A "front porch" set, replicating the porch of the backlot house was created as well. From 1964 through 1966, the Kravitzes' house was the same as used for The Donna Reed Show. Beginning with season 3 color episodes in 1966, the Kravitz house sets were the same as what would (years later) be featured as The Partridge Family house. Production and filming for Bewitched was based in Los Angeles and, although the setting is assumed to be New York, several episodes feature wide-angle exterior views of the Stephenses' neighborhood showing a California landscape with mountains in the distance. Another example of questionable continuity regarding the location can be seen in Season 6, Episode 6: Darrin's parents drive home after visiting the new baby, passing several large palm trees lining the street.
Cultural contextIn February 1964, feminist Betty Friedan wrote the two-part essay "Television and the Feminine Mystique" for TV Guide, wherein she criticized the way women were portrayed in television. She summarized their depiction as stupid, unattractive, and insecure household drudges. Their time was divided between dreaming of love and plotting revenge on their husbands. Samantha was not depicted this way and Endora used Friedan-like words to criticize the boring drudgery of household life. Others have looked at the way that the series 'play[ed] into and subvert[ed] a rich load of cultural stereotypes and allusions' regarding witches, gender roles, advertising and consumerism. In the episode "Eat at Mario's" (May 27, 1965), Samantha and Endora co-operate in using their witchcraft to defend and promote a quality Italian restaurant. They take delight in an active, aggressive role in the public space, breaking new ground in the depiction of women in television.
Airing during the civil rights era, Bewitched none too subtlety took on then taboos about interracial marriage.
In a 1992 interview, Elizabeth Montgomery was asked if the show was an allegory about closeted homosexuality. She answered, "Don't think that didn't enter our minds at the time. We talked about it on the set—certainly not in production meetings—that this was about people not being allowed to be what they really are. If you think about it, Bewitched is about repression in general and all the frustration and trouble it can cause."
ReceptionWalter Metz attributes the success of the series to its snappy writing, the charm of Elizabeth Montgomery, and the talents of its large supporting cast. The show also made use of respected film techniques for its special effects. The soundtrack was unique, notably where it concerned the synthesized sound of nose twitching.
The first episodes featured a voice-over narrator "performing comic sociological analyses" of the role of a witch in middle class suburbia. The style was reminiscent of Hollywood films such as Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (1957). In a 1991 audio interview with film historian Ronald Haver, Elizabeth Montgomery revealed that her father Robert Montgomery was originally approached to narrate these episodes but he refused. Instead, the narration was done by Academy Award-winning actor José Ferrer, who did not receive credit.
ImpactThe series inspired rival show I Dream of Jeannie (1965–1970).
Spin-offs, crossovers, and remakes
The FlintstonesThe 1965 episode of The Flintstones titled "Samantha" (1965) featured Dick York and Elizabeth Montgomery as Darrin and Samantha Stephens, who have just moved into the neighborhood. This crossover was facilitated by both series being broadcast on ABC.
Tabitha and Adam and the Clown FamilyAn animated TV special made in 1972 by Hanna-Barbera Productions for The ABC Saturday Superstar Movie, this featured teenage versions of Tabitha and Adam visiting their aunt and her family who travel with a circus.
In 1977, a short-lived spin-off entitled Tabitha aired on ABC. Lisa Hartman played Tabitha, now an adult working with her brother Adam at television station KXLA. There were several continuity differences with the original series. Adam and Tabitha had both aged far more than the intervening five years between the two series would have allowed. Adam also had become Tabitha's older mortal brother, rather than her younger warlock brother, as he was in Bewitched. Supporting character Aunt Minerva (Karen Morrow) says she has been close to Tabitha since childhood, though she had never been mentioned once in the original series. Tabitha's parents are mentioned but never appear. However Bernard Fox, Sandra Gould, George Tobias and Dick Wilson reprised their roles as Dr. Bombay, Gladys Kravitz, Abner Kravitz, and "various drunks."
