Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Tale of the Four Darrins

In the 8 year run of the comedy "Bewitched" on ABC, two actors played Darrin Stephens, the harried mortal husband of beautiful witch Samantha (Elizabeth Montgomery). Dick York played Darrin from 1964 to 1969. Forced to step down due to health reasons, York was replaced without an announcement from the network by Dick Sargent for the rest of its run. Of course, the fact that both actors were named Dick and their last names combine to make Sargent York (look him up) is hardly lost on those who find meaning such coincidences. Audiences hardly seemed to notice though, as the real star of the show was the beautiful Ms Montgomery, who passed away from an undisclosed cancer in 1995. York passed away in 1992 from degenerative spine disease and Sargent died in 1994 from AIDS-related illness, but not before coming out publicly, unlike so many other stars of the era who died under the same circumstances.

The series also featured some rather well-known regulars, including Agnes Moorehead; Maurice Evans; Paul Lynde; Alice Ghostley; Bernard Fox and Bernie Kopell. There were also two Gladys Kravitzes (the nosy neighbor who always saw weird things but was never believed): Sandra Gould and Alice Pearce, though no one makes as a big a deal as they do about the two Darrins. The show was a childhood favorite of mine and I loved the crazy antics that Samantha and her magical family got into, usually at the expense of long-suffering Darrin, an advertising executive whose boss, Larry and Larry's wife, Louise were often unknowingly caught up in. 

In 2005, writer/director Nora Ephron (Sleepless in Seattle) and her sister Delia wrote an abysmal movie version of the show, about an actor (Will Ferrel) trying to reboot the series and his encounter with an actress (Nicole Kidman) who is actually a witch. With Shirley MacLaine, Michael Caine and Steve Carell substituting for Moorehead, Evans and Lynde, the movie should have been a blast. Instead, it was a stupid; unfunny and embarrassing flop. Even appearances by the amazing Kristin Chenoweth and the hilarious Amy Sedaris couldn't save it.

Now via EW (among many other resources), comes word that a new version of the TV show is actually being planned, helmed by the producers of the movie who apparently love the property so much, they can't let it go.

Honestly, I'm not as upset about this news as regular readers might think I would be. If the new show manages to capture the silly innocence of the original and if Ferrel and the Ephron sisters stay far, far away, it could actually work. My only worry is that they might take the concept into Teen Wolf territory by trying to take a fluffy comedy and turn it into a dark, serious drama. It may work for hot werewolves, but I'm thinking not so much for "Bewitched."

So what do you think, readers? Would you watch a 21st Century version of "Bewitched?" Or have we all become too jaded to enjoy a silly sitcom about witches and muggles? I, for one, hope they get it right. It might actually be nice to spend a half-hour each week with some familiar characters dealing with modern life.Of course, a new series would give us a fourth Darrin and I'm not sure anyone is ready for that.

More, anon


Michael Offutt, Phantom Reader said...

Honestly...I'm tired of remakes. Let's have some original stories please.

Years ago: Bewitched, 90210, Hawaii Five-O

Now: Bewitched, 90210, Hawaii Five-O

For fucks sakes. As much as I like the old crap let's not have I Dream of Jeannie, Dallas, Dynasty and any other show that had its day come back.

I want new stuff. Give me fresh offerings I have never seen before. Or give me a spin. If Bewitched comes back, it needs to be different. Not just the story of a witch that marries a mortal man. /rant

Pax Romano said...

I dunno, I'm going to go out on a limb here and predict that this version of Bewitched will not be as charming as the original we grew up with (I wanted to be Maurice when I grew up...I think it was the opera cape).

The reason Bewitched worked so well was because of the terrific cast; where are you going to find actors as talented and as charismatic as Elizabeth Montgomery, Agnes Moorehead and Maurice Evans? Also, the show had a very sweet vibe to it (in spite of the high camp, and hocus pocus). Today's viewers don't seem to want sweet vibes...they'll probably "re-imagine" the whole thing and make it look like a reality series.

Oh, I shudder to think of that .

Prospero said...

Pax - Totally agree about that amazing cast.

Michael - Too late! Dallas is already scheduled for next season on TNT.

Anonymous said...

LEAVE BEWITCHED ALONE! Nobody can touch it..and Nicole was a JOKE!

Prospero said...

Wow! Still getting non-spam comments two and a half years after I posted this. Thank you for reading, anonymous1