Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Lost opportunities in television Part 2: Bewitched cast

Though I grew up watching them I can no longer watch one-camera sitcoms with laugh tracks. They're unwatchable, and worse never funny. (some exceptions below)

Let's think with our heads and not with our hearts. "Bewitched" was a terrible show.

Use the below variables to make your own episode.
Sam's Mother, aunt, uncle, cousin, daughter....
casts a spell on Darrin and turns him into a monkey, dog, zebra, someone who can't lie, someone with polka dots, etc....
on the same day the big client is coming for a presentation. Fortunately the client mistakes the curse for the proposed advertising campaign and thinks the idea is brilliant!

This was every episode. (except for that one weird one where Sam helps a local boy build a soap box car which appeared to be an unsold pilot script for a totally different show)

In fairness, there's some bright spots: Bernard Fox's unhinged doctor, and I have to give them credit for Maurice Evans' and Agnes Moorehead's characters' relationship to each other. On TV, no one ever was divorced, yet here was a couple who were separated for years apparently, but still had  a fondness for one another. This was unique for TV in the 60s.

(and for the record, Dick York was a better Darrin than Dick Sargent. York could easily switch from flustered to loving, whereas Sargent always just seemed pissed.)

So here's my point, the show was terrible, but the cast was actually pretty good. Here's my lost opportunity: Picture the same cast in an MTM-style 1970s sitcom for grownups.

An office comedy, full of slightly damaged, yet optimistic characters trying to get their jobs done, making mistakes, having differences, but still getting along.  It could have been done.

Picture the exceptionally talented Elizabeth Montgomery in a comedy written for grown-ups! With old Shakespearean Maurice Evans, Orson Welles vet Agnes Moorehead, the unhinged Bernard Fox! It would have been wonderful.

There  is precedent for this. Bob Crane, star of the morally indefensible "Hogan's Heroes," starred in the "Bob Crane Show" for MTM where he played a middle-aged man who trades in his comfortable life to follow his dream to go to medical school. Or Bill Daly, who went from playing the wacky best friend in the terrible Bewitched rip-off "I Dream of Jeanie" to play the wacky neighbor in MTM's immeasurably more sophisticated "Bob Newhart Show."

(Gavin MacLeod is some weird exception to this, was in the terrible one-camera with laugh track "McHale's Navy," then moved onto "Mary Tyler Moore," arguably the best sitcom of all time, then slid backward into the terrible one-camera laugh track "Love Boat.").

(some exceptions to the one-camera laugh track sitcoms are terrible rule: "That Girl" and "Get Smart")

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