Darrin: You're a witch! Samantha: That's what I've been trying to tell you.
This long-running (1964-1972) Fantastic Comedy on ABC took a light-hearted look at the supernatural.Elizabeth Montgomery starred as Samantha, the wife of ad executive Darrin Stephens. She was not the average housewife. In fact, she was a witch, with the power to warp reality as she saw fit. Darrin encouraged her to suppress her powers and try to live a normal life, but Samantha couldn't help using her powers when she or Darrin were in a jam. With a twitch of the nose, she would make something magical happen and throw Darrin and the rest of the mortal world into a tizzy.While Samantha generally abstained from magic as per her husband's wishes, her family felt no such loyalty. Witches and warlocks popped into Sam's life on a regular basis, and gleefully mucked up the lives of mortals, both intentionally and unintentionally. Not helping was the fact that all of them wanted Sam to forsake the mortal life for full-time witchcraft. Endora was Samantha's mother and the ultimate vicious mother-in-law, not thinking much of mortals like Darrin. Endora was the most common instigator of plots, and trying to reverse one of her spells before any mortals found out was often the driving force for a given episode. Maurice was Samantha's father, and the rest of the magical family included practical-joking Uncle Arthur, fun-loving Serena and forgetful Aunt Clara. Esmeralda was added later in the show's run as a slightly inept witch housekeeper. She was a timid soul and would vanish into thin air if addressed in a harsh tone. A physician character, Dr. Bombay, was added to the show in 1967.A frequent unintentional witness to Samantha's magical antics was Larry Tate, Darrin's boss. Among the other inhabitants of this bewitched world were Larry's wife, Louise, and the Stephens' next-door neighbors, the Kravitzes, nosy Gladys and long-suffering Abner. Samantha and Darrin would later have two children, Tabitha (spelled Tabatha in the credits until Season Five) and Adam. Tabitha had her mother's powers, but Adam only developed them near the very end of the series (much to Darrin's relief).The show, which could have been forgettable fluff in lighter hands, was buoyed by intelligent writing and sharp performances, and as a result, Bewitched became a favorite with critics and audiences and even won a few Emmys.Over the years, many people have criticized Darrin's hatred of magic, but not all of it came from his reactionary fear of non-conformity; he also could never have survived in Samantha's world due to his lack of magical powers. The first time he met Samantha's mother, she threatened to kill him, and the first time he met Samantha's father, he did kill him — but Samantha persuaded her father to bring Darrin back to life a few minutes later. It would only take a slight change in approach to make most of the Bewitched storylines into terrifying horror stories. Yet through all the hexes and curses and involuntary shapeshifts, Darrin remained loyal to Samantha, and vice versa.The tension between the mortal and supernatural worlds, and Samantha's precarious balancing act between the two, formed the backbone of all the episodes. On any given episode, Samantha might try to keep the peace with her father when he discovered Darrin was a mortal, or Endora might decide Darrin needed a sense of humor and put a hex on him to make him crack jokes uncontrollably. These premises might have seemed simple on the surface, but they quickly achieved complexity when worked through the show's intricate web of character relationships, and just about always ended on a lesson about accepting one's family, no matter how bizarre or embarrassing they may be.The show's scripts were always solid and utilized a consistently high level of imagination when working the supernatural elements into the story. In one show, Esmerelda was asked to make a Caesar salad and accidentally conjured up Julius Caesar himself. The show's ensemble was tight and funny, and their across-the-board chemistry both brought the stories to life and made the material believable. The show also had a rare consistency of style and tone, thanks to the fact that the show had one regular producer and director, William Asher, to guide the actors through their paces. It is interesting to note that Mr. Asher was the real-life husband of Elizabeth Montgomery, Samantha Stephens herself.Bewitched experienced many casting changes during its long run. Kasey Rogers replaced Irene Vernon as Louise Tate in 1966, and Sandra Gould replaced Alice Pearce as Gladys Kravitz the same year. Tabitha was played by no fewer than three sets of twins: Heidi