Welcome to another Situation Comedy Tuesday! Today we’re continuing with our coverage of the best episodes from the best supernatural sitcom of the ’60s, Bewitched (1964-1972, ABC). Every single episode is available on DVD.
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, KASEY ROGERS as Louise Tate, SANDRA GOULD as Gladys Kravitz, GEORGE TOBIAS as Abner Kravitz, ERIN MURPHY as Tabitha, and PAUL LYNDE as Uncle Arthur.
Season Five is one of the series’ saddest. In addition to the passing of Marion Lorne and the obvious absence of Aunt Clara, Dick York appears in only 22 of the 30 produced episodes. This led to the infamous “Darrin switch.” York had suffered injuries to his back while shooting a film the decade prior and was still in a copious amount of pain. He collapsed on the set in early January, was taken to the hospital, and never returned to the series. The episodes without Darrin, barring a few exceptions, are excruciatingly difficult to watch — even when Arthur, Serena, Phyllis, Maurice and Endora are all rotated in to play off Samantha. But even the 22 episodes York did complete (technically 21, since they salvaged one scene from the episode he collapsed on and created a new story, bringing his total to 22) are of a lesser quality than the seasons prior. Let’s face it: Bewitched was getting tired. And though Season Six will see a slight upswing in creativity compared to this year, the consistently brilliant days of Bewitched are pretty much over. That being said, there are still some very enjoyable moments here, even if the highs aren’t as high as they used to be. But, I have picked ten episodes that I think exemplify the season’s strongest installments. 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 Five. (They are in AIRING ORDER.)
01) Episode 142: “Samantha Goes South For A Spell” (Aired: 10/03/68 | Completed: 06/27/68)
A jealous wife mistakingly sends Samantha back to 1868 New Orleans sans witchcraft and memory. Serena sends Darrin back to rescue her.
Written by Ed Jurist | Directed by William Asher
An obvious homage to the recently rereleased Gone With The Wind, this episode boasts not only the return of Serena, but also wonderful guest appearances by Jack Cassidy and Isabel Sanford. A cool premise that looks excellent on camera, this episode is more a triumph in imaginative storytelling than ribald comedy. But that’s what Bewitched is all about, and this is one of the series’ most memorable episodes.
02) Episode 145: “It’s So Nice To Have A Spouse Around The House” (Aired: 10/24/68 | Completed: 07/25/68)
Serena takes Samantha’s place while the latter attends a Witches’ Council meeting, but hijinks ensue when Darrin wants to take his wife on a surprise second honeymoon.
Written by Barbara Avedon | Directed by William Asher
Another “Serena takes Samantha’s place and confuses Darrin episode,” this one makes some distinctions by being incredibly hyper-sexualized, as Darrin takes “Sam” to a romantic inn and wants to “make up” after their fight. The funniest stuff, in my opinion, comes at the end of the episode, when Darrin learns about the switch and decides to have some fun with Samantha. A unique episode — for it’s mature comedy — this is one of the tightest and consistently funny episodes from the season.
03) Episode 146: “Mirror, Mirror On The Wall” (Aired: 11/07/68 | Completed: 08/08/68)
Endora zaps a vanity spell on Darrin, who’s going through a tiny midlife crisis, just as he and Larry are contending with a conservative potential client.
Written by Lila Garrett & Bernie Kahn | Directed by Richard Michaels
This episode’s humor primarily comes from several ridiculous sight gags — most of which involve Darrin dressed in the gaudiest looking things you’ve ever seen. Samantha one-ups him with this incredibly short and tight silver sparkly dress that happens to be the most memorable thing about the episode. But York is great here and Larry and Louise’s embarrassment is amusing. Funny episode — one of the better “Endora puts a spell on Darrin” installments.
04) Episode 150: “Samantha Loses Her Voice” (Aired: 12/05/68 | Completed: 10/04/68)
Louise has left Larry and taken refuge at the Stephens’, while Uncle Arthur has accidentally switched Darrin and Samantha’s voices.
