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Bewitched

Bewitched is an ABC network fantasy sitcom series created by Sol Saks, starring Elizabeth Montgomery in the lead role.

The show aired from September 17, 1964 to March 25, 1972, lasting for eight seasons and 254 episodes.

Plot

The show centered on Samantha Stephens, a witch who marries an ordinary mortal man and vows to lead the life of a typical suburban housewife.

Cast

  • Elizabeth Montgomery as Samantha Stephens
  • Dick York (1964-1969)\Dick Sargent (1969-1972) as Darrin Stephens
  • Agnes Moorehead as Endora
  • Erin Murphy as Tabitha Stephens (1969-1972)
  • David White as Larry Tate (recurring in seasons 1-5; starring in seasons 6-8)
  • Irene Vernon (1964-1966)\Kasey Rogers (1966-1972) as Louise Tate
  • Alice Pierce (1964-1966)\Sandra Gould (1966-1971) as Gladys Kravitz
  • George Tobias as Abner Kravitz (1964-1971)
  • Maurice Evans as Maurice
  • Paul Lynde as Uncle Arthur (1965-1971)
  • Marion Lorne as Aunt Clara (1969-1968)
  • Alice Ghostley as Esmerelda (1969-1972)
  • Mabel Albertson as Phyllis Stephens (1964-1971)
  • Robert F. Simon\Roy Roberts (alterating) as Frank Stephens (1964-1971)

Production

Sol Saks (who received credit as the creator of the show, wrote the pilot of Bewitched though he was not involved with the show after the pilot.

Creator Saks, executive producer Harry Ackerman and director William Asher started rehearsals for the pilot on November 22, 1963; it coincided with the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Asher felt personally affected by the event as he knew Kennedy; he had produced the 1962 televised birthday party where Marilyn Monroe sang "Happy Birthday, Mr. President," but the show had to go on.

The pilot concerned "the occult destabilization of the conformist life of an upwardly mobile advertising man." For the pilot episode, "I Darrin, Take This Witch, Samantha", Academy Award-winning actor Jose Ferrer served as the narrator.

First season producer and head writer Danny Arnold set the initial style and tone of the series, and also helped develop supporting characters such as Larry Tate and the Kravitzes.

Arnold (who wrote on "McHale's Navy" and other shows) thought of "Bewitched" essentially as a romantic comedy about a mixed marriage; his episodes kept the magic element to a minimum. One or two magical acts drove the plot, but Samantha often solved problems without magic.

Many of the first season's episodes were allegorical, using supernatural situations as metaphors for the problems any young couple would face. Arnold stated that the two main themes of the series were the conflict between a powerful woman and a husband who cannot deal with that power, and the anger of a bride's mother at seeing her daughter marry beneath her.

Though "Bewitched" was a hit right from the beginning, finishing its first year as the number 2 show in the United States, ABC wanted more magic and more farcical plots, causing battles between Arnold and the network.

Its first season, Bewitched was the number one show of the American Broadcasting Company and the best rated sitcom among all three networks. It was second in ratings only to Bonanza.

The show aired at 9:00 pm Thursday evenings; it was preceded on the air by another sitcom, "My Three Sons", followed by the soap opera "Peyton Place".

"My Three Sons" finished 13th in the ratings and "Peyton Place" ninth. The block formed by the three shows was the strongest ratings grabber in ABC's schedule.

Arnold left the show after the first season, leaving the producing duties to his friend Jerry Davis, who had already produced some of the first season's episodes (though Arnold was still supervising the writing).

The second season was produced by Davis and with Bernard Slade as head writer, with misunderstandings and farce becoming a more prevalent element but still included a number of more low-key episodes in which the magic element was not front and center.

With the third season and the switch to color, Davis left the show, and was replaced as producer by William Froug. Slade also left after the second season. According to William Froug's autobiography, William Asher (who had directed many episodes) wanted to take over as producer when Jerry Davis left, but the production company was not yet ready to approve the idea.

Froug, a former producer of Gilligan's Island and the last season of The Twilight Zone, was brought in as a compromise. By his own admission, Froug was not very familiar with Bewitched and found himself in the uncomfortable position of being the official producer even though Asher was making most of the creative decisions. After a year, Froug left the show, and Asher took over as full-time producer of the series for the rest of its run.

The first two seasons of "Bewitched" had aired Thursdays at 9:00, and the time was moved to 8:30 shortly after the third year (1966–1967) had begun. Nevertheless, the ratings for the show remained high and it placed among the top fifteen shows through the 1968–69 season. It was the seventh highest-rated show in both the U.S. ('65–'66 and '66–'67) schedules; similarly, it was number 11 the following two years.

At the time, the show had won three Emmy Awards; William Asher won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series in 1966. Alice Pearce posthumously won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for her portrayal of Gladys Kravitz and Marion Lorne won the same award posthumously in 1968 for her portrayal of Aunt Clara.

Producers were faced with how to deal with the deaths of both these actresses. When Pearce died in the spring of 1966, only a few episodes of season two remained to be filmed. Mary Grace Canfield was hired to play Gladys's sister-in-law, Harriet Kravitz in four episodes.

Comedienne Alice Ghostley was approached to take over the role of Gladys the next season, but she turned it down and instead, Sandra Gould was hired.

Marion Lorne was not replaced and the character of Aunt Clara was not seen after the fourth season (although she was referred to a in a few episodes at the beginning of the fifth season). Rather, beginning in the show's sixth year, Ghostley was finally used to play the character of Esmeralda, a kind but shy and inept witch.

In another notable casting change, Louise Tate (who was played by Irene Vernon during the first two seasons) was played by Kasey Rogers thereafter.

