The following is a special guest feature commentary by JA Fludd.
Let’s talk a little bit about Bewitched starring Elizabeth Montgomery, a show that holds a very interesting place in entertainment history if you think about it.
Now, Bewitched is another show that was Woke right out of the creator’s typewriter. The sitcom about Samantha and her two Darrins (Dicks York and Sargent) is, you must understand, the story of a mixed marriage. Not a mix of ethnicities or religions, but a mix of different kinds of beings. The authors of the show used that metaphor and a number of others to make a variety of points, in a subtle, sitcom sort of way. Consider Samantha’s parents, Endora (Agnes Moorehead) and Maurice (Maurice Evans). At a time when the subject of divorce on TV was almost completely taboo, Samantha’s Mom and Dad were obviously separated, if not outright divorced. Think about Samantha’s cousin Serena (Elizabeth Montgomery as “Pandora Spocks”.) The girl was obviously a free-thinking swinger and a devotee of “free love.” We knew that she owned her sexuality and enjoyed it—at a time when this show’s neighbor on ABC couldn’t even let That Girl (Marlo Thomas) have sleepovers with Donald (Ted Bessell.) And do I even have to tell you about Uncle Arthur (Paul Lynde)? Bewitched was a sly and fantastical way of saying that Father Knows Best and Donna Reed were cozy myths, not reality.
Which brings us to the episode that I just watched this evening. “Sisters at Heart” is a 1970 holiday episode written in part by a 5th Period English class at a Thomas Jefferson High School. It’s true. It is the story of little Tabitha (Erin Murphy) having Lisa, a little black girl, spend Christmas with her, Samantha, and Darrin while Lisa’s parents are away—and what happens when Samantha suggests to the two girls that they are “temporary sisters.” Tabitha practices a little “wishcraft” on the two of them, and turns them into ethnically polka-dotted children! As a further complication, one of Darrin’s clients drops by before it happens, sees Lisa, and thinks Darrin is married to a black woman. The guy turns out to be a racist who pulls his account away from Darrin’s agency, and the way Samantha handles *him* is something they could do in 1970 that a show probably could not do today.
“Sisters at Heart” may be the most openly progressive episode of the series, and bear in mind the time that it ran. Only one month after ABC presented this show, CBS rolled out the first episode of All in the Family by Norman Lear, a show that had disclaimers in its first season and dealt with topics like racism without fantasy and metaphor, in a much more confrontational (though still funny) manner than any other show predating it. This Bewitched Christmas show was something of a harbinger of the future of television. Like Star Trek, The Outer Limits, and The Twilight Zone, Bewitched was Woke while most of TV was still asleep.
Bewitched, Bothered and Bewoke
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