Yet another old classic has finally had it's DVD treatment. A quick scan of various forums and websites revealed to me that many readers have been waiting with anticipation for this release for a long time. I must confess right from the off that I had never watched an episode of Bewitched before reviewing this DVD. I remember seeing it on TV during school holidays but for various reasons, I had never sat down and watched a whole episode. This disc-set has remedied that - I now have the chance to watch all 36 episodes from the first series; although not in their original, non-colourised version (a separate non-colourised version is available in the US). The disc reviewed here contained colourised episodes.
The basic plot revolves around two newly-weds, advertising executive Darrin Stephens (Dick York) and his new wife Samantha (Elizabeth Montgomery) - a perfectly normal, wholesome all-American couple - except that Samantha happened to be a witch!
I guess for us "youngsters" the nearest parallel I can draw is to Sabrina The Teenage Witch. Bewitched is light-hearted, simple family entertainment; the episodes are solid and well written - albeit slightly dated in their treatment of women when viewed today. As with many classic comedies, the quality of the performances and script means they stand the test of time. Elizabeth Montgomery is perfectly cast as Samantha and is great as the sweet-natured witch, always trying to balance the different parts of her complicated life and using her powers in a positive, sometimes mischievous way. Taking less of the spotlight, but still making a difficult task look easy, Dick York (looking like Jim Carrey's Dad) is excellent as the straight-man to a cast a eccentric characters. As with most successful comedies, it is the contribution of the ensemble that makes the whole piece work and Bewitched is no different - Agnes Moorehead is great as Samantha's mother Endora and Alice Pearce as the Stephens' busy-body neighbour Gladys Kravitz.
The show ran for 8 years from 1964 to 1972 and 41 years later it still works. Even the special effects, which are surprisingly sophisticated for a show of this age, do not seem out of place. Yes, they are clunky compared to today's CGI, but must have been quite impressive in their day - visualising Samantha's powers as a witch must have given the special effects team quite a headache (but lots of fun too!).
I was surprised, when researching this TV series, about how much has been written about the various stories behind the Bewitched characters and their actions. This programme has been attributed with softening middle-class America's views on mixed relationships, empowering women to be equal or superior to men, portraying married couples in a double bed for the first time on mainstream TV and probably many other things too. I don't know if all of these were intended at the time of writing or if fans have interpreted them since, but it is certainly food for thought and perhaps goes someway to explain why this show was a success and is still so popular now.
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