Herbie J Pilato: Bewitched @ 50: Happy Silver Anniversary to Samantha and Darrin

EDITOR’S NOTE: Today is the 50th anniversary of BEWITCHED’s debut on our screens. What better way to celebrate it than to turn this space over to the World’s Foremost Authority on this show, Contributing Editor Herbie J Pilato, author of 3 definitive books on the subject –  The Essential Elizabeth Montgomery, Twitch Upon A Star, and Bewitched Forever? Take it away Herbie J:

bewitched-hp

by Herbie J Pilato

So, what makes Bewitched great – and why are we still talking about it fifty years after its original lengthy hit run on ABC (from September 17, 1964 to July 2, 1972)?

Like any superior television show, feature film or live stage production, it all begins with the script.

And the pilot script for Bewitched, written by Sol Saks, is one of the most well-rounded half-hour initial teleplays ever conceived.

Saks explained it all in his wonderful book, The Craft of Comedy Writing, first published by Writers Digest Books in 1985 (and which I recommend every writer should reads, be they novice and veteran).

In a tight thirty minutes, the Bewitched not only introduces and marries the two main characters – Samantha, the graceful good and wise witch-with-a-twitch (portrayed by the one and only Elizabeth Montgomery, who was nominated eight-times for the role), and her mortal husband Darrin (a role shared by Dick York and Dick Sargent) – it manages to intertwine a solid B-story about Samantha meeting Darrin’s arrogant ex-fiancé (played by Nancy Kovak).  In the process, the pilot sets up nicely the entire premise of the series:  Samantha and Darrin love each other despite their differences, and the stern objection of her feisty sorceress mother Endora (played to perfection by Agnes Moorehead), and while he is initially shocked with his wife’s heritage, he loves her no matter what – if only requesting that she promise not to use her powers.

As the series continues, of course, Samantha breaks her promise on a weekly basis.  And the human home she shares with Darrin is not only frequently visited by the interfering Endora, but nosy neighbor Gladsy Kravitz (first played by the Emmy-winning Alice Peace, then Sandra Gould), and any number of witches, warlocks and various supernatural beings, or other-worldly sorts that arrive because of any assorted amount of magic mayhem.

Behind Sol Saks, the core premise of Bewitched was inspired by the show’s executive producer, Harry Ackerman, the master-mind of many of classic sitcoms, including Dennis the Menace, The Famer’s DaughterHazel, and the under-appreciated Gidget (which introduced the world to the Oscar-winning Sally Field).

Ackerman, a former executive for CBS, had an idea for a weekly witch series, which he titled, The Witch of Westport.  In a meeting with Ackerman, Elizabeth Montgomery and then-husband producer/director William Asher (who worked with Ackerman on I Love Lucy at CBS) had introduced a show concept called The Fun Couple, about a wealthy woman who falls in love with an auto-mechanic.  Ackerman suggested Bewitched and witchcraft instead of The Fun Couple and “richcraft.”

Elizabeth and Bill Asher loved the Samantha series idea, and the rest is history.  Bewitched became an instant hit for ABC.

However, that would not have transpired if all the pieces were in place beforehand…the pieces placed, again – in the script.

The characters of Bewitched were finely-tuned.  No two characters talked alike, looked alike, or behaved alike.  The stories were fanciful, but whatever transpired within the world of Bewitched made sense in that world.  There was a logic to the illogic of what was portrayed.  If Samantha placed a spell on someone, only Samantha could remove that spell.   Witches could work any kind of sorcery imaginable, but they could not alter time, and so forth.  The Bewitched writer’s bible for the series was crafted with immense detail by William Asher, and the show’s early writers, including genius minds like Danny Arnold (who later created the heralded Barney Miller sitcom for ABC), and Bernard Slade (who went on to attain super success on Broadway with “Same Time, Next Year”; and also with ABC’s The Partridge Family).

