Bewitched is an American fantasy situation comedy originally broadcast for eight seasons on ABC from 1964 to 1972. It was created by Sol Saks under executive director Harry Ackerman, and stars 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 mortal 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, and becoming the longest-running supernatural-themed sitcom of the 1960s–1970s. The show continues to be seen throughout the world in syndication and on recorded media.
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. The Stephens' home is located in a nearby upper-middle-class suburban neighborhood, either in Westport, Connecticut or within New York State, as indicated by conflicting information presented throughout the series.
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. When High Priestess Hephzibah expresses surprise that Darrin has withstood years of harassment, Endora can only shrug and admit, "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 (Mabel Albertson) and laid-back Frank Stephens (Robert F. Simon, Roy Roberts), visit occasionally but never learn of Samantha's supernatural powers. Phyllis 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 most witches or warlocks, Samantha's counterculture cousin occasionally dates mortals, 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.
Thanks to witchcraft, a number of interesting characters were seen, including Benjamin Franklin, Franklin Pierce, George and Martha Washington, Paul Revere, Sigmund Freud, Julius Caesar, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, Leonardo da Vinci, Napoleon, King Henry VIII, Cleopatra, Bonanno Pisano, Santa Claus, Jack of Jack and the Beanstalk, Mother Goose, The Artful Dodger, Hansel and Gretel, The Tooth Fairy, the Loch Ness Monster, a leprechaun, Prince Charming, Sleeping Beauty, Willie Mays (playing himself), and Boyce and Hart (playing themselves).
The series is noted for having a number of major cast changes, often because of illness or death of the actors. Most notably, the actor playing Darrin was quietly replaced mid-series. The only surviving members of the regular cast are Bernard Fox and the actors who played the Stephens children. The various changes during the series and untimely deaths of several of the regular actors in the decades following its cancellation produced a mythology that the series was cursed. However, a study of the average age of death of the actors, many of whom were already past middle age during the show's production, reveals no unusual pattern.
Dick York was unable to continue his role as Darrin because of a severe back condition, the result of an accident during the filming of They Came To Cordura in 1959. Starting with the third season, York's disability caused ongoing shooting delays and script rewrites. After collapsing while filming the episode "Daddy Does His Thing" and being rushed to the hospital in January 1969, York left the show. Dick Sargent, who would go on to play Darrin in the sixth through eighth seasons, was cast for the role that same month.
Marion Lorne appeared in 28 episodes as Aunt Clara and won a posthumous Emmy Award in 1968. Essentially replacing this character was the similarly magic-disabled Esmeralda (Alice Ghostley) in season 6. Lorne and Ghostley had appeared side by side in the hotel scene of Mike Nichols's film The Graduate in 1967.
Also winning a posthumous Emmy award in 1966 for her role, Alice Pearce was the first to play the character of Gladys Kravitz. After Pearce's death from ovarian cancer, Mary Grace Canfield played Harriet Kravitz, Abner's sister, in four episodes during the spring of 1966, and is said to be keeping house while Gladys is out of town. Sandra Gould assumed the role of Gladys Kravitz beginning in season 3.
Louise Tate was played by Irene Vernon during the first two seasons and then replaced by Kasey Rogers, who wore a short black wig to appear similar to Vernon. According to Rogers, Bill Asher noticed her tugging at the wig and asked why she was wearing it. She laughed and said, "because you told me to." He replied, "Why don't you take it off!" and she played Louise with red hair for the show's final three seasons.
Tabatha Stephens' birth in the season 2 episode "And Then There Were Three" featured infant Cynthia Black in the role. For the remainder of the season, Tabatha was played by twins Heidi and Laura Gentry, followed by twins Tamar and Julie Young. Fraternal twin toddlers Diane Murphy and Erin Murphy were cast for the role at the beginning of season 3. In time, they began to look less alike, so Diane was dropped during season 4. Diane made several guest appearances in other roles, and filled in as Tabatha one last time in season 5's "Samantha Fights City Hall", because Erin had the mumps.
Before being cast as magical regulars, Alice Ghostley (Esmeralda), Paul Lynde (Uncle Arthur), and Bernard Fox (Dr. Bombay) all had guest roles during the first two seasons as mortal characters in the respective episodes, "Maid to Order", "Driving Is the Only Way to Fly", and "Disappearing Samantha".
According to Harpies Bizarre,][ creator Sol Saks' inspirations for this series in which many similarities can be seen were the 1942 film I Married a Witch (from Thorne Smith's unfinished novel The Passionate Witch), and the John Van Druten Broadway play Bell, Book and Candle that was adapted into a 1958 movie.
Sol Saks, who received credit as the creator of the show, wrote the pilot of Bewitched, although he was not involved with the show after the pilot. Initially, Danny Arnold, who helped develop the style and tone of the series as well as some of the supporting characters who did not appear in the pilot, like Larry Tate and the Kravitzes, produced and headed writing of the series. 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.
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, with mistaken identity and farce becoming a more prevalent element, but still included a number of more low-key episodes in which 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. 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, 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 three seasons had aired Thursdays at 9:00, and the time was moved to 8:30 starting with the fourth season (1967-1968). During the sixth season (1969-1970), along with Darrin now being played by Dick Sargent, the show also saw a significant decline in ratings. Viewership continued to dwindle in the seventh season. The show used fewer recurring characters in later episodes, the Kravitzes, Darrin's parents, and Uncle Arthur not appearing in the final (eighth) season at all. Scripts from old episodes were also recycled more frequently, the final season having eight remade episodes. The last season began with ABC moving Bewitched's air time to Wednesdays at 8:00. The schedule change did not help ratings as the show was now pitted against CBS's popular The Carol Burnett Show. Filming for the season ended in December 1971, and in January 1972 the show was finally moved to Saturday night at 8:00, opposite television's number one show, All in the Family, and finished the year in 72nd place.
