New Bewitched book offers satisfying conclusion to series
Today, when a beloved TV show leaves the air, it often exits with a series finale that ties up story arcs and lets the audience bid farewell to the characters. But in the early decades of television, a series would typically end abruptly with a regular episode, leaving its viewers with no sense of closure. For example, Petticoat Junction closed out a seven-year run with an episode about Betty Jo opening a daycare center; The Brady Bunch ended with Greg using a hair tonic that turned his hair orange; and in the final episode of I Love Lucy, the Ricardos dedicated a statue in a local pageant.
On Bewitched, the last episode had Endora again testing Darrin by putting a spell on a pin that compelled mortals to tell the truth. There was nothing special about the ending—but author and continuity expert Adam-Michael James sets that right in his new book, I, Samantha, Take This Mortal, Darrin. The work is a Bewitched series finale in the form of a novel that offers James’s vision of how the series might have ended. The title forms a bookend with the title of the series’ first episode, “I, Darrin, Take This Witch, Samantha.”
In I, Samantha…, James draws on the encyclopedic knowledge of Bewitched he demonstrated in his earlier book, The Bewitched Continuum: The Ultimate Linear Guide to the Classic TV Series. In Continuum, James went through the series episode by episode, identifying and commenting on the show’s many inconsistencies, from interior décor to rules of magic. James’s new book is packed full of details and even has footnotes that refer readers to corresponding information in Continuum.
The story begins with a party held at the Stephens home to celebrate Darrin’s long-awaited promotion at McMann & Tate (now McMann, Tate, & Stephens). In the course of events, an act of magic is accidentally witnessed by the mortal party guests. Ordinarily, such an occurrence would prompt far-fetched explanations and possibly result in a new ad campaign—but this time, Samantha and Darrin are at a loss for an explanation, and they finally let their friends in on the family secret.
This revelation, and the swift, forceful reaction of the Witches’ Council, paves the way for a parade of past characters—major and minor, magical and mortal—who flash back to earlier events and move the story forward. Since the novelized finale isn’t constrained by actors’ salaries or performers’ deaths, many favorites are able to return.
Given James’s expertise in Bewitched continuity, it’s not surprising that some of the most enjoyable and humorous moments in I, Samantha… are the meta references sprinkled throughout, some of which suggest that the characters too notice the show’s inconsistencies. For example, Abner Kravitz, reflecting on Gladys’s change of appearance (as a result of the role being recast), says, “If she was gonna change herself, she could have at least come out looking like Sophia Loren.” The dry put-down is quintessentially Abner and shows James’s skill at capturing the characters’ voices.
A persistent theme throughout Bewitched is the calling out of prejudice against those who are different (like witches). That anti-bigotry message is perhaps most pointed in the Season 7 Christmas episode, “Sisters at Heart,” which James has named as one of his favorites. The episode’s plot involves a bigoted client who threatens to pull his account from McMann & Tate when he jumps to the mistaken conclusion that Darrin is married to an African American woman.
Keith, Dorothy, and Lisa Wilson, characters who appeared in “Sisters at Heart,” all return in prominent roles in I, Samantha…. Like “Sisters at Heart,” James’s book expands on the series’ theme of social acceptance and embracing differences. The Bewitched series finale would have aired in 1972, a transitional time in television when sitcoms were starting to deal with topical issues. The previous year, the game-changing All in the Family had premiered. I, Samantha… manages to strike a tone that is both true to that period and faithful to the series.
I, Samantha… is a chance to spend time with the characters you loved, remember long-gone favorite actors, and relive moments that made the series special. James’s vision of how the series ends may or may not align with your own—but it’s a fun and satisfying read for any Bewitched fan.