Welcome to the start of a new series on Situation Comedy Tuesdays! For the next eight weeks, we’ll be covering the best episodes from the best supernatural sitcom of the ’60s, Bewitched (1964-1972, ABC). Every single episode is available on DVD, and the first two seasons are available in both original black-and-white and colorized editions.
Advertising executive Darrin Stephens marries Samantha, a beautiful blonde who just happens to be a witch. She agrees to give up witchcraft and live a nice mortal life with Darrin, much to mother Endora’s chagrin. But with family members constantly popping in and interfering with their life, Samantha and Darrin find that living a normal life is easier said than done.
Bewitched stars ELIZABETH MONTGOMERY as Samantha Stephens, DICK YORK as Darrin Stephens, AGNES MOOREHEAD as Endora, DAVID WHITE as Larry Tate, IRENE VERNON as Louise Tate, ALICE PEARCE as Gladys Kravitz, GEORGE TOBIAS as Abner Kravitz, and MARION LORNE as Aunt Clara.
The highest rated comedy of the ’64 – ’65 season, Bewitched‘s first season is the smartest of the series’ eight year run. In addition to humor, the scripts are packed with sentiment, and there’s incredible honesty in the characterizations — both mortal and immortal. But the show takes time finding its groove, and the better part of the season is spent laying groundwork — moving into the house, meeting various in-laws, acclimating to the neighborhood, etc. Because of that, there’s a surprising amount of continuity in these first 36 episodes. However, there isn’t a bad episode in the bunch, and most of the installments are incredibly well-scripted. But not all of them are as funny as they should be. For instance, an episode like “Help, Help, Don’t Save Me,” which has an excellent and essential premise, presents honesty over humor. The series’ first season is magical — but the show will become a stronger COMEDIC force in the years to come. That being said, this IS one of the show’s best seasons, so it was a challenge to select my favorites. But, I have picked ten episodes that I think exemplify the season’s strongest installments as a whole. For new fans, this list will give you a place to start. For seasoned fans, there might be a few surprises.
Here are my picks for the ten best episodes of Season One. (They are in AIRING ORDER.)
01) Episode 1: “I, Darrin, Take This Witch, Samantha” (Aired: 09/17/64 | Completed: 12/06/63)
Darrin and Sam meet, marry and face Darrin’s former girlfriend.
Written by Sol Saks | Directed by William Asher
The pilot episode does a fairly good job of setting up the show’s premise — and it covers a lot of ground in the teaser alone, as Sam and Darrin meet, date, marry, and begin their honeymoon. The exposition where Sam reveals to Darrin she’s a witch is solid, but given that this is a pilot, it’s a little stiff. The comedy really kicks in when Darrin and Sam go to his ex-girlfriend’s house for dinner. The scene is a riot — one of the most memorable of the entire series. Go Sam!
02) Episode 2: “Be It Ever So Mortgaged” (Aired: 09/24/64 | Completed: 09/11/64)
Samantha startles the neighbors: she’s trying “instant landscaping.”
Written by Barbara Avedon | Directed by William Asher
This is a surprisingly funny episode that has Samantha and Endora visiting a house that Darrin is thinking of purchasing. The scene where Endora spies on Sam and Darrin is very funny, but this episode is most notable for introducing Alice Pearce as Gladys Kravitz. She’s absolutely hysterical, giving some of her best takes in this episode alone.
03) Episode 14: “Samantha Meets The Folks” (Aired: 12/17/64 | Completed: 11/05/64)
Sam’s nervous about her first meeting with Darrin’s parents.
Written by Bernard Slade | Directed by William Asher
This episode sees the introduction of more characters — Darrin’s parents. Their visit is complicated by the surprise appearance of Aunt Clara, who makes her second appearance in this episode. It’s ingenious of the writers to spice up the already solid premise of meeting the in-laws with a visit from one of Samantha’s oddest family members. Lorne is a real treasure, elevating every single episode she’s in. This is one of the funniest episodes of the season — the doorknob obsession is such a delightful quirk.
04) Episode 17: “A Is For Aardvark” (Aired: 01/14/65 | Completed: 11/18/64)
A bedridden Darrin finds himself endowed with magical powers.
Written by Earl Barret | Directed by Ida Lupino
Here we have one of the best episodes of the entire series, and the personal favorite of producer William Asher. The story is excellent — Darrin is injured and Samantha bestows him with powers so she doesn’t have to run back and forth catering to him. But he becomes power hungry and decides it was foolish of him to make Samantha give up her witchcraft. Samantha is shocked and tries to convince him otherwise. The climactic scene between Samantha and Darrin is not funny at all, but it’s absolutely brilliant — well written and well played. “A Is For Aardvark” is the essential Bewitched episode, reinforcing the thematic premise and the humanity at the series’ heart.
