"Samantha Stephens...Entertainment Chairman?!"
Gladys Kravitz and her cronies inflict Samantha with the dubious honor of being the "best dressed chairman" of their annual Hospital Fund, leaving Sam with the daunting task of finding talent for The Big Show. After an unsolicited (and somewhat creepy) tip from a nosy waiter, she's led to "ZENO" -- a vodka guzzling magician who specializes in materializing liquour bottles out of thin air while making its contents disappear in a more sad, than magical, way.
Actually quite very sweet and handled sensitively, this episode would hit the bulls-eye if it weren't for the over-the-top cheeseball characterization that writers Frank and Tom Waldman and actor Virginia Martin chose to go in their portrayal of Zeno's assistant, Roxie Ames. One-dimensionally written and acted with scenery chewing ferociousness, Roxie floozies her way into the episode with ridiculous lines like "goodbye, buster!" and "outta my way, sister!" as if she were in a cheap film noir B-picture from the 1940's.
Fortunately, Liz Montgomery and especially Walter Burke (as Zeno), don't pay much attention to this intrusion, and continue on with their scenes with real, heartfelt sincerity. Montgomery is especially moving in this, particularly in her first encounter with Burke's Zeno. Beautifully conveying Samantha's subtley in pretending like she doesn't notice just how hard Zeno is hitting the bottle, she watches him with a sadness, but never lets him see it. Burke, too, handles the difficult role of Zeno with aplomb. As written, he could just as easily slide into the same "Guys and Dolls" schtick as the Roxie character, but Burke taps into Montgomery's realism and in their scenes together, raise the emotional stakes so we actually care about what happens to Zeno.
Also adding signifcantly to the good-naturedness of this episode is, believe it or not, Gladys Kravitz, despite her somewhat psychotic obsession with stalking Samantha here. Her kissing booth scene with Darrin is a delight ("Mrs. Kravitz, have you see my wife lately?" "Kiss me for a dollar and I'll tell you!") while later she's eagerly ready to lock lips with every man in town ("Gentlemen, this booth does not give refunds!")
Liz looks great (especially in HER kissing booth scene -- wow!); tons of extras are employed to make the Hospital Fund Benefit look like a big deal; and even the rabbits that were cast are adorable, despite being literally THROWN out of a hat!
Like the title of the episode says..."It's Magic!"
FAVE QUOTE: Gladys: "Funny...I've been watching the Stephens' house for an hour now and she's not up to anything!"
GUEST STARS: Walter Burke (Zeno): An Irish-American who played in hundreds of guest spots on television, often as a leprechaun, can be seen in "My Fair Lady" as a cockney who warns Eliza that Henry Higgens is writing down every word she says.
Cliff Norton (Waiter): Making his first "Bewitched" appearance here, appears in later seasons, most notably as Esmerelda's date in episode #200: "Make Love Not Hate."
Virginia Martin (Roxie): A Broadway star in "Little Me", she's typecast in roles like this, and returns to "Bewitched" in season two in the two parter "Follow That Witch" & "The Catnapper"-- playing basically the same character here but with a different name.
© Review Copyright 2005 by SCOTT VIETS
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