Bewitched: More than just a fun TV show
Bewitched: Classic TV portraying issues of the day
I watched this TV show every Friday at six o'clock when I was a kid in England.
My weekly treat was a sixpenny bar of Cadbury's chocolate and that, along with a funny TV series, created a perfect half-hour. I loved the antics of Samantha the witch, especially when she was outwitting everyone.
There's lots of fun for kids and adults
I couldn't resist when I saw that the complete series was available on DVD. But watching it again, I didn't realize back in the days when I watched this series as a child in England, that I was actually watching a TV show that was making several social commentaries.
It's only when I look back and watch the episodes again that I realize their significance.
Watching as a grown up
One of the first issues that was being tackled, I realized, was that of race. When the series started in 1964, there were still some states in the USA that - unbelievable but true - didn't allow inter-racial marriages.
In the series, a gorgeous young witch (Samantha) marries a mere mortal (Darrin) and much of the show is about their adjustments and the disapproval of her family; specifically her mother, Endora. Seeing it now, this was a barely-veiled way of tackling the issue of mixed marriages.
A woman's place...
Even though I was a kid, I was irritated by Samantha's apparent domestication and housewifely devotion. Watching the show now, I'm aware that it was tackling another issue of the day - the role of women in society.
Although Samantha appears to be a subservient housewife, in fact she is a lot stronger than her husband with skills (albeit witchcraft) that her husband doesn't possess. An interesting concept for those times. She certainly wasn't 'the weaker sex'.
With the presence of the witches, the series explored the idea that even in an ordinary suburban American background there are people who don't conform to the accepted way of life.
This too was an issue in the 1960s. The gay rights situation was starting to bubble, Hippies were protesting. Various counter-culture groups were becoming established. This series, thanks in part to the nosy neighbor next door, was promoting the idea of 'live and let live' and the thought that the structured establishment could be challenged.
Samantha's mother frequently appeared on the show and from time to time, so did her father. It was evident that they were not married. These were lovable characters and helped to show the audience that the established way Americans tried to live weren't the only options in life. Samantha and Darrin might have opted for the traditional way but the series showed that there were other options.
Darrin worked as an ad man in a Madison Avenue advertising agency. He played the typical corporate game, being subservient to his employer. Many of the episodes referred to his clients and their importance, plus the necessity of designing ads and copy that would be successful in selling often unnecessary products. Gently, the show was poking fun at the rather ridiculous state of consumerism in the United States at that time.
Watch with new eyes
Once you're aware that these issues and others of the day were dealt with using comedy and gentle satire, you'll see the episodes differently.They are still enormous fun but it's just as enjoyable to watch out for underlying themes.
The video I wanted to show you has been removed from You Tube, but it was such a good example so I'll describe it instead. It shows the stress and strains of being an ad executive, the futility of the job (selling soup) and, unbelievably, the fact that Darrin thought that Samantha has used witchcraft when actually she has simply used her (female) brain.
Darrin has been up all night trying to create an ad campaign for soup. Whilst he's in the shower, Samantha - NOT using witchcraft - comes up with her own ideas which are much better than his.
He assumes witchcraft created them...
Gently and with comedy, the show was pointing out that 'mere women' actually don't need witchcraft - or any other strange powers - to compete with (and beat) the men in their lives.
However, the video below is a typical example of the show. It is a full episode.
© 2013 Jackie Jackson