The New “Bewitched” has Something to Say: What Will a Modern Reboot of the Beloved 1964 Fantasy Sitcom Look Like?

By Erin Caine

Lifestyle Editor

The fantastically mundane “Bewitched,” a beloved American television sitcom from the ‘60s and ‘70s about a witch and her mortal husband, is getting a modern reboot.

From the mind of Kenya Barris, the creator of ABC’s “Black-ish,” comes a re-imagining of the premise: the show’s witch, Samantha, is a black woman and a single mom in America, faced with the reality that, despite her supernatural powers, she can’t find empowerment from her country and culture.

The original “Bewitched,” starring Elizabeth Montgomery (who was nominated for a whopping nine Emmys from 1961 to 1978) centered on the marriage of her character, Samantha, to a mortal man, Darrin. Samantha’s family, who are also supernatural figures, condemns the “mixed marriage” and they try everything they can to split the two up.

Though poor Darrin is often the target of magic spells, which threatens to upend his career and personal life, everything turns out fine for the couple by the end of each episode. TV Guide ranked “Bewitched” at number 50 on its “50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time” list, and was praised at the time of its airing for its witty writing, unique soundtrack, and impressive special effects.

Montgomery’s iconic character certainly challenged many conventions of the portrayal of female characters at the time, who were expected to do everything they could not to rock the boat.

Then again, Samantha and Darrin lived a comfortable, suburban, upper middle-class lifestyle and Samantha, herself, was indeed compelled to become the perfect housewife for Darrin.

Discussing its complicated blend of conformity and nonconformity, Beth Spencer of the Age said, “On one hand, it’s the ultimate male fantasy of a woman who is enchanting, strong, and powerful but would give it all up for love. And on the other, it’s the suburban nightmare — the hapless man surrounded by mysterious, unpredictable creatures who have abilities beyond his imagination.”

Barris seems to be pulling out threads of social commentary from the original and giving them a contemporary makeover, making the racial subtext of Darrin and Samantha’s “mixed marriage” more overt by casting a black actress to play the lead.

Barris’ other TV series, the widely acclaimed “Black-ish,” is a comedy that centers on a suburban African-American family. The show is noted for shedding light on the many racial issues and heavy topics plaguing the U.S. that few other shows dare to breach, such as police brutality, workplace inequality, and racial slurs.

Though few details are known about this upcoming reboot, the fact that it is aiming for a more culturally relevant storyline says a lot in an industry where “reboot” usually mea ns “gritty reimagining” or “nostalgia-fuel without any of the original’s heart or intent.” Hopefully Barris can find the right balance between recapturing the magic of the original “Bewitched” and delivering an updated story to a new television audience.

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