1 September 2015
I imagine that I am probably not your typical purchaser of this product. After all, until I actually began researching 'Bewitched' a few weeks ago, I had never so much as clapped one eye on Elizabeth Montgomery and her two identically-named and almost completely interchangeable husbands before.
I had no idea that between 1964 and 1972 she played a witch called Samantha whose new husband (plus replacement) didn't like her using her powers but who, like most mortal men, could do little to stop his wife once she'd made her mind up. Unbeknownst to me, they had settled down to a suburban life of relative normality... apart from the distinctly abnormal relatives who were inclined to keep paying them a visit. Particularly her mother Endora, who, in what seems to be quite typical behaviour amongst mother-in-laws, can't stand her daughter's husband and who is (let's face it) the stuff of every bridegroom's nightmares.
All that had completely passed me by. Ah, but I'm certainly making up for lost time now though, spurred on by the fact that the star of this show was so gorgeous that I feel sort of cheated that I wasn't aware of her before. And she ought to feel sort of cheated too really, because I didn't even buy it because of her - I was hotly pursuing my interest in Paul Lynde's Uncle Arthur at the time. I'll say one thing about the delectable Ms Montgomery (most especially when she's showing off her impressive comedy skills as the lovely Serena)... she puts the man-crush that I have on the, rather flamboyant, Mr Lynde into a comforting (and very much heterosexual) perspective. God bless her cute little twitching nose.
I'm also probably not your typical viewer of this product either, since I started with the ten Uncle Arthur episodes (plus Season 1's 'Driving Is the Only Way to Fly', which was Paul Lynde's first appearance in the show, although not as Uncle Arthur) and then branched out into random episodes that featured Serena and then Aunt Clara etc etc. The discs themselves are quite disappointing in that they are just shoved into a bunch of DVD sleeves with precious little else but the names and a brief description of each episode to keep them company, but IMDb has been of great assistance to me. The advantage I've found in watching the episodes in random order is that I've been able to get used to the idea of these two different 'Darrins' in a nice, gentle way.
Dick Sargent's second version isn't that bad, really. In any case, how many people watched this show to see what boring old Darrin was up to, really? One thing the second version suffers from in my book is the fact that Uncle Arthur only visits Sammy on three occasions during his tenure. Paul Lynde's charisma and comic timing (and that ridiculously infectious laugh!) make Uncle Arthur one of the funniest characters I have ever seen, anywhere. It's amazing that he wasn't in more episodes and even more amazing that he elevates the ones he is in to instant 'classic' status. You simply can't help but smile at him.
If I had to choose a favourite episode (and that's a very tough ask, believe me) it would probably be 'Samantha's Power Failure', from the tail-end of Season 5. The plot sees Samantha losing her sorcery skills, with her uncle and her cousin, Serena, having theirs removed by the Witches Council for siding with her. They are left with no choice but to go off in search of regular employment like the rest of us mere mortals. I've got to say, not many comedy scenes can make me actually laugh out loud - but the one which sees them trying their hand at nutting their bananas never, ever fails.
I wish someone had thought of creating a spin-off series in which Serena and Uncle Arthur tried (and failed) to do different jobs each week. It might just have been the most hysterically funny series ever created.
The entire collection is in colour, which I'm sure must mean that there's been some extensive jiggery-pokery somewhere. Since I know so little about the history of 'Bewitched', I can't really comment on the quality of the various extras. They pop up on several of the discs in the form of bloopers and so on. I think you'd have to REALLY be a fan of the show to get a lot out of many of them but, that's just my opinion. A most unwelcome 'Extra' is a hugely annoying (and incredibly loud) advert at the beginning of some of the discs implying that we're all wannabe digital pirates and all intent on making our fortune churning out copies of 'Bewitched'. Please! I just want to be left alone to watch these discs in peace without having my eardrums shattered - is that really too much to ask?
I did think that the 'Bonus Disc' was pretty disappointing overall. 'A Walk Down Memory Lane with Erin Murphy' was great, and sees the gorgeous little girl who played Tabitha all grown-up and going back to visit the houses and the studios in which the show was made. However, 'Goofs and Gags' really isn't either funny or particularly interesting: and 'The Bewitching Guest Stars' is just a damp squib.
Speaking of damp squibs brings me to the film 'Bewitched', which has been sneaked in here as a 'bonus' the same way my mother used to sneak vegetables into my sandwiches. I'm afraid I did initially judge that particular DVD by its cover: Nicole Kidman, lovely though she is, just doesn't have the charm of Liz Montgomery. And Will Ferrell? That guy's got a face I'd just like to punch. Ever aware that I wanted to write a review of the series though, I forced myself to watch bits and pieces of this movie... and, the best thing I can say about it, is that it makes the original series look even better. The plot seems to revolve around Will Ferrell being obnoxious. Which, from what I can gather, is fairly typical of a Will Ferrell movie in general.
What I disliked most of all about it was a fairly nasty little cameo from Steve Carell (who, coincidentally, also has a face I'd just like to punch) in which he makes Uncle Arthur (and, by extension, the great Paul Lynde) look spectacularly, jaw-droppingly bad. It's quite a trick to take a warm and jolly character like that and to trash it completely - Steve Carell is obviously quite a magician.
The film is so bad that they haven't even bothered to dub it into any other language. It does come with both English and Hindi subtitles though. Quite what Hindi-speakers have done to deserve this atrocity is anyone's guess.
'Bewitched' itself, of course, fares much better in the language and subtitle stakes: although, the ones that are actually available do differ from disc to disc. Nevertheless, you can expect to find episodes in English, French, German, Italian and Spanish and there will be subtitles for episodes in English (Hard of Hearing), Arabic, Danish, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hindi, Italian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish and Turkish.
This set is a joyous thing to have - and not just because it's impossible to feel down when you're in the company of Uncle Arthur.
One piece of advice though... take Will Ferrell's movie and chuck it in your neighbour's skip. Don't even think about recycling it down at the charity shop - nobody's going to buy it. That's why they had to resort to sneaking it in here as a booby prize. No, just chuck it in your neighbour's skip and then walk away.