and Laura Gentry and Tamar and Julie Young all played Tabitha throughout much of 1966, but were replaced permanently by the duo of Erin and Diane Murphy. (Eventually Erin Murphy took over the role entirely.) But the most noticeable replacement (and one of the most famous in TV history) occurred in 1969 when Dick Sargent replaced an ailing Dick York as Darrin. Usually having multiple changes like these are detrimental to a show's quality, but Bewitched managed to weather all the changes with nary a hair out of place.The show ended its run in July 1972 after eight seasons, having won Emmys for Asher's direction and Marion Lorne's performance as Aunt Clara. Montgomery was nominated five times for her work as Samantha, but never won. Just the same, she will always be remembered fondly by television viewers for the role of Samantha Stephens. Tabitha, a Spin-Off series built around the now-grown daughter character (played by Lisa Hartman Black), was aired on ABC during the 1977-78 season, bringing supernatural comedy back to the small screen, at least for a while.In 2005 a movieadaptation hit the big screen, and approached the subject matter from a direction never before tried: instead of merely adapting the series for the big screen, it was a comedy about adapting the series for the big screen. The twist? A real witch of the Bewitched mold (Isabel, played by Nicole Kidman) was cast as Samantha ("I wasn't allowed to watch Bewitched. Daddy said it was racist.").Bewitched has been dubbed into dozens of languages for distribution all around the world. In addition, the series has been remade many times in foreign markets, most notably on Japanese TV in 2004 as Oku-sama wa majo — literally, My Wife Is A Witch but subtitled in English Bewitched in Tokyo. Furthermore, Bewitched is credited as a major influence on the very first Magical Girlanime, Sally The Witch (Mahōtsukai Sally, broadcast 1966-1968), making it the ultimate ancestor of all Cute Witch characters in Japanese animation. More recently, explicit homage was paid to Bewitched by the anime Oku-sama wa Maho Shojo: Bewitched Agnes (2005). Finally, the rights to Bewitched have been owned since 1989 by Sony, a Japanese company; this is coincidental (it was a side effect of their purchase of Columbia Pictures), but certainly fits, given the series' popularity in Japan.
The Arthur Dent: Darrin. Aside from being married to a witch, a lot of episodes shown that Darrin's life would have been plagued by the supernatural even without Sam. He had been cursed by nymphs, was once sought after by a youth-stealing witch, possessed by ghosts, and his family once owned leprechaun servants.
Brought Down to Normal: Samantha became unable to use her powers in one episode, after spending so long trying to act like a mortal. Endora and Dr. Bombay tried to unclog her powers by levitating her, but Darrin interrupted to accuse Sam of magically helping him without his permission, and she started performing uncontrollable feats of magic.
Camp Gay: Not with the show itself, but the show does have a very wide appeal to the LGBT community.
The Soap OperaPassions (1999-2008) features Juliet Mills as Tabitha Lenox, a genuine witch whose daughter is named Endora and whose parents are a mortal named Darrin and a witch named Samantha. Furthermore, Bernard Fox has made two appearances on the show as his Bewitched character, Dr. Bombay.
Elizabeth Montgomery and Dick York voiced Samantha and Darrin in an episode of The Flintstones.
Cute Witch: This show is the ulitimate ancestor to all the cute witches in anime.
The Danza: Maurice Evans plays Samantha's father, Maurice.
I Dream Of Jeannie. Elizabeth Montgomery reportedly hated Jeannie because she felt it was a shameless knock off of her show, but with all the social commentary replaced with fanservice. Decades later Barbara Eden sort of agreed with her. When NBC hired Sidney Sheldon to create the series for them to compete with the success of ABC's Bewitched, he went to Bewitched directed William Asher for advice, admitting, "I have this, sort of, rip-off of you..."
The 2005 film lampshades this, when Isabel is telling her neighbor Maria about being in the new series.
Maria: Oh, I love that show! Is it the one about the genie? Isabel: ...no...
Some would even feel that both shows also were to compete against previously successful monster sitcoms, such as The Addams Family and The Munsters.
Edited for Syndication: The opening animated credit sequence usually included a bit with that week's sponsor's logo, such as the Darrin and Samantha characters riding the Chevrolet logo through the sky, or Samantha turning herself into a sheepdog for Ken-L-Ration dog food.
