A few years ago, I spoke to author and Bewitched expert Adam-Michael James about his deliciously comprehensive book, The Bewitched Continuum, an encyclopedic tome packed with everything you ever wanted to know about the classic TV series including synopses of every episode and a brief description of James’ wonderful wished-for series finale. Now, 45 years after the show went off the air, Adam-Michael James is back with an insanely fun and perfect wrap-up to television’s most beloved supernatural sitcom
In the show’s original 1964-1972 run, the tale of witch Samantha Stephens and her mortal husband Darrin ended on what might be called a “regular” episode, since series finales were not commonplace back then and they likely didn’t know yet that they wouldn’t be coming back the following year. With his new book I, Samantha, Take This Mortal, Darrin, Adam-Michael James gives Bewitched fans of all ages the closure they’ve always wanted. This two-part “episode,” presented in novel form, takes place a week after the show’s final first-run installment in 1972, bringing back all our favorite characters, creating backstories for Samantha and Darrin, and building on the show’s always strong message of equality and acceptance.
In the story, McMann & Tate advertising executive Darrin gets a long-awaited promotion to full partner. But things get a little crazy during a party that Samantha throws for her husband when she is forced to out herself as a witch to her mortal guests to explain a magical mishap involving one of her children. This leads Samantha into a full-on battle with the almighty Witches Council in a high-stakes fight for her marriage and her family. Both wildly entertaining and surprisingly moving, I, Samantha, Take This Mortal, Darrin brings the series full circle and brings the characters, so wonderfully played by Elizabeth Montgomery, Agnes Moorehead, Dick Sargent, Maurice Evans, Alice Ghostley, Paul Lynde, and many others back to life in an almost startling realistic way. James is so well-versed in the nuances of the show that after reading the novel, I felt as if I’d actually seen the imagined final episodes. The book, available on Amazon, is a must for fans of the show. I talked to Adam-Michael James about why he chose to put this out there now.
Danny Miller: It’s pretty astounding how you were able to perfectly recreate the speech patterns, syntax, and style of dialogue for every single character on the show. from Samantha and Endora all the way down to Gladys Kravitz and Louise Tate. Was that just because of your insane encyclopedic knowledge of this world, or did you go back and study how each character talked?
Adam-Michael James: I didn’t really have to go back and study them. As you say, I’ve lived with the show for 40 years and you know, it was weird — I felt like I could almost hear them in my head as I was writing. It’s almost as if they were telling me what to write!
I loved the synopsis you included of this hoped-for finale in your last book, but there are so many other details here that are so fun. How did you go about fleshing it out?
I followed the basic storyline that I had already written, but as I started going I found myself adding many other connections that I hadn’t even thought of. To be honest, it all started one night about a year ago when I was taking a bath! I started thinking about Darrin looking out of the window from his office down on Madison Avenue and all of a sudden, all these details about his history popped into my head. It was all I could do to jump out of the tub and start writing it all down before I forgot! And it went on from there. I felt like something was guiding me along.
We talked last time about the eternal debate regarding the two Darrins — played by Dick York and then by Dick Sargent who took over the role after Dick York left the show because of illness. Did you ever consider restoring Dick York to the role of Darrin in your book?
I didn’t. With no offense to the legion of Dick York fans (and I am one of them!), I never thought of that simply because Dick Sargent was part of the last season and if you were gong to continue on with an episode the following week in 1972, you just couldn’t switch Darrins. But, of course, you do see a few little references in my book of characters talking about how Darrin seemed to look different than he used to.
I loved that stuff — you even had his daughter Tabitha making such a reference. But you did make a few exceptions to what would have been possible to do in 1972. I’m thinking of the wonderful material about Aunt Clara.
Yes. I was always frustrated by the show never addressing what had happened to Aunt Clara. She was an important character who suddenly disappeared, obviously because actress Marion Lorne had died. I thought it was weird that the show never mentioned her again and just brought in Esmerelda to take over her babysitting duties. I’m sure they had their reasons for not addressing it — I mean, they couldn’t really say that Aunt Clara had died.