Bewitched inspired a 2005 film starring Nicole Kidman and Will Ferrell. The film, departing from the show's family-oriented tone, is not a remake but takes a metafictional approach, with the action focused on arrogant, failing Hollywood actor Jack Wyatt (Ferrell) who is offered a career comeback playing Darrin in a remake of Bewitched. The role is contingent upon him finding the perfect woman to play Samantha. He chooses an unknown named Isabel Bigelow (Kidman), who is an actual witch. The film was written, directed, and produced by Nora Ephron, and was poorly received by most critics and was a financial disappointment. It earned $22 million less than the production cost domestically. However it earned an additional $68 million internationally. The New York Times called the film "an unmitigated disaster."
Comic adaptationsDell Comics adapted the series into a comic book series in 1964. The art work was provided by Henry Scarpelli.
In 1966, the series was adapted as a strip in Lady Penelope, beginning from issue 12 and lasting until the comic's demise in 1969.
Proposed rebootsIn August 2011 it was reported that CBS ordered a script to be written by Marc Lawrence for a rebooted series of Bewitched.
On October 22, 2014, Sony Pictures Television announced that it sold a pilot of Bewitched to NBC as a possible entry for the 2015—2016 US television season. This show would have concerned Tabitha's daughter Daphne, a single woman who despite having the same magical powers as her mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother, is determined not to use her special abilities to find a soul mate. The new version of the proposed series, written by Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein, had been on the radar of several major networks, including ABC, after Sony began shopping the project to interested parties.
On August 23, 2018, ABC announced that it had bought a pilot for a single camera Bewitched remake from Black-ish creator Kenya Barris. This is Barris's last new project for the network before his exclusive contract with Netflix goes into effect.
Syndication historyAfter completing its original run, ABC Daytime and ABC Saturday Morning continued to air the series until 1973. Bewitched has since been syndicated on many local US broadcast stations from 1973–82 and then since 1993, including Columbia TriStar Television as part of the Screen Gems Network syndication package from 1999–2001, which featured by 1999 bonus wraparound content during episode airings.
From 1973 to 1982, the entire series was syndicated by Screen Gems/Columbia Pictures. By the late '70s, many local stations skipped the black and white episodes or only ran those in the summer due to a perception that black-and-white shows usually had less appeal than shows filmed in color. From 1981 to about 1991, only the color episodes were syndicated in barter syndication by DFS Program Exchange. The first two seasons, which were in black and white were not included and Columbia retained the rights to those. Beginning in 1989, Nick at Nite began airing only the black-and-white episodes, which were originally unedited back then. The edited ones continued in barter syndication until 1992. Columbia syndicated the entire series beginning in 1991. The remaining six color seasons were added to Nick at Nite's lineup in March 1998 in a week-long Dueling Darrins Marathon. Seasons 1–2 were later colorized and made available for syndication and eventually DVD sales. Cable television channel WTBS carried seasons 3–8 throughout the 1980s and 1990s from DFS on a barter basis like most local stations that carried the show did.
The Hallmark Channel aired the show from 2001 to 2003; TV Land then aired the show from 2003 to 2006, and it returned in March 2010, but left the schedule in 2012.
In October 2008, the show began to air on WGN America, and in October 2012 on Logo, limited to the middle seasons only.
MeTV aired the show in conjunction with I Dream of Jeannie from December 31, 2012 to September 1, 2013. Cable and satellite network FETV also airs the show together with I Dream of Jeannie. The show now airs on Antenna TV.
Overseas marketsIn Australia, this series aired on the Nine Network's digital channel GO! later it moved to the Seven Network's digital channels 7TWO later 7flix.
Russia-based channel Domashny aired the show from 2008 to 2010.
InternetSelected episodes may be viewed on iTunes, YouTube, Internet Movie Database, Hulu, The Minisode Network, Crackle, and Amazon.com. The show also airs on free streaming TV station Pluto TV.
Beginning in 2005, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment released all eight seasons of Bewitched. In regions 1 and 4, seasons 1 and 2 were each released in two versions—one as originally broadcast in black-and-white, and one colorized. The complete series set only contains the colorized versions of Seasons 1–2. Only the colorized editions were released in regions 2 and 4.
On August 27, 2013, it was announced that Mill Creek Entertainment had acquired the rights to various television series from the Sony Pictures library including Bewitched. They have subsequently re-released the first six seasons, with seasons 1 & 2 available only in their black and white versions.
On October 6, 2015, Mill Creek Entertainment re-released Bewitched- The Complete Series on DVD in Region 1. Special features were stripped from the release.