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"THE GHOST WHO MADE A SPECTRE OF HIMSELF"


Still on vacation, the Stephenses end up back in merry 'ol England to stay at a castle populated by cliche-ridden "English" characters: an old, stuffy "Lord;" an old, stuffy maid (who only makes appearances to say, "Cook's not a-toll 'appy!"; a cook who apparently needs to get her butt fired (besides complaining, she can't even make a souffle!); and last but not least, a couple of ancient ghosts who have "portraits" of themselves on the wall that look like enlarged polaroids! Faster than you can say, "Where'd you pick up that fake English accent?" Darrin's body is invaded by a lecherous spirit who wants nothing more than to pull a few chains of his own -- preferably Samantha's or Louise's!

Louise: "Well, that's certainly a ghost with a lot of SPIRIT!" Larry: "Louise, you're not at your best when you try humor!" No one's at their best here anymore but with a pre-"Exorcist" plot involving spiritual possession, this otherwise average episode gains points for its provocative premise, clever special effects and a delightfully horny performance by Dick Sargent! Sargent is marvelous here as he skillfully adopts a perfectly oily persona and attitude as the possessed Darrin, making all his dubbed dialogue sound perfectly natural thanks to his cocky air and somewhat dangerous come-hither look in his eyes.

Kasey Rogers makes her first appearance of the eighth season sporting a new red-head 'do and a 70's mu-mu. She's wonderful as ever, especially funny as she scoots away from "Darrin" on the garden bench and giving energy and bounce to all of her scenes with Samantha -- not an easy feat in this case. Commenting halfway through this episode, "Samantha's not only my best friend but she's one of the sweetest women I've ever known!" one is hard-pressed to believe it. Folding her arms, rolling her eyes and looking as if she's about ready to SNAP, Liz's portrayal of Sam now seems to be the original role model for Shannen Doherty's character in "Beverly Hills 90210." Gone is the warmth, sincerity and charm. Sam barely acknowledges Louise's presence when her "best friend" surprises Darrin and Sam at their hotel and later she can do nothing but fidget around in her chair uncomfortably as Louise tries to give advice over breakfast on how to make up with Darrin.

This is a different Samantha suddenly played by a star who seems totally uncomfortable by a role she's played so long, so well. The same dynamic presence Miss Montgomery brought to the show which made her a beloved household name has been turned into a petulant presence which seems to affect the tone of the show but, fortunately, not her co-stars: Sargent, Rogers and David White all manage to turn in fine performances during this time of unsettling change.

Fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy season!


©Review Copyright 1998 by SCOTT VIETS

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