Archive for the ‘Bewitched’ Category

DVD Review: Would you believe? ‘Get Smart’ is still fun

November 4, 2008

Everything is relative, as they say, which is why another big-screen version of a ’60s TV show, Get Smart, looks so good now. After all, it’s not Nicole Kidman and Will Farrell’s Bewitched or Tom Arnold’s McHale’s Navy. But like that Bewitched, at least to some degree, it does reinvent a franchise while placing it in current times.

The reinvention comes courtesy of Maxwell Smart (Steve Carell) being smarter than Don Adams’ Max ever was, while still being reliably hapless in a comic way. Beyond that, this new Max is an underling agent, not one of CONTROL’s chief operatives. Also different is Agent 99 (Anne Hathaway), who’s really the top-dog agent that Max aspires to be. In the original TV series, Barbara Feldon’s 99 was second banana to Max.

I’m not saying these tweaks don’t work, but they do seem to negate much of the zany comic mayhem that fueled the original. In its place we have an almost soulful Hathaway — one of my favorite actresses can’t help herself but deliver such emotion — and a rather winsome and sweet side to Carell as an earnest new agent who pines for respect — and Agent 99.

Indeed, this movie spin of Get Smart, while definitely a comedy, is less of a knee-slapper than a straight-ahead spy caper at times, even with sly comic turns by Alan Arkin and Dwayne Johnson as Max’s fellows in CONTROL. The plot involves bombs, Russia, double agents and lots of scenic silliness, with a threatened performance hall ending that somehow feels straight out of 1978 hit Foul Play.

Get Smart’s new two-disc set from Warner Bros. has ample extras, but its means of showcasing extra footage isn’t the best. To access about 20 more minutes of material, you basically have to watch the entire movie over again (provided you first went for the purity of the theatrical cut), and then cut away to alternate or extra footage when directed. How about grouping it all together, as on most DVDs? It works for those, and we’re not talking about special expanded editions of The Lord of the Rings here.

Still, the film can be a stitch, as in funny, and there are enough familiar bits — from the theme music to “Would you believe . . .?” — to please longtime fans. So shed your Cone of Silence, slip into your secret phone booth and get Get Smart. As lively lunacy, it’s agreeable, not overbearing, and like Carel’s Smart, its heart is in the right place.

‘Bewitched’ switches Darrins — like magic

May 14, 2008

Sony’s release of Bewitched’s complete sixth season DVD underscores one of the strangest transitions in TV history.

For five successful seasons, Dick York played the role of Darrin Stephens, a mortal ad man who’d married witch Samantha (Elizabeth Montgomery). York suffered severe back pain and even was written out of 14 episodes of the 170 in the series’ first five seasons. But by 1969, he could go no further. The show would have to end — or would it?

Encouraged by sustained ratings punch, producer William Asher decided to press on by hiring Dick Sargent for the role and then acting as if no change had happened. Hey, both times the character was played by an actor named Dick — get used to it!

Montgomery, it seems, might have preferred to end things, growing weary of the show’s setup and schtick. But having been given a partnership in the series for Season 5 to keep her happy, she was stuck. So Bewitched continued for three more years with a new actor as Darrin.

It’s awfully odd watching that first Season 6 show, in which Sargent appears as if he’s been there all along, and is treated accordingly by Samantha and meddling mother Endora (Agnes Moorehead). It’s also odd seeing Johnny Whitaker of Family Affair playing Jack (of beanstalk fame) come to life, since he was still starring in that show at the time. My guess is that Bewitched went into production shortly before Family Affair that season, allowing Whitaker to do one TV guest spot before resuming his regular role.

Whatever the case, Bewitched lived on, even though the original cast had one major revision. “Who is that strange man?” or not, it proved durable enough to last three more years, so there must have been some magic left in Montgomery’s twitchy nose (which was really more a matter of her twitching her mouth — just try twitching only your nose sometime!).