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!).