One of my earliest memories is playing around with my Uncle Gary on Grandma and Grandpa City’s living room floor (in front of the Davenport) and the Bewitched credits rolling by on the big RCA television that sat at one end of the room. The little Samantha-the-witch graphic turned into a “Kodak” logo while the credits played and then it was bed time. It’s funny, I hadn’t thought about that in a few decades but tonight I was thinking about the show and that flashed into my head.
As a kid “Bewitched” and “I Dream of Jeannie” were on in the afternoon on WSYR-TV 3 and Grandma Country would let me have a couple of homemade cookies and milk and stop her housework and watch the shows with me. They came on after “The Edge of Night”. I enjoyed this time very much and it’s among my fondest memories; I’m lucky that we were close to both sides of the family.
As I grew older I grew more interested in “Bewitched” and to this day it’s my favorite show of all time, especially the first, third, and fourth seasons. For years, local television stations, as well as WTBS in Atlanta, would only show the color episodes (seasons three through eight) but then in the very late 1980s Nick at Nite started showing the first two seasons and I instantly remembered them. The original Louise Tate played by Irene Vernon. Serena being sultry instead of kooky. Samantha and Darrin as newlyweds, long before Tabatha (later Tabitha).
The first season of “Bewitched” is my very favorite because it had so many more adult themes. Larry Tate had a wandering eye, Louise Tate was a little more icy than Kasey Rogers’ interpretation, and Elizabeth Montgomery had a bit more of a sultry, newlywed look about her. Alice Pearce as the original Gladys Kravitz was hysterical and Endora was more into an up-do than her wild bouffants in the later seasons. The show was focused on the trials and tribulations of newlyweds with a bit of magic thrown in, instead of crazy farcical scenarios of warlocks turned into the Lochness Monster or Mother Goose popping in.
I always include the third and fourth season among my favorites as well, because the third season had a new producer and Samantha and Darrin had some pretty impressive argument scenes during that run, and the fourth season introduced the new batch of sound effects for the choreography of witchcraft and I always found that intriguing. By the time Dick Sargent as Darrin came around in season six the show felt a bit more “designed by committee” and while there are some stand out performances, it got a little too silly for my tastes. But not nearly as silly as “I Dream of Jeannie”.
Not finding anything modern to watch on television tonight, I made my husband sit through two episodes from the first season, including “It’s Magic”, an episode about Samantha, as hospital fundraising committee chairman, finding The Great Zeno, a drunk of a magician saddled with an assistant played by an actress that chewed the scenery of every moment and every show on adjacent soundstages. There’s some, by 1960s standard, risque dialog about small costumes and the love of vodka. The other episode we watched was when a bored Samantha popped over to Paris with Endora for dinner while Darrin was at work and runs into Larry and Louise. Again, Irene Vernon’s Louise is slightly icier and seems more inline with the wife of a guy with a wandering eye, and I just enjoyed the slightly more adult tilt to the vibe of the episode.
Endora riding on the back of a 747 and declaring, “it’s the only way to fly”, notwithstanding. By the way, “it’s the only way to fly” is the motto of Western Airlines back in the day.