Combustible Celluloid

Bewitched: The Complete First Season (1964-65)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Broom Service

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Buy Bewitched: The Complete First Season (B&W) on DVD.

This 1964 sitcom is ever so slightly more sophisticated and subversive than it appears, which probably explains its enduring popularity. I first saw it in reruns as a kid in the 1970s, when it was already over 10 years old, and it still holds up today. The premise has beautiful blonde Samantha (Elizabeth Montgomery) marrying simple, kindly Darrin (Dick York), without revealing that she's actually a witch. Once Darrin finds out, he puts the kibosh on her witchcraft, hoping that she will evolve into a normal housewife. Of course, Samantha always finds ways to sneak a secret spell every week. And her free-spirited meddling mother, Endora (Agnes Moorehead), only aids in her temptation. The trick of the show is that we're supposed to side with Darrin, longing for a normal life, but we secretly side with Samantha and her magic. Montgomery's effortless and overwhelming charm certainly helped matters; she could play the pert housewife while revealing a subtle mischievous gleam in her eye. (Series director William Asher was lucky enough to be married to her.)

One high point of Season One is Episode 8: "Witch or Wife," in which Samantha and Endora decide to have lunch in Paris, and Darrin's boss catches them there. Needless to say, it's a difficult situation to explain.

DVD Details: Sony Home Video has released Bewitched: The Complete First Season to coincide with the 2005 feature film starring Nicole Kidman and Will Ferrell. Season One comes with 36 episodes on four discs. Hardly anyone associated with the first season is still alive, so the disc's extras and featurettes are rather limited. The set is available in two versions, in black-and-white as originally aired, or in color. I have not been able to track down any accurate information as to the origin of the color version. Many seem to believe that it has been digitally colorized, but others claim that the original film stock was color. I saw the color version, and thought it was fine, though I would have preferred the original black-and-white.

These episodes are probably the most sophisticated of the series, which ran until 1972. Samantha and Darrin's daughter Tabitha first appears in Season Three, and Dick Sargent took over the role of Darrin in Season Six.

Sony has also released the spin-off "Tabitha" (1977-78), which ran for twelve episodes. It's a pretty lame carbon copy, with the grown, sexy Tabitha (Lisa Hartman -- not the original Tabitha) keeping her powers under wrap to please her uptight brother (David Ankrum), with occasional interference from Aunt Minerva (Karen Morrow). The show desperately tries to appeal to mid-70s audiences with "hip" music and slang. The two-disc set contains all twelve episodes.

Starring: Elizabeth Montgomery, Dick York
Directed by: William Asher
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: approx. 30 minutes each
Date: June 20, 2005

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