[played by Dick York] [to wife Samantha]: “You took a cat, and turned it into a girl? I can't believe that!” [Stops, then reconsiders] “Why can't I believe that? I'm married to a witch, and a witch can do anything with anything. So she took a cat and turned it into a girl, and my friend Wally fell in love with her. What's so hard to believe about that?”—Bewitched, Season 1, Episode 21, “Ling Ling,” original air date Feb. 11, 1965, teleplay by Jerry Davis, directed by David Orrick McDearmon
It may have been inspired by the success of films like I Married a Witch and Bell, Book and Candle that featured lissome blondes who hooked up with hapless mortals, but Bewitched left its own enduring imprint on American culture, as you might expect from a sitcom that lasted eight seasons.
In a prior post, I already considered how this series first aired on TV with two other series, The Addams Family and The Munsters, that had a comic take on the supernatural. But watching the episode from the first season of Bewitched that I quoted above has sparked some additional considerations.
*Watching the show as a child, I found it pleasant and amusing; viewing it as an adult, I see it as slyly subversive. Darrin Stephens, the breadwinner of this nuclear family (completed with the arrival of babies Tabitha and Adam), is so—well, stupid.
*Most episodes in the show’s run were in color, but this particular one was in black and white. I found that I didn’t miss color a bit, even though its use here—for an ad campaign for a hunt for a female Asian model—would have made sense because of the high fashion used.
*For health reasons, Dick York had to be replaced with Dick Sargent in 1969. Elizabeth Montgomery remained friendly with Sargent for years after the show left the air, but I remain a firm York advocate. It has to do with his ears. What better outward sign of Darrin’s inherent dorkiness?
*The wide variety of supporting characters also appealed to many viewers, then and now. A longtime friend, for example, used to refer to a nosy neighbor as “Mrs. Kravitz.”
*Rather than offer a head-on comparison with the show through a straight remake, Nora Ephron took a meta view of the source material with her 2005 film Bewitched: an egocentric actor takes on the role of Darrin Stephens, only to find that the actress playing Samantha actually is a witch.
*Affection for the show continued to be high enough that a statue of Elizabeth Montgomery as Samantha became quite a tourist draw when TV Land donated it to Salem, Mass., in 2005.