Eight seasons. 254 episodes. There are bound to be a few clunkers in there, right? I mean, remember "Brucie, the Loch Ness Monster"? Or Paul Lynde flying around in red tights shouting, "I'm Superman"? What about that sad little Cardboard Tower of Pisa? Well, let me just go on record to say that ANY of those or any other brain-dead moments "Bewitched" may have ever had in its long, long run is Emmy worthy compared to this, my vote for THE WORST episode of "Bewitched".

How can an episode written and directed by the same team that brought us one of the best episodes ever ("The Crone of Cawdor") -- in the same season to boot -- go so terribly wrong, especially with a plot centering around the always wonderful Aunt Clara? First problem IS the plot. You know you're in trouble when the very first lines uttered in an episode are: "When is Daddy coming home?" "Oh...in about a WEEK!". Obviously in the early stages of Dick York's soon-to-be-chronic absenteeism, everyone at this point seems to still be at a loss on how to have a show without him. To his credit, writer Ed Jurist attempts exoticism by introducing a Japanese client, Mr. Mishimoto, into the Stevens' household while making Aunt Clara a temporary love interest. The idea is good but the dialogue isn't. Not helping at all is the usually brilliant director, R. Robert Rosenbaum who, perhaps in trying to go Zen with the Japanese theme goes so extreme as to make what may have been intended as low-key and calming to be nothing short of snooze-inducing with its deadly pacing. You know it's bad when even the laugh track isn't sure when to laugh.

And then there's Richard Haydn as Mr. Mishimoto. Poor, poor Richard. To be fair, he's doing his job...but a job which should never have been offered to him. Of course today, and rightfully so, the thought of a non-Asian taping his eyelids down, uttering out a bad Japanese accent ("Have you ever been to Jah-pahn?") is as shocking a thought as a caucasian in black face. But this error, however wrong, must be chalked up to mid-60's Hollywood when it was unfortunately still commonplace for such wince-inducing characterizations by popular American character actors. But miscasting aside, Haydn (a wonderful actor in his own right) is a genuine BORE here. Trying so hard to be "Japanese" but ending up only being mundane, Haydn helps to accomplish at least one thing: co-piloting this kamikaze episode alongside R. Robert Rosenbaum to a most successful crash and burn.

So is this really as bad as anything, even from the eighth season?! Sure, the eighth season had some major doozies but they were CAMPY doozies. Here, taking itself way too seriously with, not to mention, one of the worst special effects ever (the white blob on Samantha's face -- still freaking me out as much as it did when I was five!) adds up to none other than one big mess of "HUNG-I-RAN-GOO-ROSH!" (...and don't get me started on THAT!)

GUEST STARS: Richard Haydn is best known as the wise-cracking friend of Captain Von Trapp, "Uncle Max", in the Julie Andrews megahit, "The Sound of Music" (1965). Helen Funai appeared in the James Coburn spy flick, "Our Man Flint" (1965) and as a dancing courtesan in Zero Mostel's film version of "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" (1966).

© Review Copyright 2000 by SCOTT VIETS

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