Written by Lila Garrett & Bernie Kahn | Directed by William Asher
I prefer this episode to last season’s “Out Of Sync, Out Of Mind,” which instead of swapped voices featured delayed voices. Though it’s lame having Uncle Arthur “fill” the Aunt Clara role here, he and the script are pretty funny, and thus the episode (from the weaker Season Five) manages to be more memorable than it would be in an earlier season. York and Montgomery do a pretty good job of voicing each other, and (as usual) I liked the inclusion of both Larry and Louise.
05) Episode 152: “Weep No More My Willow” (Aired: 12/19/68 | Completed: 07/11/68)
Samantha calls upon Dr. Bombay to help fix her dying willow tree and spare it from forced removal, but the doctor’s remedies have strange side effects.
Written by Michael Morris | Directed by William Asher
What an incredibly unique premise! While trying to fix Sam’s dying willow, Bombay accidentally enchants the tree so that whenever it weeps, Samantha does too. Gladys, who unfortunately has to play the villainess role here (although quite comedically), sees this and suspects Darrin of infidelity. Things get even funnier when Bombay reverses the spell and now every time the willow weeps, Sam laughs. Montgomery does a good job, but the premise outshines her — fresh, imaginative, and fun.
06) Episode 155: “Cousin Serena Strikes Again (I)” (Aired: 01/09/69 | Completed: 10/10/68)
When a glamorous Italian client comes on to Darrin at a dinner party, Serena zaps her into a monkey.
Written by Ed Jurist | Directed by Richard Michaels
Stories where witches/warlocks turn mortals into animals were boring even when the series did it for the first time in early Season One. What makes the story slightly better in this episode is the delicious cattiness offered by Clio Vanita, played by the same woman who played Darrin’s ex, Shiela. She’s an antagonist, but not a despicable one, especially since she’s very amusing. Meanwhile, Serena is great here, and the scene where she torments Sam at dinner is the highlight of the episode. I prefer the first part of this installment to its conclusion.
07) Episode 158: “Samantha The Bard” (Aired: 01/30/69 | Completed: 11/21/68)
Samantha comes down with a case of vocabularyitus, which causes her to speak in rhymes, just as Larry wants the Stephens to meet a new client.
Written by Richard Baer | Directed by Richard Michaels
This is the funniest episode of the season with another superbly imaginative premise. Sam wakes up and finds out that everything she says rhymes. While the rhymes start out logically, by the end of the episode she’s spouting out some real kooky ones. (Intentional, writers? Or did you run out of steam?) Regardless, the reactions that the rhymes garner — especially from Larry and the client — are supreme. Fresh storytelling and funny performances make this one a winner.
08) Episode 159: “Samantha The Sculptress” (Aired: 02/06/69 | Completed: 11/27/68)
When Samantha takes up sculpting, Endora wreaks havoc at a dinner party by creating identical talking head busts of Darrin and Larry Tate.
Written by Doug Tibbles | Directed by William Asher
This is the last full episode completed by York, but not the last of his that will air. There are some funny moments early on between Darrin and Endora, but the comedy, by and large, comes from York and White as the talking head busts. Despite a script that’s slightly above most of the other efforts this season, this is a sad episode. Everyone seems agitated and York looks incredibly weak. However, despite its flaws, there are a fair share of laughs.
09) Episode 165: “Samantha’s Power Failure” (Aired: 03/20/69 | Completed: 02/10/69)
The Witches’ Council revokes Samantha’s powers and when Serena and Uncle Arthur come to her defense, their powers are stripped too.
Written by Lila Garrett & Bernie Kahn | Directed by William Asher
It’s nice to see Serena and Uncle Arthur together, especially when they’re balanced by Endora and Samantha. The premise is stupid and I’m disgusted that the series ripped off the iconic “Job Switching” scene from I Love Lucy (that Asher also directed). Though imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, this episode steals DIRECT QUOTES from one of television’s most iconic installments. Despicable. However, the rest of the episode is funny and I appreciate the interactions provided by the characters in this Darrin-less episode. Aside from the stolen scene, this is an amusing installment.