An important component in the over-all quality and presentation of Bewitched’s was the high-likeability factor and various talents of its cast:  Elizabeth, York, Sargent, Moorehead – and others like David White (Darrin’s conniving ad-man boss Larry Tate), Marion Lorne (the bumbling witch Aunt Clara), George Tobias (Abner Kravitz, the curmudgeon), Kasey Rogers and Irene Vernon (who shared the role of Larry’s wife Louise Tate), Bernard Fox (witch Dr. Bombay), Maurice Evans (Samantha’s warlock father Maurice, pronounced “Moor-eese!”), Paul Lynde (the practical-joking Uncle Arthur) – and twins Erin and Diane Murphy (as little magical Tabitha), and the also twinned David and Greg Lawrence (as Tabitha’s younger brother Adam) always hit their magic mark.

In short, their is no one reason why Bewitched remains a classic and beloved series five decades after its debut.

Just like there is not any one reason why any quality TV show, film or stage play becomes a hit.

Such success is always a result of a combination of factors.

With Bewitched, in particular, however, it was the perfection combination “X” factors – times a million.


Herbie J Pilato is a Contributing Editor to TVWriter™. You can learn more about him HERE.

Cartoon: “I tried to watch GAME OF THRONES & this is what happened

We TVWriter™ minions love The Oatmeal website and not just because it’s trendy to love it. Because of comics like, well, this:

12

Don’t despair. This funny-but-wise strip isn’t finished yet. Click to see the rest of this exciting adventure!

How to Apply Lateral Thinking to Your Creative Work

…Cuz it’s wild, it’s zany, it’s…well, it’s about learning to look at things outside the box those things create for you, and isn’t that what good writing always should do?

lateral-thinking-puzzles-1-728

by Shane Snow

Pretend that you’re trapped in a magical room with only two exits. Through the first exit is a room made from a giant magnifying glass, and the blazing hot sun will fry you to death. Through the second door is a room with a fire-breathing dragon. Which do you go through?

The first door, of course. Simply wait until the sun goes down.

he answer to this puzzle is an example of what psychologists call “lateral thinking.” The most elegant solution presents itself when you approach the problem sideways, rather than answering it head-on. Though the question is presented as a binary choice—one option or the other—when you disregard the assumption that you must act immediately, the “best” answer becomes obvious.

[Ed. note: this post is inspired by Shane's book Smartcuts: How Hackers, Innovators, and Icons Accelerate Success, available on Amazon now.]

Like our magical room, marketers have a bad habit of charring great terms to death. In business, we tend to tout “creativity” and “innovation” and “thinking outside the box” until they mean nothing. However, when you unwrap all of its buzzwords and euphemisms, history shows that creative breakthroughs all have one thing in common: they occur when people employ lateral thinking.

“We assume certain perceptions, certain concepts and certain boundaries,” explains Edward de Bono, who coined the term in 1967. “Lateral thinking is concerned not with playing with the existing pieces but with seeking to change those very pieces.” It’s the art of reframing questions, attacking problems sideways. They way a computer hacker or, say, MacGyver would think.

Breakthroughs, by very definition, only occur when assumptions are broken. In creative fields, this often happens when people break rules that aren’t actually rules at all, but rather simply conventions. Pablo Picasso changed art forever by smashing the “rules” of perspective, color, proportion. His Cubism took hold in Paris faster than Van Gogh’s impressionism—and any other new form, for that matter. Apple turned the tech world on its head by radically simplifying music and mice when everyone else equated more buttons and more megabytes and more jargon with better. When we look at great inventions and solutions to problems throughout history—the kinds that make what came before instantly obsolete—we see this pattern again and again.

Read it all

Your Characters’ POV

Getting into the heads of your characters, especially your protagonist’s, is the name of the game for all good fiction writing. Time now for some tips for those of you who are writing prose fiction. (But if you’re very, very smart and read closely, all you TV writing peeps will benefit as well.)

maxresdefault

by Rita Karnopp

Your primary character’s point of view can only be real if you empathize and understand them inside and out.  You want your reader to see the story through the eyes of your character.

We get to know our characters by asking them questions . . . like you would a new acquaintance or perhaps a new family member you’ve never met.  So what kind of questions can you ask that will give you the understanding you need to get to know your primary characters?

