There was never a witch quite like Samantha, played at her irresistibly delicious best by Elizabeth Montgomery.
Yes, our Nicole is playing in the new movie version. But do yourself a favour. Buy this set first, and gain the entire 36-episode premiere series, now only 45 years old, but as young and fresh as the eternally-young Samantha herself. This is the real, the one-and-only Bewitched. Accept no substitutes.
If you don't know Bewitched yet, you should. Samantha is a witch who falls in love with a mortal, young advertising agency copywriter Darren. She reveals all on their wedding-night -- and Darren makes it clear that this is going to be a witchcraft-free marriage.
Because she's in love, Samantha is willing to forsake her ancient craft. But can she? Will her wicked mother or fearsome father let her? And what will happen if she just happens, almost by accident, to twitch that delightful nose? Will Darren really notice if dinner appears on the table as if by magic?
This show was magic. Although there is a lot here to place it firmly in the 1960s (atrocious decor, lots of smoking and drinking), it was quite revolutionary in its time.
For a start, it was the very first American sitcom ever to feature a mixed-marriage. Witch and human together? Talk about miscegenation.....
And take a squiz at Samantha and Darren's bedroom. Yes, they actually sleep in a double-bed. That's right, they sleep together. In one bed. That was unheard of before Bewitched. Before that show, couples stuck to their single-beds and children arrived at their homes via the stork.
There's lots of love in Bewitched. Elizabeth Montgomery as Samantha and Dick York as Darren manage to convince us that they're hopelessly in love with each other. It's the constant thread running through the series -- the thread from which hangs almost every complication possible.
But of course, the show would have been nothing without the consummate performance of sour, waspish and irresistibly mischievous Agnes Moorehead as the mother-in-law from hell, not to mention the wonderful Marion Lorne as Aunt Clara and David White as Darren's so-believable ad-agency boss Larry Tate.
The episodes in this first series were mostly directed by Elizabeth Montgomery's then-husband William Asher, though the job was shared out pretty widely -- including an outing by actress-turned-director Ida Lupino.
And it's interesting to watch for the guests who crop up in the various episodes. Blink once, and you'll miss Raquel Welch as an airline hostess. And here's television's Batman, Adam Ward, as the unbelievably-named Kermit, an ad-agency artist. Another episode seems to feature the very young Jerry Mathers, star of another legendary television show Leave It to Beaver. End-credits reveal him, however, to be Jimmy Mathers -- presumably a virtually identical younger brother.
Quality of each episode goes up and down somewhat depending upon the writing team. Some are surprisingly modern and stereotype-challenging. Others tread a more predictable sitcom route. Almost all are totally delightful. And that is due of course not just to the delicious premise of witch marrying human (a plot-premise borrowed from the very funny 1942 classic movie I Married a Witch with Fredric March and Veronica Lake) but to the inspired casting of Elizabeth Montgomery as Samantha.
She is the heart and soul, the nose-twitching essence of Bewitched, though it must be said that we tend to not notice just how excellent and believable is Dick York as Darren. Dick York played that role for six years before being forced out of the series because of a debilitating back-injury. He is a worthy companion to the world's most enduring prime-time witch.
In the USA, consumers are being offered two separate editions of Bewitched -- either the original black-and-white, or a computer-generated 'colorised' version.
Here though there is no choice. You must accept the fake colour version; no other is available.
At first I was pleasantly surprised -- the skin tones are agreeably realistic, without the dreadful effects seen in some of Ted Turner's worst 'colorisation' attempts. Clothes look natural; only the backgrounds seem strangely monotone at times.
But there are some complete clangers. At one stage Darren takes Samantha for a drive to see his favourite view -- it's set by the seaside (though the favourite view is of one of his own advertising billboards....). The car and Samantha and Darren seem reasonably realistic. The moonlit sea and shore look hideous -- sort of vampire-land black-and-white, with monsters poised to crawl out. It's totally hideous.
Although seeming reasonably natural at first, I found the fake colour hard to take if trying to watch more than one episode at a time ... given the choice I'd opt for the original black-and-white any time. But come right down to it and I'd still want this set -- Elizabeth Montgomery as Samantha is a compulsory acquisition in any form!
The colour effect does make it hard to guage just how perfect or otherwise the picture quality is. I would imagine that the process can be used to cover up a multitude of flaws that might otherwise be noticeable. We'll just never know.