Bewitched: The Complete Fourth Season shows Elizabeth Montgomery and company in full sitcom swing, professionally firing on all cylinders, bringing forth 33 (can you imagine any show today delivering 33 episodes for the season?? They whine at 20) more episodes of the endearing television classic in full, brilliant color.
It's amazing how much discussion this funny little comedy continues to generate. Certainly the creators back in 1964 didn't expect Bewitched to be influential pop art, and by the time of its cancellation in 1972, when All in the Family and Sanford and Son were ruling the airwaves, Bewitched was considered passe -- a relic from another time. Despite low ratings at the end (due no doubt to the infamous Darrin switch, and lack of new story ideas), it's always been extremely popular in reruns, and the fans have never really left it. Families watch it together, and new fans are born, and it continues on and on. With the advent of the internet, it's now possible for fans of the show to get together online, and endlessly go over the perceived subtleties of the show. And they're an incredibly loyal group of fans, who have a lot to say about the show.
I know the most popular element of the show to discuss are the sexual politics involved with Samantha's powers, and the suggestion of the burgeoning women's liberation movement in Samantha's struggles with Darrin's insistence on no witchcraft (why exactly does Darrin always try to keep her from using it, when it would help him so many times? An eternal debate in television history that shall never be resolved, I suspect). And much is made of the idea of this marriage not only being that rare 1960 television marriage where the couple are not only having sex, but also (gasp!) enjoying it, but that it's also TV's first "mixed" marriage, and therefore groundbreaking (this is a stretch, I think -- it is a fantasy, and I don't believe the creators were trying to make some profound statement on race or religion).
What I find interesting about Bewitched is how the show offers up a suburban paradise (spacious home in Westport, Connecticut, paid for with a high level advertising position, gorgeous, funny wife, adorable child) contrasted by the essentially bohemian, oddball witches' society. The average Americans who watched and loved this show certainly saw the Stephens' lifestyle as something to be emulated. Who wouldn't want that flash convertible that Darrin drove, or a high-paying, exciting job like an ad man, with weekends off to golf, while your sexy blonde wife made you dinner on the latest, most expensive kitchen appliances. Trust me; if you didn't grow up in that kind of environment, it looked pretty good on TV. So it's interesting to see how Bewitched tells that adoring public that maybe it would be better off being a witch -- to be, essentially, an outsider, an outcast of mainstream society. The witches in Bewitched, as illustrated primarily by Endora (she's onscreen most often), live only for pleasure, particularly if it's expensive and gained without an ounce of physical effort (the true appeal of zapping something pricey into existence). They love to play jokes on mortals, conjuring up little tricks to amuse themselves; after all, they have the whole world to play with, and all the time in the world to enjoy it. And if it amuses them to call up a cow in the kitchen to get more milk for Tabitha (as Uncle Arthur does in The No-Harm Charm), then they do it -- and they can't understand the silly, stodgy mortals like Darrin who want to limit their fun based on "silly" morals and accepted, conventional codes of conduct. As for morals, one of the more extreme examples of the non-traditional witch lifestyle in Bewitched is that Endora and her husband enjoy an "open marriage," dating whomever they like, while staying married. And furthermore, they really seem to enjoy it!
Certainly when we were kids, the most important part of Bewitched wasn't the politics, but the comedy; specifically, the wacky special effects; it was like watching a Disney film every week. The "pop in" and "pop out" of characters or various animals always made us laugh (while we tried to figure out exactly how they did that effect so smoothly), along with the zingy sound effects. There was also a certain understated "meanness" to the comedy, coming almost exclusively from Endora, that approximated the fast-paced, essentially vicious Warner Bros. cartoons that we loved. When Endora makes it clear that she doesn't like "Durwood," she backs it up by transforming him into some various lower form of life -- she's not screwing around.
Viewed today, much of what strikes me funny about Bewitched comes from the performances. I can't say enough about Dick York. Rubber faced, and absolutely unhinged every time he sees evidence of Samantha's witchcraft, it's amazing to watch how many different ways he can act exasperated and/or insane. Conventionally handsome when in repose (he reminds me of those ads they used to have for the Arrow Collar man), York's face quickly descends into hilarious grotesqueness when sputtering about the latest indignity visited upon him (usually at Endora's hand). One can't help but see a lot of Jim Carrey there (or more accurately, one sees a lot of Dick York in Jim Carrey's performances). Too bad Carrey didn't stick with the recent movie version of Bewitched (although nothing probably could have helped that piece of dreck).
Elizabeth Montgomery, at least when I was a kid, was exactly the kind of girl (here comes the cliche) that you wanted to marry. She was smart, funny, beautiful, well spoken, well dressed, and she was Queen of the Witches. Any problems in your life? Well, a twitch of the nose (if you weren't Darrin), and it would all go away. Who didn't want all of that? And after talking with my wife, I found out that a lot of little girls loved her, too, and wanted to be just like her (I'd make a bet that women significantly outnumber men as fans of Bewitched). Of course today, her sex appeal certainly counts for a lot (both when she's nice Samantha and naughty Serena), but I can also appreciate what a skilled comedian she is, underplaying when she needs to, and mugging with the best of them when the joke calls for it. She's also the kind of actor who's just as interesting when she's quiet, as when she's delivering a line. It's important to remember that her father was that most interesting actor, Robert Montgomery; like him, there's a lot going on behind those guarded Irish eyes.