The fifth season of "Bewitched" (1968-1969) proved to be a watershed for the series most notably with the death of Marion Lorne and the frequent absences of Dick York in many episodes.

York was suffering from recurring back problems, the result of an accident during the filming of the 1959 film, "They Came To Cordura" and as a result, many episodes featured Samantha and Tabitha on their own with York's character of Darrin out of town on business. It was during this time that Serena (Samantha's identical cousin, also played by Montgomery) was used more frequently.

The filming of scenes involving both Samantha and Serena was accomplished by using Melody McCord, Montgomery's stand-in. Towards the end of the season, York's increased disability which caused ongoing shooting delays and script rewrites resulted in his collapsing on the set in January 1969 while filming the episode "Daddy Does His Thing" and he was inmmediately rushed to the hospital.

After a long talk with producer-director William Asher, York decide to leave the series. At about the same time, Montgomery and Asher announced that they were expecting another baby and it was decided that Samantha and Darrin would also have another child in the fall of that year.

On screen, Samantha tells Darrin over the phone the news of her second pregnancy. That same month, Dick Sargent was cast to play Darrin beginning in the sixth season.

Beginning with the sixth season's (1969–1970) opening credits, in addition to York being replaced with Sargent, Elizabeth Montgomery was billed above the title, and David White now received billing as well, after Agnes Moorehead's.

During this year, the show saw a significant decline in ratings, falling from eleventh to 24th place. In mid-1970, the set of the Stephens' home was being rebuilt due to a fire.

In June, the cast and crew traveled to Salem, Magnolia, and Gloucester, Massachusetts to film an eight-part story arc in which Samantha, Darrin, and Endora travel to Salem for the centennial Witches Convocation; these location shoots marked the only times the show would film away from its Hollywood studio sets and backlot.

Season seven premiered with eight so-called "Salem Saga" episode and these on-location episodes helped the show's sagging ratings, but after the "Salem" episodes, viewership again dwindled and scripts from old episodes were recycled frequently.

The year's ratings for "Bewitched" had fallen and the show did not even rank in the list of the top thirty programs. ABC moved the show's airtime from Thursdays at 8:30 pm to Wednesdays at 8:00 pm at the beginning of the eighth season. The schedule change did not help ratings as the show was now pitted against CBS's popular "The Carol Burnett Show."

Fewer recurring characters were used this season with the Kravitzes, Darrin's parents, and Uncle Arthur not appearing at all. Filming ended in December of 1971 and in January of 1972, the show was finally moved to Saturday night at 8:00 pm, opposite television's number one show "All in the Family," where it fared even worse with "Bewitched" finishing in 72nd place for the year.

Cancellation

Despite the low ratings, "Bewitched" still had a contract for two more seasons on ABC and the network was willing to honor that contract by renewing the sitcom for a ninth season. However, by this time, Elizabeth Montgomery had grown tired of the series and wanted to move on to other roles; also, she and her husband William Asher had separated and would divorce in 1974.

As a consolation, Asher pitched an idea to ABC for a sitcom starring Paul Lynde. The concept was based on the play Howie, about a lawyer, played by Lynde, whose daughter marries a slacker named Howard (or "Howie").

The Lynde character despises him as he is not interested in earning money or traditional pursuits. Howie was developed for CBS in 1962, as a replacement for "The Dick Van Dyke Show", but when that series was saved from cancellation, plans for "Howie" were discarded.

In creating a series for Paul Lynde, Asher decide to resurrect the Howie concept for ABC and Screen Gems as a replacement for Bewitched’s ninth season the following year. Asher designed "The Paul Lynde Show" to be ABC's counterpart to CBS's "All In The Family".

However, the show lacked the controversial and topical issues brought up by that controversial series due to ABC's continued restriction on social issues at the time; this was despite Lynde's rewrite of the show's dialog in an effort to make the series more lively and comedic.

When "The Paul Lynde Show" debuted on ABC in the fall of 1972, it inherited "Bewitched"’s time slot during its last season on Wednesday nights opposite the first half of the Top 30 hit, "The Carol Burnett Show" on CBS and the Top 20 hit, "Adam-12" on NBC. As a result, the series garnered low ratings and was canceled after one season (26 episodes).

In order to help fulfill the network’s contract with Bewitched, Asher and Harry Ackerman created another ABC sitcom for the 1972-1973 season entitled "Temperatures Rising," starring James Whitmore and Cleavon Little, which, in its first year, was not only struggling with its format but with the ratings as well.

In mid-season, Asher was replaced as producer by Bruce Johnson and Duke Vincent. Despite its challenges, the series ended its first year with a respectable 29 share and was renewed for the 1973-1974 season. However, to improve ratings, ABC wanted to make some changes.

When ‘’The New Temperatures Rising Show’’ debuted in September of 1973, James Whitmore was replaced by Paul Lynde and the emphasis on black comedy in the show became more prominent.

As a result, the ratings for the series fell well below the levels of the previous season and the last of the thirteen episodes aired on January 8, 1974. The following Tuesday, January 15, ABC premiered "Happy Days" in its place.

When Screen Gems head John Mitchell and ABC chief programmer Barry Diller noticed that "The New Temperatures Rising Show" was failing, they contacted William Asher and asked him to come back and salvage the series.

As a result, the show was resurrected on July 18, 1974 after a six-month hiatus with its original title "Temperature’s Rising". Joining Lynde and Little in the cast was "Bewitched" alum Alice Ghostley. Despite the changes in cast and format, the attempt to resuscitate the series was unsuccessful and ABC finally cancelled it permanently.

The final episode of "Temperatures Rising" aired on August 29, 1974 which ended William Asher’s original contract with "Bewitched" and with ABC.

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