"THE WITCHES ARE OUT"
As most "Bewitched" fans know, the first five to six episodes that aired after the initial pilot were all filmed at breakneck speed and out of order to accomodate Liz's first pregnancy and the entire production staff was hot under the collar, filming scenes almost right up to air time. To make matters more difficult, the first several episodes needed to unfold chronologically, introducing the characters, the basic format and the "rules" of the show, so to speak. So it's an amazing feat that with all THAT to worry about, they also somehow managed to film a HOLIDAY episode so early into its run, something television shows don't usually get around to tackling until they've been on the air awhile and have become established.
Though not particularly funny or special from a writing/acting/directing point of view, all can be forgiven for the true gift this episode brings: the introduction of Aunt Clara. Although appearing here initially much slower, vacant and dumber than in future episodes (with Bertha even treating her like a child!), Marion Lorne bumbles and stumbles like she's been playing this role forever. She instantly ingratiates herself into the heart of the viewer, making the special bond between Samantha and Clara immediately apparent and making the other two aunts (Reta Shaw and Madge Blake) suddenly seem like two aunts too many.
Shelly Berman (the love child of Mel Brooks and Paul Lynde?) is exceptionally funny in what otherwise could have been a standard client role. His facial expressions are gems, especially when watching Darrin get tongue tied in his defense of witches. Dick York masterfully balances the right amount of sympathy and confusion as it seems poor Darrin can't do anything right here: If he's not digging himself OUT of a hole with Samantha mad at him, he's digging himself INTO a hole with Larry and Brinkman ready to certify him.
Still in the experimental stage with the special effects, it's interesting to see just how slowly paced some of them are -- having to recite an incantation every time you levitate a teacup is (thankfully) an idea the writers will soon drop! For a "Bewitched" Halloween, there are better episodes to watch but alas -- they won't have Aunt Clara...and that's the real treat here!
GUEST STARS: Madge Blake was a Gene Kelly favorite, appearing in several of his most famous musicals: "Singin' in the Rain,""Brigadoon," "American in Paris" and went on to eventually play Aunt Harriet in the "Batman" series. Reta Shaw appears here fresh from her appearance as the Cook in "Mary Poppins."
© Review Copyright 1997 by SCOTT VIETS
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