Original run September 17, 1964 – July 1, 1972
Bewitched was the longest-running supernatural-themed sitcom of the 1960s–1970s era.
A young-looking witch named Samantha (Elizabeth Montgomery) meets and marries a mortal named Darrin Stephens (originally Dick York, later Dick Sargent). While Samantha pledges to forsake her powers and become a typical suburban housewife, her magical family disapproves of the mixed marriage and frequently interferes in the couple's lives. Episodes often begin with Darrin becoming the victim of a spell, the effects of which wreak havoc with mortals such as his boss, clients, parents, and neighbors. By the epilogue, however, Darrin and Samantha most often embrace and confound the devious elements that failed to separate them.
Most female witches have names ending with the soft "-a" sound. Their male counterparts are known as "warlocks." The witches and warlocks are very long lived; while Samantha appears to be in her twenties, many episodes suggest she is actually hundreds of years old. To keep their society secret, witches avoid showing their powers in front of mortals other than Darrin. Nevertheless, the perplexing inexplicable effects of their spells and Samantha's attempts to hide their supernatural origin from mortals drive the plot of most episodes. Witches and warlocks usually use physical gestures along with their magical spells, and sometimes spoken incantations. Most notably, Samantha often "twitches" her nose to perform a spell. Modest but effective special visual effects are accompanied by music to highlight the magic.
The main setting for most scenes is the Stephens' house at 1164 Morning Glory Circle (although in season 4's "How Green Was My Grass", house number 192 is used as a plot device). Many scenes also take place at the Madison Avenue advertising agency "McMann and Tate" for which Darrin works. The Stephens' home is located in a nearby upper middle class suburban neighborhood, either in Westport, Connecticut or within New York State, as indicated by conflicting information presented throughout the series.
Samantha's mother, Endora (Agnes Moorehead), is the chief antagonist. Like all witches, she never reveals her surname, indicating to Darrin that he would be unable to pronounce it. Endora loathes mortals, and disapproves of Darrin, as do many of Samantha's relatives. Endora refuses to even use Darrin's name, alternatively calling him "Durwood," "What's-his-name," "Darwin," "Dum-Dum," etc., all much to his annoyance. She refers to him as "Darrin" only eight times during the entire series. Many stories revolve around Endora, or another of Darrin's in-laws, using magic to undermine the union. Endora casts countless farcical spells on Darrin, but never attempts to outright destroy him. Endora's ploys to provoke a breakup always fail as Samantha and Darrin's love overcomes every obstacle. When High Priestess Hephzibah expresses surprise that Darrin has withstood years of harassment from his mother-in-law, Endora can only shrug and admit, "He loves my daughter."
Agnes Moorehead as Endora.Darrin works as an executive at the McMann and Tate advertising agency. His profit-obsessed boss Larry Tate (David White) is a regular character, but Tate's partner, Mr. McMann, appears only twice during the series. Tate's opinions turn on a dime to appease a client in an attempt to land a deal. Many episodes culminate in a dinner party with clients at the Stephens' home that is humorously affected by magic. Samantha usually figures out a clever way to save the day and the account. Louise Tate (Irene Vernon, Kasey Rogers), Larry's wife, eventually becomes Samantha's closest mortal friend and, like Samantha, sometimes plays hostess to clients.
Across the street from Darrin and Samantha lives a retired couple, the nosy and tactless Gladys Kravitz (Alice Pearce, then Sandra Gould) and her husband Abner (George Tobias). Gladys's snooping often results in her witnessing witchcraft or its strange side effects. She frequently tries to prove Samantha is a witch, only to fail and be branded delusional by Abner.
Samantha's father, Maurice (Maurice Evans), is an urbane thespian much like Elizabeth Montgomery's father, Robert Montgomery. Maurice often embellishes his entrances and exits with strained Shakespearean verse. Bewitched is unique for mid-1960s sitcoms in that it portrays Endora and Maurice as an estranged married couple, their separation being implied and subtextual. Endora once introduced Maurice as “my daughter's father,” and another time Endora threatens to “move in” with Maurice. In the episode "Samantha's Good News," Endora threatens to file for an “ectoplasmic interlocutory” (i.e. divorce), only to wrangle Maurice's affection. Maurice also refers to Darrin with incorrect names, including "Duncan" and "Dustbin," with Endora going so far as to "correct" him, saying “That’s Durwood.”