Fantastic Racism: Entirely one-sided. Darrin didn't really have problems with witches as such, just Samantha's family's constant interference in his life. Hard to fault him, considering his father-in-law once killed him. With the exception of Samantha, and Clara every witch or warlock we see holds mortals in contempt.
Serena went back and forth, as did Uncle Arthur. They looked down at mortals, but did not appear to be totally contemptuous of them, and sometimes sided with Sam and Darrin.
Uncle Arthur does admit in one episode that he does genuinely like Darrin, while Darrin considers him the "best friend he has in Sam's family".
Early episodes highlighted the fact that Endora was genuinely looking out for Samantha's best interests, and that her emnity toward Darrin was Nothing Personal. Whether she was trying to drive him away or merely testing him to see if he could handle marrying into a family of witches is anyone's guess. Occasionally Endora will use her magic to help Darrin (and, by extension, Samantha and the children—usually Larry is the victim/subject of her spells in these cases) with the usual unintended consequences.
Not entirely one-sided. Samantha's family may have hated him and used magic to torment him, but Darrin himself shows his true nature in that he thinks magic to be unnatural, wrong to use in any circumstance, and tries to actively repress that part of her nature, no matter how trivially she uses it. Elizabeth Montgomery herself has stated that the show was prejudiced.
Bewitched, bewitched, you've got me in your spell/Bewitched, bewitched, you know your craft so well/Before I knew what you were doing, I looked in your eyes/That brand of woo that you've been brewin' took me by surprise/You witch, you witch! One thing that is for sure/That stuff you pitch, Just hasn't got a cure/My heart was under lock and key, But somehow it got unhitched/I never thought my heart could be had/But now I'm caught and I'm kind of glad/To be — bewitched!
Getting Crap Past the Radar: Interestingly for the time during which the show aired, the marital status (or possible lack thereof) between Endora and Maurice is surprisingly vague. It is known that they do not live together (she threatens to move in with him in one episode) and in another (while under the effects of a love potion) she nearly marries one of Darren's clients. On the other hand it is also implied at one point that they are married when she threatens to get the witch's equivalent of a divorce. This creates a number of possibilities, including that they are in an open marriage or that witches are not monogamous generally, with Samantha being unusual in her marital fidelity.
In the episode "Marriage, Witch's Style," a matchmaker explaining how his computerized dating service works explains that "those male cards compatible with your female card will drop into your little slot." Cut to a closeup of Samantha doing a Double Take at that.
Doctor Bombay makes suggestive remarks about his activities with his nurse.
In one episode, Darrin comes up with a traditional "old crone" witch silhouette as a mascot for a some candy. Samantha is offended and convinces Darrin to go with a sexier witch silhouette, which looks like Samantha in the Animated Credits Opening. Darrin is fired because the client liked the old witch look more.
Jail Bake: Bewitched a case where the cake was magically conjured by accident.
Jerk Ass: Endora more than likely would already be insufferable to deal with as a mortal. But the fact that she has an almost limitless supply of magic makes dealing with her hell, as Darrin fully was aware.
On those occasions when she lost her powers, she would pitifully manipulate him into waiting on her hand and foot. You know, like an ordinary mother-in law.
Jerk with a Heart of Gold: earlier episodes highlighted that Endora's main motivation was concern for Samantha and the children. The character underwent Flanderization as the later seasons progressed, making her more of a pure Jerk Ass.
Darrin himself strayed into this territory a lot with some legitimately Kick the Dog moments, where he's sometimes an out and out racist or sexist.
Large Ham: Maurice. Dear Lord, Maurice. Also, Dr. Bombay and pretty much everyone on the supporting cast.
Literal Genie: Many spells go off exactly as specified, not as desired.
Magical Gesture: Samantha's famous nose-wiggling. Other witches like Endora tended to have a different style however. A young Tabitha, unable to twich her nose on her own, was seen forcing it to move with her finger, later switching to moving her crossed fingers up and down.
Nosy Neighbor: "Gladys Kravitz" is shorthand for a busy-body who gossips about their neighbors.
Not Me This Time: Happens in quite a few episodes, as Darrin usually assumes that his troubles are being caused by Endora. Endora claims to be innocent, or doesn't show up in the episode at all, and later it turns out to be someone else screwing with Darrin — or the problem was completely mundane with no magic involved.
