Here’s a summary of Bewitched. A guy, Darren (Dick York/Dick Sargent, but York in this episode), married a freaky hot witch, Samantha (Elizabeth Montgomery), and the biggest downside is that her mother, Endora (Agnes Moorehead), is determined to break up their relationship.
Darren is useless. He was recast at one point, and people constantly joke that no one noticed. In the movie adaptation, he attempted to meta-ruin Will Ferrell’s career. On the other hand, Samantha is relatively charming, and Endora is probably the best part of the show, because a vindictive witch is pretty much an inherently fun character. The problem is, Endora vs. Sam was pretty much all they had to go on. Gary Larson once made a Far Side that showed the writers of Bewitched saying weekly “Hey! How’s this? Endora puts some kind of a curse on Darren, and no one can figure out what the heck is happening, until Samantha catches on!” This was painfully accurate.
The reason why this is the best episode of Bewitched, and why it gets on this list aside from my crush on Elizabeth Montgomery, is because this is one of the only episodes to give Darren some depth, and it nails it. Forced to choose between work and a vacation, Darren chooses work, disappointing Samantha. In response, Endora actually does something somewhat charitable and splits Darren into two people: one serious, one playful.
To his credit, Dick York, the actor who plays Darren, portrays them as very distinct characters. The serious one lacks the ability to even consider such basic needs as eating, because it distracts from work, while the playful one is too stupid to realize that he can’t swim when he decides to take a dive into a pool. It’s also one of the rare times when Samantha tries to exploit Endora’s meddling to her own advantage, and one of the only times when Darren (the playful one) suggests to Samantha that she use her witchcraft for personal gain. While the former is nice, because it’s an aspect of Samantha that the show rarely indulges, it’s this last action that actually stands out.
By acknowledging that Darren is, on some level, tempted to use magic to get all of the things he wants, this episode acknowledges that he chooses not to for two reasons: because every use of magic risks Samantha being found out as a witch, and because he fell in love with her without the powers. It’s not just that he’s a stick-in-the-mud, it’s that he values his relationship with his wife above living a life of leisure. Even when he’s re-combined.
It’s also telling that Bewitched, when they had to re-cast Darren with Dick Sargent, chose to introduce him by re-making this episode with the new lead. Of course, this also is another black mark on the Bewitched writers: By the Sixth season they weren’t just ripping off other shows and retreading formulae, they were literally ripping off their best work. But, they got this episode right, so credit where credit is due.
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NEXT – 63: Frasier
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