Although some shows of that era did, like when Will Geer who played Grandpa on The Waltons died, they dealt with it head-on and had his character die.
Sure, but rarely on sitcoms, especially a show about witches who were supposed to live for thousands of years! So I was happy to get the opportunity to explain where Aunt Clara had been.
Love it. I was also glad to see Serena, Samantha’s “identical cousin,” pop back in towards the end of the book. I was always so impressed how well Elizabeth Montgomery pulled that off. I’m not sure I even realized as a kid that she was playing both parts.
I know! Especially with the fake credit at the end: “Pandora Sparks as Serena!”
And your writing for her was perfect, you totally captured her hippie persona that I’m sure Montgomery had a blast playing. It’s crazy how many references you were able to layer in to past episodes without it ever seeming heavy-handed.
That was really fun. You saw the gazillion endnotes I included in the book. I wanted people to be able to go back and reference an episode and say, “Oh yeah, that’s where that came from!” And, of course, I wanted to give full credit to what I came up with and what was created by the writers of the show back in the 60s and 70s.
The scenes at the Witches’ Council where Samantha is defending her marriage were beautifully written. As a fan, I expected to enjoy this book which I did, and I laughed a lot, but a few scenes were so moving they made me burst into tears which I never anticipated.
Oh wow, I’m happy to hear that!
We talked last time about how the show grappled with some very real issues of the day — issues that are all-too-important in our current climate — despite the fact that some people viewed Bewitched as just a frivolous magic show.
It was only a frivolous magic show on the surface. From the very first episode, the show was about overcoming prejudice and living in a way to be true to yourself even when people didn’t understand it. And, of course, being in the middle of the civil rights movement, it was pretty bold for Elizabeth Montgomery and her then-husband and producer Bill Asher to layer these messages into the show. A lot of times they were very subtle, but then there were times when it was very direct like the Thanksgiving episode where Darrin is put on trial in old Salem for being a witch and Samantha talks about how the hope for this world lies in our acceptance of all our differences and a recognition of our common humanity.
Which was an important message of the entire series.
Right. And then the Christmas episode where Tabitha has an African American friend, Lisa, and uses witchcraft to make them both polka-dotted. I always thought it was a shame that they didn’t bring Lisa back which is why she shows up in my finale. These were all very important messages back then, and, as you well know, we’re in a place right now, spurred on by a particular person and certain groups, where we’re being dragged back to a time where there was more intolerance and inequality and the idea that some groups are superior to others.
Is that why you wanted this book to come out now?
Yes. I wasn’t going to do anything with that synopsis of my imagined finale that I wrote for The Bewitched Continuum, but when all of this started going on, I felt the need to speak out since those messages were such an important part of the show.
Even the whole notion of Darrin’s lack of acceptance of Samantha’s powers, I thought you resolved that so beautifully. And the scenes were Tabitha is upset because she hears about how worried Darrin was that she’d be a witch, I can see that resonating with every family who has ever grappled with having an LGBTQ kid, for example, or families were are dealing with any differences. Speaking of which, I thought the brief reference to Uncle Arthur’s preference was a lot of fun. Did you ever think of going further with that?
For the most part, I decided to write the book as if the dialogue were being spoken on a TV show in 1972 with the social mores and the network limitations in place, but there were a few times when I pushed it just a hair. (Laughs.) I think mentioning Uncle Arthur in that way was pushing it just a bit!
I’m glad you did, I’m sure Paul Lynde would have loved it! I’m sorry most of the actors are no longer with us, I’m sure they would have so enjoyed this book, especially Elizabeth Montgomery.
I think if Elizabeth Montgomery were here now and if Bewitched were back on the air, you would see Samantha once again talking about these same things that our country is still grappling with. I don’t want to be presumptuous about it but I hope Elizabeth Montgomery would be proud of the book.
Oh, I’m sure she was part of your writing in some way. You perfectly captured everything she was about on and off the screen. I think you’ve honored her memory very well.