Normally, I limit myself to reviewing classic films only, but I do have a soft spot for certain classic television shows. One show that continues to see books written on it is Bewitched. You might recall my review of Herbie J. Pilato’s Twitch Upon a Star about the life of Bewitched star, Elizabeth Montgomery. But, Montgomery is only one part of the Bewitched part – a main piece, of course – and author Adam-Michael James expands the universe, if one could be said to exist, with The Bewitched Continuum, an encyclopedic examination of the Bewitched series. Unlike most encyclopedias, James reviews every episode, chronologically, examining plot holes, character interactions, the works, reminding us of the questions regular viewers of weekly television – before Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon ruined everything – always found ourselves asking.
Whether you’ve watched every episode or just the occasional one, Bewitched holds some sway on any television fan between the time it aired to the time it went into syndication. The tale of a mortal man (played through season five by Dick York before being replaced by Dick Sargent) who marries a witch named Samantha (Montgomery) played on America’s love for both sitcoms and the supernatural. Bewitched, and its use of the supernatural Other, allowed the show to discuss issues like racism, the protest movement, and Women’s Lib in a safe manner. Elizabeth Montgomery’s Samantha was a calming influence with an unmistakable twitch. She gave up her powers for love, sure, but that never stopped her from using them when the going gets tough…or her mother, Endora (Agnes Moorehead) causes trouble.
The “continuum” element separates this from other encyclopedia books aimed at television. By approaching events linearly, James brings up call-backs to past episodes in future ones, as well as examines the contradictory elements of certain things. Because of the way shows were produced, it was assumed audiences wouldn’t instantly recall whether Samantha wears the same outfit two episodes in a row, or that their living room furniture changes based on the mandates of the plot. As someone who grew up on sitcoms, I also found myself wondering where characters disappeared to – look at the countless friends Darrin had, who showed up in one episode, never to be seen again – or why continuity was never strictly adhered to. It’s refreshing to know someone else thinks like me!
James’ love for the show is evident; it has to be considering his book is over 600 pages! Don’t let that scare you off, because The Bewitched Continuum’s unique presentation of analyzing the series, linearly, episode-by-episode engages. Each episode starts off with a brief synopsis before opening up to praise certain aspects, and break down questions that arise due to continuity mistakes (there are moments where continuity is praised, as well). So, for example, questions crop up about what the rules of witchcraft are. Why, in one episode, can Samantha undo a witch’s spell despite previously saying in another episode you can’t? Why does Darrin continually shy away from leaving McMann and Tate, despite the string of episodes where his boss, Larry (David White) threatens to fire him? Or – my personal favorite longstanding mystery – where is the mysterious Tate progeny, Jonathan? There’s also fun questions about who’s watching Elizabeth’s children, Tabitha and Adam, during certain episodes, and questions cropping up from production gaffes. The critical reader will see this as a compendium of nitpicks, but it’s fascinating that someone else notices the small changes I noticed.
The Bewitched Continuum could inspire more books like this – I’d love a linear chronology of shows like I Love Lucy or, for us ’90s kids, Boy Meets World. Despite its prodigious size the book reads breezily and will leave you twitching your nose in delight!
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