One Scene, Two Monologues: A Running Gag with Darrin and his bar buddy Dave. Darrin always tells Dave everything about his life, including the fact that his wife is a witch, and Dave obliviously continues rambling on about something else.
Dave: The sea of matrimony is beset with hidden shoals and reefs.
Darrin: I just found out Samantha's a witch.
Dave: And it takes tolerance and understanding to find the channel of true love!
Darrin: I didn't believe it until she started moving things around.
Dave: Marriage is a partnership where two people, side by side, face life's obstacles together.
Only One Name: Samantha's family apparently does have a surname, though it is never given. Endora tells Darrin when the two first meet that he'll never be able to pronounce it. A 1965 Dell paperback novelization gives her maiden name as "Dobson," but this is not canon.
The Other Darrin: Not just Darrin, but Gladys Kravitz, Louise Tate and Darrin's father, not to mention two babies and three different sets of twins playing Tabitha.
The trope namer has the bonus of both actors being named Dick, leading fans to affectionately call it "the Dick switch."
Pretty in Mink: A few episodes had furs, since for witches, it was just a matter of making one appear.
Reactionary Fantasy: Unfortunately, it couldn't work the other way around with Darrin accepting his wife's magic since that would mean he would logically be prone to ask her to solve all his problems with it, killing any real drama in the premise. It is occasionally subverted during the first two seasons, when Darrin would try to adapt to Samantha's world but simply lacked the magical powers needed to survive among witches.
Once or twice Darrin did manage to defeat or dodge a plot by Endora and Co. on his own, something that gave him considerable satisfaction for understandable reasons.
Reality Subtext: Tabitha was conceived and born because Elizabeth Montgomery got pregnant.
Recycled Set: Essentially every room in someone else's house was the Stephens' master bedroom with new furniture and different camera angles. The Kravitzes' kitchen was the same as the Stephens'.
The Stephens' living room set was itself recycled from the movie Gidget Goes to Rome.
The recycling continued for years after. The exterior of the Taylors' home in Home Improvement was a redecoration of the facade of the Stephens' home, and the fountain in the local park is most famous as the place the Friends play around during their theme song.
Unlike Bewitched, in I Married a Witch the 'shadow-horror' element is much closer to the surface, the witch in question really does have very bad intentions for Wallace Wooley (the hero) at first, and her warlock father is much worse. The protagonist comes out ahead in the end, partly by accident, but even at the end there's a hint that he might not be home free yet. The feel is similar to Bewitched, but a step or two closer to reality and so a step or two scarier and more unnerving amid the comedy.
Satire: Although the series seldom questioned the sexism of its time, it continually satirized conformity through Darrin's desperation to appear identical to everyone else, snobbery through Darrin's parents, and racism both through Darrin's attitude about witches and Endora's prejudice against mortals. With mixed results, the series often satirized obsessive consumerism through Darrin, Larry Tate, and the advertising client of the week; Word Of God is that the producers and writers wanted to satirize consumerism more intensely but were forbidden to do so by the network and the series' commercial sponsors. Corporate careerism is sent up by Darrin's near-slavish deference to his employer. And some people claim to find a subtle satire of homophobia, primarily through Uncle Arthur, as many of the people involved in the series are now known to have been gay and/or gay-friendly.
Plus the very idea of an "invisible" subculture of unusual people, existing alongside the everyday world, encouraged gays (and others) to identify. It helped that Endora was just about TV's first Drag Queen, in look if not in...parts.
The series tackled sexism subtly in that Samantha was never once portrayed as less intelligent or capable than Darrin, witchcraft or not. Unlike I Dream of Jeannie, in which Jeannie was (nominally) subservient to her Master's wishes, Sam was never anything less than Darrin's partner. Theirs was a very egalitarian marriage, which is why Sam refrained from using magic unless necessary — not out of obedience to her husband, but out of respect for him.
Values Dissonance: Blink and you'll miss it, but in an underhand Larry proudly boasts they never should have let women vote. Kinda Harsher in Hindsight with so many political groups trying to curtail women's rights nowadays. Also Darrin's general attitude toward magic and the rampant sexism of The Sixties that's on display for all to see.