The Other Other Darrin

I’m actually a big fan of Bewitched, especially the first season, which was one of the most ambitious and interesting seasons of TV in the ’60s. But I don’t get the point of remaking it. There are few shows that are more of their time than Bewitched, which is part of the reason the producers had so much trouble turning it into a movie; the meta-movie idea they went with was silly, but it was an attempt to solve an unsovable problem.

Bewitched is first and foremost about the roles women are expected to play and the increasing pushback against those roles: Samantha Stephens is a woman who is better, smarter, more talented and powerful than her husband, but is expected not to show it. Her mother, a free-living woman (separated from her husband) and a proud member of a counter-culture, tries to push her toward freedom, which she’s not completely sure she wants to embrace, while her husband sees his wife’s superiority as a threat to his sense of self-esteem as the “master” of the house. It’s the story of a society in transition, just like Mad Men – which is also about a Madison Avenue man who keeps a secret and drinks an awful lot. Some terrible shows of the same era used these ideas as text rather than subtext, like Mona McCluskey, a much-derided flop about a poor man who marries a rich girl and insists that they live only on his salary – and she agrees, because he’s the man, after all, blah blah blah. Bewitched endures because it turned the realistic text into fantasy subtext. But its themes are very much tied to its era.

Presumably any remake will try to bring it into the modern era – unless Mad Men mania among executives has made them decide to do it as a period piece. But if they try to reboot it without the ’60s subtext, they might as well just make a new show about a man married to a witch. That’s not copyrighted.

But then networks are interested in rebooting old franchises, despite the lack of success of most of these reboots. (Even Hawaii 5-0 has not performed anywhere near as well as the network expected it to, probably because it’s not very interesting.) Bewitched has a certain appeal as a franchise because, unlike many sitcoms, it travels the world, being popular in many cultures and languages. A Bewitched reboot would probably sell into lots of foreign markets whereas just any old witch sitcom would not. Still, it seems a little pointless.

Speaking of Bewitched, here are the lyrics to the theme song, which were never used on the show. Again, very, very ’60s. Almost as much as Samantha and Darrin’s tendency to drink heavily from their fully-stocked bar in every episode.

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