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'Bewitched' Craft

October 25, 1992|SUSAN KING | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Growing up in the 1960s, Herbie J Pilato knew why he was a fan of the ABC sitcom "Bewitched." He loved Samantha (Elizabeth Montgomery), the perky, nose-twitching witch who was married to a mortal, Darren (Dick York, Dick Sargent).

"It was a real guy thing," says Pilato, who is the author of the recently published guide to the series, "The Bewitched Book: The Cosmic Companion to TV's Most Magical Supernatural Situation Comedy" (Delta, $14).

"We wanted a perfect woman. It was like, 'Wow!' (Samantha) was everything you wanted."

Pilato, an actor and former NBC page, fell in love with the series all over again as an adult when he spent weeks recuperating from a broken toe watching the repeats of the Emmy Award-winning and top-rated series, which aired on ABC from 1964 to 1972. During the second-go 'round, Pilato discovered that "Bewitched" offered much more than originally met his eye.

"I realized there was something more going on," Pilato said. "I realized Samantha and Darren loved each other so much, it didn't matter how different they were or what (Darren's mother-in-law) Endora (Agnes Moorehead) would do to him. He stayed right next to Samantha."

Pilato recalled asking the late Dick York, who played Darren from 1964 to 1969, why Darren never spilled the beans about Samantha's true identity. York told Pilato that Darren didn't want anybody else to have Samantha. "He wanted her all to himself," Pilato said.

"Bewitched," Pilato discovered, also depicted a strong work ethic. In the "A Is for Aardvark" episode from the first season, Darren is laid up in bed with a bad foot and Samantha tires of waiting on him.

"She just gave him the power (of witchcraft) and he pops up anything he wants in his room," he said. "He goes crazy with the power and everything he believes in is totally destroyed, because now he has a sense of what witchcraft can really do. By the end of the episode, he realizes having things without working for them isn't worth it."

In its own funny way, the series dealt with prejudice. "It just didn't speak about love," he said. "It spoke about how we really have to start to be kind to each other and that if we really want to get along in the world, we have to look beyond our differences and concentrate on what makes us the same."

One episode in particular, 1970's "Sisters at Heart," focused on daughter Tabitha's wish to become a sister with her black friend. The story for the episode was created by the 1971 graduating class of Los Angeles' inner-city Jefferson High School.

"Bewitched" also attracted such now-famous writers and producers as Barbara Avedon ("Cagney and Lacey"), Bernard Slade ("Same Time Next Year") and Danny Arnold ("Barney Miller"). The supporting cast included famed British thespian Maurice Evans, as Samantha's warlock father, Maurice; Oscar-nominated Moorehead, who got her start in Orson Welles' Mercury Theatre; and Marion Lorne ("Strangers on the Train") as Aunt Clara, and Paul Lynde as Uncle Arthur.

"Everybody wanted to do (the show)," Pilato said.

But not everybody wanted it on. Pilato recalls in the book that religious groups originally objected to "Bewitched" because Samantha was a witch and therefore was somehow connected with Satan.

"That's obviously ridiculous," Pilato said. "The fact that Samantha and Darren loved each other so strongly, the fact that the people who put that show down from the Bible Belt area of the country had never seen it.

"Bewitched" airs weekdays at 5:30 a.m. on TBS.

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