First episode date
17 September 1964
Bewitched Theme Song
William Asher (most episodes)
Elizabeth MontgomeryDick York (1964–1969)Dick Sargent (1969–1972)Agnes MooreheadDavid White
Theme music composer
Howard GreenfieldJack Keller
Bewitched is an American television sitcom fantasy series, originally broadcast for eight seasons on ABC from September 17, 1964, to March 25, 1972. It was created by Sol Saks under executive director Harry Ackerman, and starred Elizabeth Montgomery, Dick York (1964–1969), Agnes Moorehead, and David White. Dick Sargent replaced an ill York for the final three seasons (1969–1972). The show is about a witch who marries an ordinary mortal man, and vows 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.
- Production and broadcasting
- Storylines repeated from I Love Lucy
- Timely topics
- Sets and locations
- Cultural context
- In popular culture
- The Flintstones
- Tabitha and Adam and the Clown Family
- Theatrical movie
- Comic book adaptation
- Television remakes
- Updated version
- Syndication history
- DVD releases
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.
The 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. The season 3 episode "Soap Box Derby" shows the Mills Garage in Patterson as a neighbor's son's car sponsor, and the Stephens' station wagon is seen with New York plates. Elizabeth Montgomery owned a second home in Patterson.
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 mid-season.
According to Harpie's Bizarre, (a website based on the frequently-depicted "witch magazine" from the series) creator Sol Saks' inspirations for this series in which many similarities can be seen 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 movie.
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.
Production and broadcasting
Sol Saks, who received credit as the creator of the show, wrote the pilot of Bewitched though he was not involved with the show after the pilot. Creator Saks, executive producer Harry Ackerman, and director William Asher started filming the pilot on November 22, 1963; it 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". But the show had to go on. The pilot concerned "the occult destabilization of the conformist life of an upwardly mobile advertising man".
First season producer and head writer Danny Arnold set the initial style and tone of the series, and 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.
Its first season, Bewitched was the number one show of the American Broadcasting Company and the best rated sitcom among all three networks. It was second in ratings only to Bonanza. Bewitched aired at 9 p.m 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, with misunderstandings 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 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. Comedian 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. 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. During the fifth season (1968–1969), 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.
In this same season, in the most notable of the show's many cast changes, Dick York became 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 (1959). Starting with the third season, York's disability had caused ongoing shooting delays and script rewrites resulting in increasingly frequent episodes without Darrin. After collapsing while filming the episode "Daddy Does His Thing" and being rushed to the hospital in January 1969, York left the show permanently. That same month, Dick Sargent was cast to play Darrin beginning in the sixth season. The remainder of the fifth season was filmed without York and features many episodes where Darrin is away on business. 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.
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, Erin Murphy, and Kasey Rogers, 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 p.m. to Wednesdays at 8:00 p.m. 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 P.M., opposite television's number one show, All in the Family, where it fared even worse, with Bewitched finishing in 72nd place for the year.
Storylines repeated from I Love Lucy
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. In the second season installment, "Trick Or Treat", Endora, believing Darrin to be prejudiced against witches, turns him into a werewolf. It is only through Samantha convincing her that Darrin was the one mortal who refused to believe that witches were ugly or evil does Endora relent and take the spell off him. In a similar episode during the sixth season ("To Trick-Or-Treat or not to Trick-Or-Treat"), feeling that by participating in Halloween customs that Darrin disrespects witches in general, Endora turns him into a stereotypical one. "Sisters at Heart" (season 7), whose story was submitted by a tenth-grade English class, involves Tabitha altering the skin tone of herself and a black friend with coordinating polka-dots so people would treat them equally. 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.
Sets and locations
The 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 furnace in the basement, but unknown to Tim there was also a leak at the stove in the kitchen. A clap on-Clap off lamp turned on when Tim clapped and it blew up. The Stephens house was also featured in a Fruit of the Loom Christmas commercial.
On the Columbia studio backlot, the Kravitzes' house was actually down the street from the Stephens' house exterior. Both houses' exterior doors opened to an unfinished eighteen-by-fifteen foot 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 and was later used for the house sets from The Partridge Family.
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 Stephens' 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.
Feminist Betty Friedan wrote the essay "Television and the Feminine Mystique" (February, 1964) where 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.
Walter 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 feature 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 Jose Ferrer, who did not receive credit.
The series inspired rival show I Dream of Jeannie (1965–1970), a program that, while in first run, was never a major ratings hit.
In popular culture
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. This crossover was facilitated because both series were broadcast on ABC.
Tabitha and Adam and the Clown Family
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.
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 "various drunks."
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 Lenox, a middle-aged witch played by Juliet Mills, whose parents were Samantha and a mortal, Darrin, and who names her own daughter 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 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 book adaptation
On October 22, 2014, Sony Pictures Television announced that it has sold a pilot of Bewitched to NBC as a possible entry for the 2015—2016 US television season. However, this version will focus on Tabitha's daughter Daphne, a single woman who despite having magical powers as her mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother, is determined not to use it to find a soul mate. The new version of the proposed series, which is being 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.
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 from 1973–82 and then since 1993, 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. Channel 9 Australia airs the series on its digital channel GO! Russia-based channel Domashny aired the show from 2008 to 2010. MeTV aired the show in conjunction with I Dream of Jeannie from December 31, 2012 to September 1, 2013. The show now airs on Antenna TV.
The show has been distributed by Columbia Pictures Television (1974–1982, 1988 (black and white ones only until 1990)-1996), DFS/The Program Exchange (1980–1991, 2010–present), Columbia TriStar Television (1996–2002), and Sony Pictures Television (2002–present).
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.