Darrin's parents, the straight-laced Phyllis and laid-back Frank Stephens, visit occasionally but never learn of Samantha's supernatural powers. Phyllis (Mabel Albertson) makes inopportune surprise visits, and often complains of "a sick headache" after accidentally witnessing a spell in motion.
On Samantha's father's side of the family is her far-out, egocentric lookalike cousin Serena. Also played by Elizabeth Montgomery, she is credited as "Pandora Spocks" (a spin on the phrase "Pandora's box") from 1969 to 1972. Serena is the antithesis of Samantha, in most episodes sporting a heart-shaped beauty mark on her cheek, raven-black cropped hair, and mod mini-skirts. Ever mischievous, Serena often chases after Darrin and Larry Tate (calling the white-haired Tate "Cotton-Top"), just for sport. More progressive than typical witches or warlocks, who generally abhor mortals, Samantha's counter-culture cousin occasionally dates some (including characters played by Jack Cassidy and Peter Lawford). Despite her wild behavior and frequent co-plotting with Endora, Serena ultimately supports Samantha and Darrin, even though she finds them both a bit "square."
Uncle Arthur (Paul Lynde), Endora's prank-loving brother, makes several memorable appearances. Despite many practical jokes at Darrin's expense, Uncle Arthur seems to like him. In one episode, both Serena and Uncle Arthur go head-to-head with the Witches Council to support the Stephens' union, only to have their own powers suspended.
The only one of Samantha's relatives for whom Darrin regularly shows affection is the bumbling, absent-minded but lovable Aunt Clara (Marion Lorne). Though well-intentioned, Clara's spells usually backfire, and her entrances and exits are often a grand fumble, such as entering via a chimney or colliding with a wall. She has a collection of over a thousand doorknobs (inspired by Lorne's real-life collection). Rather than recast the role after Lorne's death in 1968, a similar witch, the anxiety-ridden and magically inept housekeeper Esmeralda (Alice Ghostley), is introduced in 1969.
In the second season, Samantha gives birth to a daughter, Tabitha (spelled Tabatha in production credits until season 5) and later in the series has a son, Adam. Both eventually prove to have supernatural powers. The Tates' son Jonathon is born several months before Tabitha.
A strange occurrence or condition caused by a supernatural illness is often used as a plot device. Assistance is often sought from the warlock Dr. Bombay (Bernard Fox) who is summoned by the phrase “Dr. Bombay, Dr. Bombay, emergency, come right away.” Dr. Bombay is a womanizer who often has a buxom assistant, and constantly cracks bad jokes. Help for supernatural illnesses is also occasionally sought from the unnamed witches’ apothecary (Bernie Kopell), an amorous old warlock.
Other recurring characters
Aunt Enchantra and Aunt Hagatha, Samantha's aunts. They occasionally ride in an antique car called "Macbeth" (sometimes driven by chauffeur Rasputin, other times operating sans driver) which enters the Stephens home through the wall. Enchantra was played by three different actresses, while Hagatha was played by five, including Reta Shaw and Ysabel MacCloskey. Starting at the end of season 4, Hagatha sometimes appears to babysit Tabitha, and later Adam.
The "drunk guy" (Dick Wilson) shows up in various bars, jail cells and sidewalks to witness acts of witchcraft.
Betty, the secretary at McMann and Tate, played by various actresses.
Sheila Sommers (Nancy Kovack), Darrin's wealthy ex-fiancée and nemesis for Samantha. Twice in the series (the premiere episode, "I, Darrin, Take This Witch, Samantha" and "Snob in the Grass") she brazenly tries to seduce Darrin, only to be stopped by Samantha and her powers. The character also appears in the 1968 episode "If they Never Met."
Dave (Gene Blakely), Darrin's "best friend" and a Morning Glory Circle councilman in the first two seasons.
Howard McMann, Larry Tate's business partner, played by Roland Winters in "Man of the Year" (139) and Leon Ames in "What Makes Darrin Run" (191).
Miss Peabody, Tabitha's 2nd grade teacher (Maudie Prickett), appears in two episodes of season 8, "Tabitha's First Day of School" (248) and "School Days, School Daze" (251).