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"SAMANTHA FIGHTS CITY HALL"


"Samantha helps save a park." Could an episode sound any more boring? If reading this one-line summary in TV Guide causes you to wonder what's on QVC instead, hold off on adding to that Diamonique collection and give this quiet gem a chance...all is not as yawn-inducing as it sounds.

While episodes centering around Samantha's involvement in civic affairs don't usually rate high on the Must-See meter, this installment is filled with so many look-fors that the sum of the parts outweigh the whole. For "Melody-Watch" and "Diane-Watch" fans this is a veritable smorgasbord (see below) while guests from recent episodes reappear: Teddy Quinn, not content to just bully Erin as Tabitha (#133, "Playmates") returns to give Diane (as Tabitha) a dose of his lethal brattiness while "Mrs. Gurney" (Dodo Denney) returns --sans pink polka dotted elephant-- with a kinder, gentler attitude. But who can forget her nasty, unfriendly appearance with Sam and Aunt Clara two seasons earlier in the very same park?! (#89 "A Gazebo Never Forgets")

Sam popping Darrin out of the bedroom after calling him a "hypocrite" is memorably funny (Liz, excellent when she gives Samantha an Ice Queen attitude!) while Darrin telling Sam how proud he is of her is especially tender. But the scene to watch for is the opening which has become a new favorite of mine for many reasons. Besides the obvious fact that Diane Murphy is playing Tabitha in this scene, a unique dynamic happens not between Sam and Tabitha but rather between Liz and Diane.

Not as disciplined as Erin (but no less charming), Diane is prone to fidgeting and distraction whenever on camera. If you watch Liz very closely, you'll see the protective Mother in her as she is conscious to guide the lesser experienced Tabitha through her paces, keeping her focused in a very subtle and loving way. When Samantha prompts Tabitha to slide down the slide and says, "That's better", Diane runs spontaneously into Liz's arms as if to say "We did it, 'Mantha Mommy!" Liz is proud and it is a moment so sweet, scripted or not, that shows genuine affection between the two. Similar to the famous "look" between Liz and Agnes Moorehead during #108, Long Live the Queen, it's these little slices of life "Bewitched" captures so beautifully that puts these characters in a class of their own.

GUEST STARS: Barbara Perry (Mrs. Bentley) played "Pickles" on "The Dick Van Dyke Show."
Dodo Denney appeared as Mrs. TeeVee in the classic "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory."

DIANE WATCH: A momentous occasion for Diane Watchers: This is the only episode that is ALL-Diane, all the time! Erin was sick the week this filmed.

MELODY WATCH: A rare treat for Melody Watchers: as one of Samantha's fellow demonstrators, she gets full face screen time big-time! In all of Sam's twitch close-ups in front of the bulldozer, she's seen behind Liz's right shoulder wearing a blue dress with a red & white crew neck collar. Look for her especially when the photographer tells Sam to "look mad!" Later on there are several full length front views of Melody who is standing in the middle of two other ladies reacting to the talking statue.

LOOK FOR: The park and fountain is the same location used for the famous opening of "Friends."
Sam's appointment to see the city councillor is April 15, 1997! (April 15 is Liz's birthday)
Sam travels in style before it became "in" -- check out the HUGE Louis Vuitton bag Sam carries in the opening...tres chic!

OOPS!: Sam and her fellow demonstrators are wearing the same clothes in their final scene as in their first scene -- even though the two events take place several days apart!

© Review Copyright 1999 by SCOTT VIETS

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