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'Bewitched' Creator Casted New TV Genre

20 Sep, 2005 By: Holly J. Wagner

"Bewitched" creator Sol Saks

Hang onto your broomsticks. The show that had a generation of viewers twitching their noses is back again, with the release of season two of “Bewitched” (five-DVD set $39.95) Oct. 25 from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

While the show is whimsical, its creator is matter-of-fact. Sol Saks, who wrote the pilot for the series that ran from 1964 to 1972, set out to create a new kind of TV show and sparked a genre.

“I got the idea because I am in the business of getting the ideas,” he said. “It is one that had been done by everyone back to the Greeks, a witch living as a mortal. It had never been done on TV.”

When he created the character of Samantha Stephens, he was hoping to get actress Tammy Grimes for the role because of her “elfin look.”

“I told Columbia Pictures, and they loved the idea,” he said. “We went out and saw her and she liked the script, but she was committed to do a show on Broadway. [Director] Bill Asher and Elizabeth Montgomery came in with a different idea that Columbia didn't like, so they handed them this script. She was perfect. I was mistakenly looking for a woman with a witch-like quality. Elizabeth played it as this all-American housewife. This sweet-looking and lovely girl being a witch was better.”

Samantha's magic put American viewers under a spell and started a trend that continued with “I Dream of Jeannie” and other fantasy shows. Saks thinks such shows connect with viewers because we're inherently superstitious.

“So many witches came after that,” he said. “We don't want to admit to ourselves that we believe in witches, but we believe in luck. What about the ballplayer who wears the same shirt as long as he's winning? It's all superstition. The most conservative and staid of us believe it, but we don't admit it.”

Even though Saks' involvement on the show ended after the pilot, the writers who worked on it afterwards had to stay true to his vision.

“The [producers] have what they call a Bible,” Saks said. “It makes a divine feeling about it, but it isn't. The Bible says what you can and can't do with the characters. The producer and the directors know what would work and what wouldn't.”

That didn't apply to this year's theatrical remake of the show, in which Saks was not involved. If the movie had a flaw, he said, it was that the writers steered away from the show's original concept.

“They made a mistake,” he said. “Instead of showing a witch trying to live like a mortal, the story became about an erratic, mortal man falling in love with a witch.”

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