The supporting cast was excellent as well, including appearances this year by delightfully scatterbrained Aunt Clara (Marion Lorne), bullying boss Larry Tate (David White) and his lovely wife (Kasey Rogers), sometimes incompetent Dr. Bombay (Bernard Fox), nosey neighbor Gladys Kravitz (Sandra Gould), and terminally disinterested neighbor Abner Kravitz (George Tobias, a personal favorite), the hysterically funny Uncle Arthur (Paul Lynde -- another personal favorite), Darrin's grating mother (Mabel Albertson), as well as his father, Frank Stephens (Roy Roberts) and cutie pie Tabitha (Erin Murphy). And of course, who could forget legendary Agnes Moorehead as Endora. She owns that wicked, smart-ass, deathly bored delivery; it's hard to tell if she's disgusted with what's she doing, or just disgusted with "Durwood," and that's what makes it funny.
Here are the episodes, in air date order, from Bewitched: The Complete Fourth Season, followed by their episode summaries:
Long Live the Queen
The Queen of the Witches abdicates and appoints Samantha to succeed her.
Toys in Babeland
Endora brings a toy soldier to life to babysit with Tabitha.
Business, Italian Style
Darrin must learn Italian to land the Chef Romani account.
Double, Double...Toil and Trouble
To get rid of Darrin, Endora convinces Serena to pose as Samantha.
Darrin insists that Samantha return an expensive coat, and Endora decides to teach him a lesson.
No Zip in My Zap
Darrin's jilted high school sweetheart reappears, just as Samantha loses her magic.
Birdies, Bogies and Baxter
With Samantha and Endora's help, Darrin becomes a great golfer -- but almost loses his job.
A Safe and Sane Halloween
Tabitha brings Halloween pictures to life.
Out of Sync, Out of Mind
Aunt Clara tries a spell and inadvertently throws Samantha's voice out of sync.
That Was No Chick, That Was My Wife
Samantha's simultaneous appearance in Chicago and New York almost costs Darrin his job.
Allergic to Ancient Macedonian Dodo Birds
Endora's magic is mysteriously transferred to Aunt Clara.
Samantha's Thanksgiving to Remember
Aunt Clara zips the Stephens family and Gladys Kravitz to witch-hunting Plymouth on Thanksgiving Day.
Solid Gold Mother-In-Law
Darrin must accept Endora's help to woo a valuable new client.
My, What Big Ears You Have
When Darrin tries to buy Samantha a surprise gift, Endora accuses him of seeing another woman.
I Get Your Nannie...You Get My Goat
Annoyed that Darrin has stolen his servant, Lord Montdrake puts a spell on him.
Humbug Not to Be Spoken Here
Samantha reforms a skinflint on Christmas Eve.
Samantha's Da Vinci Dilemma
Aunt Clara summons the greatest of them all -- Leonardo Da Vinci -- to paint the Stephenses' house.
Once in a Vial
Endora drinks a love potion intended for Samantha.
Snob in the Grass
Samantha takes revenge when Darrin's ex-fiancee upstages her.
If They Ever Met
Endora returns Darrin to his bachelor days to prove he wouldn't have been happy if he had never met Samantha.
Serena, Samantha's double, is arrested at a love-in and gets her picture in the paper.
A Prince of a Guy
Tabitha conjures up Prince Charming, who disrupts Samantha's dinner party.
Samantha persuades a ghost to leave an old English castle and he decides to haunt the Stephenses instead.
How Green Was My Grass
A synthetic lawn sets off fights all over the Stephenses' neighborhood.
To Twitch or Not to Twitch
Darrin and Samantha argue about witchcraft again.
Tabitha turns a bullying brat into a bulldog.
Tabitha' Cranky Spell
Tabitha's witchcraft, an ouija board and a ghost help Larry keep a client.
Darrin gets a glimpse of what his life would be like if everyone knew Samantha was a witch.
A Majority of Two
Larry Tate asks Samantha to entertain a Japanese client.
Samantha's Secret Saucer
Aunt Clara zaps in visitors from outer space.
The No-Harm Charm
Uncle Arthur convinces Darrin that a lucky charm will protect him.
Man of the Year
Endora casts a circle of persuasive charm around Darrin.
Gladys Kravitz leaves her husband and moves in with the Stephense.
Bewitched: The Complete Fourth Season is delivered in perfect, saturated primary colors. Any flaws to be seen come from the source materials, and there's few if any.
The Dolby Digital Mono picks up every zip and zang of Endora's flick of the wrist, and every twinkle of Samatha's adorable nose. There's also Spanish and Portuguese audio tracks, as well as subtitles for the same (the English subtitles aren't on the menu, but they come up if you select them on your own TV).
Criminally, there are no extras -- not a commentary or even a TV trailer from the 1960's.
Bewitched: The Complete Fourth Season plays just as well today, as it did back in 1967-68 -- maybe even better, if you want to indulge in some sociological parlor games. But you needn't do that to enjoy Bewitched: The Complete Fourth Season. It's fun, light, magical entertainment from fabulously escapist 1960's Television Land. Highly recommended.
Paul Mavis is an internationally published film and television historian, a member of the Online Film Critics Society, and the author of The Espionage Filmography.