By Paul

   How long should a good TV sitcom run? Not for ten years, that is for sure. Most shows that make five or six seasons consider that good. Bewitched lasted for eight years, and the kindest words that can be said about that eighth season is that they shot only 26 too many episodes. For the first five years, Bewitched had good ratings, but it dropped 13 places in the polls by the sixth season, and disappeared from the polls in the seventh season (see Figure 1). That should have been a clue to end the series right there. Unfortunately, the network, producers, or whomever else you would want to blame, did not see it that way and the show went on for a poor eighth season. What were the reasons? Clearly, the audience got tired of the show. But why? Too much exposure? Changing interests? The appeal of different types of programs? Changes in the show itself? Some of the possible reasons are listed below. How much these changes affected the ratings is purely guesswork, but they should be examined:

   In 1964, the TV population was searching for a little bit of magic to free them from the trials of the world. Bewitched fit the bill perfectly. Eight years later the audience tastes in TV programming had changed to the point where a witch-based comedy was not the "in" thing. Had Bewitched aired two years earlier, a run from 1962 to 1970 probably would have been accepted more in the later years.

   Competition for Samantha in the Looks dept.? There were 22 women that could be classified as competition. There were seven in the first year, and 11 in the first three years, then another 11 over the next five years.

   In the later years, there was a definite decrease in the number of regulars per episode. Season one started out with an average of 2.306 appearances by regular or semi-regular cast members per episode. By season three, this number had climbed to 2.818, and then decreased to 1.678 in the seventh season, and fell to 1.383 in the eighth season. Of note in the eighth season is the absence of Darrinís parents, Uncle Arthur, and the Kravitzís. Paul Lynde had his own show during the eighth season, which explains the absence of Uncle Arthur. However, the absence of the Kravitzís and the elder Stephensí is never explained.

Viewers of Bewitched enjoyed the chemistry that York and Montgomery displayed.
This scene is from # 104, How To Fail In Business With All Kinds of Help.

   There was a sharp drop in demonstrated affection between Darrin and Samantha (affection being measured by counting the number of kisses exchanged per episode) after the fifth season. The first season there was an average of 2.03 kisses per episode. This climbed to 2.97 in the fourth season, but the sixth, seventh, and eighth seasons averaged 1.93, 1.21, and .062 respectively. During the York years, the kisses averaged 2.57 per episode, and less than half that number (1.25) were exchanged during the Sargent years.

   In later years, there was an increase in the number of clients and guest stars used.

   There was a sharp drop in the ratings when Sargent replaced York as Darrin.

   Many faults can be found in the eighth season, but most can be traced back to the beginning of the sixth or seventh seasons. Notable in the last two seasons, and emphasized in the eighth season despite claims of increased budgets, were cheaper-looking sets, fewer cast members, and recycled scripts.

   Also evident was a drop off in cast performances, especially by Elizabeth Montgomery who was reported to have been against doing the eighth season.

   After the first two years, there was a drop in the number of bedroom scenes. In the early years, the episodes frequently began or ended in the bedroom. Later, the episodes usually started in the kitchen and ended in the living room. Starting with the sixth season, the drop in bedroom scenes was drastic. In the first two years, there were nine episodes each season where Darrin and Samantha were shown in bed together. The number of occurrences decreased after that, down to four in the fifth season (had York been in all episodes the fifth season, the number should have been at least six), and then took a drastic drop in the sixth, seventh, and eighth seasons to 1, 3, and 1 respectively.

   Beginning in the middle of the fourth season, the percentage of episodes that featured dirty tricks on Darrin increased and became more prevalent in later seasons. This was accompanied by more abrasive dialog between Darrin and Endora.

   In the later years, there was considerable reuse of early scripts, to the point where not just the plots were similar, but entire lines were repeated, word-for-word. This is especially noticeable in # 254, which is a remake of # 50. The entire climax scene is almost word-for-word the same in both episodes. What can be seen, and this may be another problem of the series, is the switching of the comedy lines from Darrin to Samantha. Darrinís diminished role can be seen in other episodes, but # 254 is the best example.

   There was a considerable drop off in the number of writers and directors used in the last three seasons. With this decreased staff went much of the variety of the show. Nine different directors were used in the first season, while only three were used in the eighth. In the first season, there were 20 different writers/writing teams for 36 episodes, and no one writer wrote more than five episodes. In the eighth season there were only eight writers for 26 episodes, and one writer wrote 10 of them (actually, only two writers wrote 19 of the 26 episodes).

Figure 1: Bewitched Ratings Guide

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