05) Episode 19: “A Nice Little Dinner Party” (Aired: 01/28/65 | Completed: 12/10/64)
Darrin’s worried about Endora dining with his parents.
Written by Bernard Slade | Directed by Sherman Marks
Much like in real life, newlyweds must face the parade of family members meeting various other family members for the first time. This time it’s Endora meeting Darrin’s parents. It works well here because Endora is not aggressively vindictive. Her torment is psychological as she flirts with Frank and angers Phyllis. It’s a very funny episode because all the in-laws are pitch perfect, establishing relationships that will continue for the rest of the series.
06) Episode 22: “Eye Of The Beholder” (Aired: 02/25/65 | Completed: 01/11/65)
Darrin tries to find out how old Sam is.
Written by Herman Groves | Directed by William Asher
Here’s another episode that targets one of the premise’s central issues. Darrin’s going to age like all mortals do, but what about Samantha? The dramatically rich story is aided by a script that manages to be quite funny — especially as Samantha tries to evade the topic of her age. (And later the bit with the squirrels always makes me laugh!) Endora is deliciously nasty for planting the seeds in Darrin’s mind, but it’s a matter that almost inevitably must arise. This is a sweet episode that (doesn’t fully resolve this gigantic problem, but) addresses things humorously and satisfyingly.
07) Episode 24: “Which Witch Is Which?” (Aired: 03/11/65 | Completed: 01/18/65)
Endora becomes Sam’s lookalike to sample mortal behavior.
Written by Earl Barret | Directed by William D. Russell
Predating the introduction of Serena, this episode shows the comedic complications presented by having a Samantha lookalike. Furthermore, Montgomery gets a chance to play someone other than Samantha — which she obviously relishes. This is, like a lot of Season One, a pretty adult episode, but the Endora witticisms coming out of Sam’s mouth are hilarious. Funny, funny!
08) Episode 26: “Driving Is The Only Way To Fly” (Aired: 03/25/65 | Completed: 02/05/65)
Darrin’s problem: teaching Samantha the unmagical way to drive a car.
Written by Richard Baer | Directed by William Asher
Paul Lynde, a season before he is introduced as Uncle Arthur, plays a hapless instructor trying to teach Samantha how to drive. The pair have great chemistry together and it’s a treat to see them working in a way that Uncle Arthur and Sam never do. Additionally, the premise is a really exciting and honest one. Samantha, as a witch, never learned to drive. As a mortal wife, it’s imperative that she learn. Simple premise, comedic hijinks. Exactly what a sitcom episode should be — and given a wonderful Bewitched twist!
09) Episode 29: “Abner Kadabra” (Aired: 04/15/65 | Completed: 02/25/65)
Gladys is convinced she has magical powers.
Written by Lawrence J. Cohen & Fred Freeman | Directed by William Asher
Hands down, funniest episode of the entire first season. Pearce is one of the strongest character actresses to grace this series and she is PERFECT in this episode, which has Samantha covering up Gladys’s witnessing of witchcraft by convincing her nosy neighbor that SHE is the one with ESP. There are so many unbelievably brilliant moments in this episode — Gladys and the sprinkles, “STOVE, ON,” and the seance are but a few. Definitely a must-see episode!
10) Episode 32: “Illegal Separation” (Aired: 05/06/65 | Completed: 03/19/65)
The Stephenses wish they hadn’t taken in Abner as a house guest.
Written by Richard Baer | Directed by William Asher
Another episode centered around the Kravitzes is funny for precisely the same reasons as the above episode: Pearce. But Tobias gets more to do here and it’s great. The dream sequence easily takes the cake as the most memorable bit, and the slow-motion run that Samantha gives Abner and Gladys at the end is hilarious.
Other great episodes that didn’t make the list above include: “Mother Meets What’s-His-Name,” which sees Darrin and Endora’s first interaction, “The Witches Are Out,” which introduces Aunt Clara, “The Girl Reporter,” which balances teenage silliness with an adult premise, “Witch Or Wife,” which sees Samantha trying to reconcile her mortal boredom, “…And Something Makes Three,” which finds Darrin suspecting that Samantha’s pregnant, “Pleasure O’Riley,” which features the funniest sight gag of the entire season (see below), “Open The Door Witchcraft,” which features a solid premise that hits on the show’s fundamental theme, “That Was My Wife,” which is one of the show’s sexiest and sleaziest episodes, and “A Change Of Face,” which is a trifle spooky given the eventual Darrin switch.
*** The MVE Award for the Best Episode from Season One of Bewitched goes to…..
“A Is For Aardvark”
Come back next week for the best from Season Two! And tune in tomorrow for a new Wildcard Wednesday post!