In 2014—just in time for the 50th anniversary of the fantasy television sitcom hit Bewitched—author Adam-Michael James published The Bewitched Continuum: The Ultimate Linear Guide to the Classic TV Series. A king-sized book crammed with fun facts and tantalizing tidbits about the long-running show, Continuum also allowed its author to speculate on how the series might have bowed out in true finale fashion…given that ABC never gave the show’s creative minds an opportunity to do “a final episode.”
Adam-Michael e-mailed me in January of this year to inform me that he had expanded on this series finale speculation with I, Samantha, Take This Mortal, Darrin (a play on the title of the show’s inaugural episode, “I, Darrin, Take This Witch, Samantha”), a novelization of his original idea. He asked me if I’d be interested in reading it and when I let him know I would, he replied in a follow-up e-mail: “I know you were a little dubious about my ‘happy ending’ synopsis in The Bewitched Continuum that ‘iSam’ is based on, but in novelized form it’s not a pat journey getting there. Plus there are tons of sub-references and I had a lot of fun creating backstories for Samantha and Darrin, all of which I think you’ll enjoy, too.”
He’s not kidding about me being dubious, by the way. In my original review of Continuum, I said this about his “finale”: “I’m a little more pessimistic about the nature of prejudice and the human condition, and wouldn’t have been a bit surprised if during Bewitched’s series finale witch burnings broke out en masse at Morning Glory Circle (see The Twilight Zone’s ‘The Monsters are Due on Maple Street’ for further reference).” Nevertheless, I did want to keep an open mind about the contents of I, Samantha and so I sat down with the book as soon my inbox had been emptied.
Here’s how James imagines the finale would have unfolded: ad executive Darren Stephens finally achieves his dream of a partnership in the agency he’s slaved eight long years for—McMann & Tate. Wife Samantha throws a bodacious shindig to celebrate, inviting not only Larry and Louise Tate but long-standing next-door neighbors Abner and Gladys Kravitz, plus assorted friends new and old. (Sam has not invited any of her relatives, however.) The party is going great guns until the Tate’s obnoxious son Jonathan is mean to young Adam Stephens…and Adam transforms Jon into a baby zebra. Not only is this a bit of a faux pas where party etiquette is concerned, it attracts the attention of the “Witches’ Council”—who debates dissolving Sam and Darrin’s marriage, wiping Darrin’s memory of his marriage, and banishing Samantha, Adam, and Tabitha to the supernatural witches’ realm, never again to mingle with mortals.
If you’re a Bewitched fan, you’re going to love this book. It’s filled to overflowing with references to past episodes, creates a nice little backstory for both Samantha and Darrin, and reunites the reader with many of the series’ most beloved characters (even Aunt Clara reappears after a long absence!). The great thing about I, Samantha is that even if you’re just a casual fan the narrative is absolutely straightforward…but I liked how James has a fun winking at some of the show’s conventions. For example, there’s a passage where Larry Tate, Abner Kravitz, and Phyllis Stephens (Darrin’s mom) are engaged in conversation at the party and Larry casually notes: “I keep thinking back to when Darrin first started with the firm—Louise has made quite the transformation since then. Maybe it’s just us getting older, but she hasn’t looked like herself the last several years—especially since she started dying her hair red.” Abner and Phyllis remark that there have been changes in their spouses as well, a subtle reference to how Bewitched replaced many of its thespians (some out of necessity, like Alice Pearce, the original Gladys Kravitz) during the show’s run.
Later in the book’s pages, Darrin observes “we repeat situations, sometimes word for word”—an in-joke at how the show’s writers recycled scripts from Bewitched’s black-and-white Dick York years. The one that had my mother asking what the hell I was laughing so loud at was an appearance from Michael Johnson, a character in the episode “A Vision of Sugar Plums.” Michael was an orphaned boy Samantha took to the North Pole to prove that, yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus…and a teenage Michael is summoned forth at Sam’s trial before the Council to testify on her behalf. “I just wanna say that I’d be lost in space right now if it wasn’t for her,” he declares…and if you remember that young Michael in “Sugar Plums” was played by Billy Mumy, the joke should produce a few snickers. (Or…or not. I can’t help it. I live for stuff like that.)
Adam-Michael has a great deal of passion for his subject, and his book is undeniably a labor of love. As a minor critique, the narrative of I. Samantha sometimes threatens to get bogged down in a little too much esoterica (three of the party guests are Betty, Betty, and Betty—a joking reference to how all the McMann & Tate secretaries had the same name). That aside, I’m convinced Bewitched fans will be pleased at how the Stephens saga is brought to a nice conclusion and how James wisely embraces the show’s message of love-conquers-all and tolerance. But don’t take my word for it; purchase a copy and treat yourself to “a very special Bewitched” that might have been.