In the episode "Samantha's Power Failure", Serena's and Uncle Arthur's powers are removed by the Witches' Council. The impotent duo get jobs in a confectionery factory, with both tossing and hiding an onslaught of bananas from a conveyor belt which are to be dipped in chocolate and nuts, then packaged. This episode mimics the famous chocolate assembly-line episode of I Love Lucy ("Job Switching"), which was directed by Bewitched producer/director William Asher. Serena's and Arthur's jokes and physical antics are taken from Lucy's (Lucille Ball) and Ethel's (Vivian Vance) playbook.
In the episode "Samantha's Supermaid" Samantha interviews a maid, and the scene is almost identical to one in Lucy. Season 8 featured a European vacation, but was filmed in Hollywood using stock footage, like the "European" episodes of Lucy. Similar to Endora's refusal to pronounce Darrin's name correctly, Lucy's mother always referred to son-in-law Ricky with incorrect names, including "Mickey", and in a letter once, "what's-his-name."
Some episodes take a backdoor approach to such topics as racism, as seen in the first season episode, "The Witches Are Out", in which Samantha objects to Darrin's demeaning ad portrayal of witches as ugly and deformed. Such stereotypical imagery often causes Endora and other witches to flee the country until November. "Sisters at Heart" (season 7), whose story was submitted by a tenth-grade English class, involved Tabitha altering the skin tone of herself and a black friend with coordinating polka-dots, so that people would treat them alike.
In the 1969 episode, "Tabitha's Weekend", when offered homemade cookies by Darrin's mother, Endora asks, "They're not by chance from an Alice B. Toklas recipe?" Phyllis replies, "They're my recipe", to which Endora retorts, "Then I'll pass." Toklas's cookbook was infamous for having a dessert recipe which included hashish.
The 1959 Columbia Pictures film Gidget was filmed on location at a real home in Santa Monica (at 267 18th Street). 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. 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 1969 Jerry Lewis film Hook, Line & Sinker. The set was also used several times in Gidget and I Dream of Jeannie, as well as the 1971 made-for-television movie Brian's Song. 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 episode number nine, "Riddles", of the Scifi series from 1977, originally aired on NBC, "The Fantastic Journey".
In June 1970, Bewitched filmed on location in Salem, Magnolia, and Gloucester, Massachusetts. These location shoots marked the only time the show would film away from its Hollywood studio set, which was being rebuilt due to a fire. The eight so-called 'Salem Saga' episodes helped the show's sagging ratings. On June 15, 2005, TV Land unveiled a Samantha statue in Salem to mark the show's 40th anniversary. On hand were stars Bernard Fox, Erin Murphy and Kasey Rogers.
On the Columbia studio backlot, the Kravitzes' house was actually down the street from the Stephens' house exterior. Both homes' exterior doors opened to an unfinished eighteen-by-fifteen foot entry, as the interiors were shot elsewhere. From 1964 through 1966 the exterior & interior of the Kravitzes' house was the same as used for The Donna Reed Show later use was the home (sets) from The Partridge Family.
The magical powers of the characters, and the sudden change of actors playing Darrin have been sources of many popular culture references to Bewitched.
The 1965 episode of The Flintstones titled "Samantha" (1965), features Dick York and Elizabeth Montgomery as Darrin and Samantha Stephens, who have just moved into the neighborhood.
An animated cartoon 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.
See Also List of Animated Spinoffs from Prime Time Shows
In 1977, a short-lived spin-off entitled Tabitha aired on ABC. Lisa Hartman plays 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 the "drunk guy", respectively.
Bernard Fox appeared as Dr. Bombay in two episodes of the supernatural-themed daytime soap opera Passions. This show also featured a character named Tabitha, a middle-aged witch whose parents were Samantha and a mortal, Darrin, and who names her own child "Endora."
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 a re-imagining of the sitcom, 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 girl 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."
After completing its original run, ABC Daytime and ABC Saturday Morning continued to show the series until 1973. Bewitched has since been syndicated on many local US broadcast stations, including Columbia TriStar Television as part of the Screen Gems Network syndication package in 1999, which featured bonus wraparound content during episode airings.
By the late 1970s, the first two black and white seasons were no longer being syndicated, but in 1988 Nick at Nite began airing these episodes. The remaining six color seasons were added to Nick at Nite's lineup by the early 1990s. Seasons 1-2 were later colorized and made available for syndication and DVD sales. Cable television channel WTBS carried seasons 3-8 throughout the 1980s and 1990s.
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. Channel 9 Australia airs the series on its digital channel GO! Russia-based channel Domashny aired the show from 2008 to 2010. MeTV began airing the show in conjunction with I Dream of Jeannie on December 31, 2012.
The show has been distributed by Columbia Pictures Television (1974–1984, 1988-1996), The Program Exchange (1980–1990, 2010–present), Columbia TriStar Television (1996–2002), and Sony Pictures Television (2002–present).
Selected episodes may be viewed on iTunes, YouTube, Internet Movie Database, Hulu, The Minisode Network, and Crackle.
The series may be viewed in its entirety on Netflix in Canada.
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. Only the colorized editions were released in regions 2 and 4.