  • Do you believe in marriage?
  • Are you inclined to believe man is destroying the world?
  • Do you have a good relationship with your parents?
  • Were you ever married or have you had a serious boyfriend/girlfriend before?
  • Are you angry about any issue?
  • Find out if your character has a chip on his shoulder.
  • The list goes on and on. . . .

But remember, not everything you know about your character has to go into your story.  You need to know your character so you’ll understand how he’ll answer, act, behave, react, and maybe even defy.

There’s one thing you must always consider when writing . . . and it involves your POV character . . . the five senses; smell, hear, touch, taste, and see.  Which of these senses are your weaknesses and strengths?

Does your character notice perfume?  That could be important.  Does he hear a certain tone/voice annotation that triggers a clue?  Does the clamminess of skin reveal anything?  Does the bitterness of the wine warn it might be poisoned?  Or did he notice the man slip a piece of paper into the pocket of the man in front of him.  Perception is key in any story.

Your POV character may have strengths and weaknesses of the senses, too.  They could be key to their personality as well.  Think about the blind person and his other heightened senses.  Use sensory focus to create personality in your primary characters.

What follows in this wheelhouse is intuition – when your character can sense the emotion, anxieties, objective, and fears of others.  It’s an extra sense that can create mood and make your protagonist believable.  Characters such as cops or doctors who must make snap judgments for the good of others display this sense.

Read it all

Leesa Dean: Adventures of a Web Series Newbie 75

R.I.P. Joan
by Leesa Dean

joan_riversI’ve been working towards a deadline and it’s been nuts (pulling 12-15 hour days) so this week will be short.  I was going to postpone but instead decided to write a few words about Joan Rivers, who, unless you’ve been living under a rock and didn’t hear, recently died.

I don’t think there’s a female comedian today who’s not indebted to her.  And while I’m not a stand-up, I do write comedy and her influence and the kind of material she did had a huge impact on me. The political incorrectness. The great snappy one-liners. The I give zero f*cks of it all. When she was on, as Chris Rock said, nobody could follow her.

I think the moment I really started paying attention was when she began doing red carpet (which, I guess, is a reflection of my age.)

I was watching E! during Oscars coverage and there was Joan, describing some actress who had just walked by saying, “Just a girl with a dream. She slept her way to the middle.”  It was such an outrageous thing to say on live tv, at the Oscars red carpet no less, that once I picked my jaw up off the floor, I knew one thing: I was in!

She’s gotten a lot of flack about her no holds barred skewering of celebs, saying how mean-spirited she was. While I never knew her I did get a chance to observe her in person once.

Many years ago, I volunteered at God’s Love We Deliver, an org that brings hot meals to homebound people with, primarily, AIDS.  It was not an easy thing to do.  A lot of places we’d go were shelters and SROs (Single Room Occupancy dumps), seeing people living out the ends of their lives alone, in decrepit despair and squaller.

I went, as a lot of volunteers did, on the holidays–Thanksgiving and Christmas–and this particular year who did I see waiting in line with the rest of the volunteers, picking up a bag of food, rocking a fur coat, but Joan Rivers.  There was no press.  No publicists.  Just her and a friend, waiting in line with the rest of us.  Helping.  I even made o point of looking at the tabloids the next day and there was nothing about it.

This was during one of the low points in her career. Right before she got Fashion Police. And, frankly, she could have used the press.  It’s kind of standard for celebrities to volunteer and use it as a photo op and an opportunity to show how great they are.

It was such a class act and spoke volumes about the type of person she was.  So when, even post mortem, I hear people say what an unfeeling person she was (for, basically, telling jokes whose punchlines were a little too politically incorrect for them to handle), I say, quoting her, “Oh, grow up!”

Peer Production: WHERE ARE THEY NOW?

This one hits the bullseye. About showbiz. The human  condition. And as an example of the art of indie animated film making:

by Steve Cutts

Animation created in After Effects, Flash, Photoshop and a bit of CrazyTalk pro 7. All voices created by Steve Cutts.

Music by Kevin MacLeod