10) Episode 168: “Samantha’s Good News” (Aired: 04/10/69 | Completed: 03/04/69)
Maurice visits with an attractive younger secretary, stirring Endora’s ire, who decides to fight fire with fire. Meanwhile, Samantha has some good news.
Written by Richard Baer | Directed by Richard Michaels
This is the best of the Darrin-less shows because of its simplicity. The entire episode takes place in the house and much of the comedy comes from interactions between the characters. Endora and Maurice are always wonderful together, and this is no exception. The premise is typical sitcom — jealousy — but with a nice Bewitched twist. Sam announces her pregnancy, and though Darrin isn’t here, the moment still packs a punch. Incidentally, everyone shines here, especially Montgomery.
Other episodes this season that almost made the list above include: “Samantha’s Wedding Present,” whose humor mostly comes from resident drunkard Dick Wilson, “One Touch Of Midas,” which narrowly misses being a romantic classic, but simply isn’t good enough, “Mrs. Stephens, Where Are You?” a Darrin-less episode that guest stars Ruth McDevitt and sees Phyllis meeting Serena, “The Battle Of Burning Oak,” in which Samantha delightfully sticks it to a bunch of country club snobs (and most deserves to be included in the list above), and “Samantha And Darrin In Mexico City,” which although it was filmed earlier in the season, aired as the season finale and is the last original episode to feature Dick York. Mention must also go to a mediocre Darrin-less episode, “Tabitha’s Weekend,” for the best line of the entire season. (It involves Endora, Phyllis’ cookies, and Alice B. Toklas.)
*** The MVE Award for the Best Episode from Season Five of Bewitched goes to…..
“Samantha The Bard”
Come back next Tuesday for the best from Season Six! And tune in tomorrow for a new year and a new Wildcard Wednesday post!
Great job on the reviews! I like your writing style because your mini-reviews are informative and entertaining–AND you support your choices with examples. They are NOT dull or boring to read like some reviews. Samantha the Bard was always my favorite episode growing up, too. I loved it because Samantha couldn’t control what she was saying. She was saying silly rhymes in front of potential clients, and Darrin looked so embarrassed.
Thanks for reading and commenting, Ron.
“Samantha The Bard” is a very fun episode indeed!
Jackson, This was an interesting season with the unfortunate struggles with Dick Yorks’ health an undercurrent of the season. Intrigued though by “Marriage Witches Style” not because of the comedy however because I believe that this the only episode in the 8 years werr Elizabeth Montgomer is the only regular/sem regular to appear in the episode!
Hi, Bob! Thanks for reading and commenting.
I hadn’t thought about that regarding “Marriage, Witches’ Style,” which as you must have noted above, isn’t among my favorites. In general, the Darrin-less shows are often maligned by fans, but most of them ARE watchable. In fact, there are some, like “Samantha’s Good News”, of which I am very fond — despite the big revelation occurring without the father present. I usually don’t like the offerings which shamelessly use a guest star/recurring character as a gimmick upon which to hang the proceedings, especially during this time in the show’s run. But when there is actual weight — particularly comedic weight, as in the aforementioned installment — the character’s absence, though felt, is not detrimental.
Pingback: Regrets . . . I’ve Had A Few | THAT'S ENTERTAINMENT!
Jackson, While I know sitcoms of the 60’s were not known for their social relevance with the current battle going on with immigration I have come to appreciate the Battle Of Burning Oak more and more. While not possibly one of the comediac episodes it handles today’s issues in a more timely fashion than many of todays tv shows. The background check into the “pure bloods” and Montgomery’s American Indian line especially.
Bob, I’m not fond of forcing associations between the realities of our present era and the commentary of decades old — and inherently unknowing — popular entertainment, but I think you’re absolutely right that “The Battle Of Burning Oak” had dramatic undertones that intended to speak directly to the societal concerns of 1968/69. I didn’t include the episode in this list back when I made it in 2013, but as you can see if you click on the link directly above your comment, had I crafted this post in 2015, it would have likely made my top ten.