Welcome back to sitcom face off! Got something very special today as we take a look at two magical comedies!
First of all, thanks to Moviefan12 for suggesting this one. As a kid I loved getting up on days off and watching reruns of Bewitched. Years later, Sabrina, The Teenage Witch became one of my favorite shows on TGIF. They are both about witches dealing with the real world, but in the end which series was better? The classic or the more contemprary show? By the way, Sabrina started as a comic book and as been a movie, video game, and a cartoon series, but today we are only focusing on the Melissa Joan Hart series.
Samantha vs. Sabrina
Oh come on, you know you’ve imagined this one in your head. Samantha is a very patient and understabding witch, and falls in love with a mortal and marries him. He takes the news she is a witch well, or as well as expected, except the part where he forbids her from using magic. I really never got that in this show or Jeannie, I mean if I had a wife who performed magic I would at least let her use it for housework! But Samantha loved her husband and complied, or at least tried to. Sabrina wasÂ a normal teenager who was living with her aunt’s because her parents were off (long story). Then when she turned sixteen she learns she has magic powers. The difference from Samantha is that while Sam was a mature witch, Sabrina was new to all of the magic stuff and so she made lots of mistakes. And to be honest, that made her a more interesting character. Watching her have problems that any teenager would have combined with dealing with her learning how to deal with her powers is what made her so much fun to watch. Samantha was a strong woman except that she was very submissive to her husband. Now I am aware that these shows wre like thirty years apart and things were a bit different. But that doesn’t change the fact Sam could be flat out boring, it’s no wonder Elizabeth Montgomery enjoyed playing the evil twin Serena. Even when something happened to her it was others who had to seek out the solution, not Sam herself. She was always calling someone for help, like Dr.Bombay for instance. I think Sabrina was more interesting and relatable character because not only did she get herself in trouble but she often needed to work out the solution on her own, as a result she grew as a character.
ENDORA VS HILDA & ZELDA
Endora was Samantha’s mother and to say the least, she was not happy with her daughter’s decision to marry a mortal. Even more so when Sam refused to use her magic becauseof him. This led to Endora perofrming all sorts of tricks on Darrin. Either to prove a point, which usually failed, or just tease him. These episodes were usually the best. Endora was just freaking cool, with a charm that made us forget how horrible she was to Darrin and a sincerity which showed she really loved her daughter and just wanted the best for her. Hilda and Zelda were raising Sabrina, with Hilda being the fun loving aunt and Zelda the smart and more serious aunt. They both really complimented each other well. Some of the best moments on the series involved Hilda and Zelda dealing with different situations while advising Sabrina. The problem is that as Sabrina aged, Hilda and Zelda were not needed as much. Their roles had to be changed to try to keep them in the show. Hilda got a clocks shop, Zelda went to teach at the college Sabrina went to, and it seemed harder and harder to give them a reason to be in the show until they were finally both eliminated. That wasn’t a problem with Endora, who was always around and providing some of the best moments in any episode. Agnes Moorehead was a great actress who just took that role and ran with it. She made Endora a more rounded character where Hilda and Zelda were pretty one note. They smiled and advised Sabrina, but never really did anything else.
Talk about two cast’s with lots of turnover! No one was safe on Sabrina, not even Harvey who vanished for awhile but came back. He was the steady boyfriend and there relationship one of the major drives of the show. No matter what, even when he found out about Sabrina, you knew they were in love. Let’s go through the list : First season had Jenny, who I liked, and Mr Pool who both vanished. In the second season we had Valerie who stuck briefly and that awful Quizmaster (one of the worst characters ever!) who lasted one year. Also we got principal Mr.Kraft who was a good nemesis, he was actually a very well developed character. In season four Sabrina has to mentor DreamaÂ and Brad the witchhunter was around to cause trouble, both vanish at seasons end. Josh was also introduced to create a love triangle. That season we lost nemesis Libby and Valerie. In Season 5 everyone was gone and we met Roxie, Miles, and Morgan. They stuck for the rest of the series (except Miles), but Hilda and Zelda did not! Josh was gone so we needed a new love interest who i don’t remember. Man, and I thought Night Court was bad! What about Bewitched? Yeah there was some turnover, like Mrs.Kravitz (which was fine with me since I prefered Sandra Gould anyway, the original actress sadly passed away) and a new Louise Tate. But for the most part the cast stuck (except one VERY notable exception which I will get to later). The guest stars are in fact what made the show in a lot of ways. Mrs.Kravitz set a standard for nosy sitcome neighbors that is still being followed today. I hear the name Paul Lynde I think hilarious Uncle Arthur. I hear the name Alice Ghostly I think of the quirky Esmerelda. I loved Tabitha who was the adorable Erin Murphy for most of the run. Larry Tate was wonderfully played by David White, taking a truly despicable kiss up and making him very likable (he does not get the respect he deserves for that role). And who else but me remembers the song that summoned Dr.Bombay? The supporting cast was stronger on Bewitched, in fact without these quirky characters there probably would have been no show where Sabrina could have gone along just fine without their supporting cast.
CATEGORY 4-DARRIN VS SALEM
This is an odd match up but remember that Salem was a witch who was turned into a talking cat. Yeah, still an od matchup but here we go. These two chartacters were sort of the anchors of both shows. Darrin had to come in and react to whatever was going on while Salem sort of did the same thing. Nick Bakay was great as Salem, giving so much to that character just by providing a voice. Salem pretended to be a tough guy but deep down was weak and spineless. Turned into a witch after a botched attempt to take over the world. What about Darrin? He loved Samantha but wasn’t very patient, losing it quite often. Of course one of the biggest all time TV legends is how Dick York was replaced by Dick Sargent. Everyone has different opinions on which was better, but for me I will go against popular opinion and say I always preferred Sargent’s more reserved Darrin. York tended to get a little to nuts, to the point where you wonder why he even stayed married to Sam. Yeah it was funny but loving someone means accepting the flaws and insanity that come with the person, and I think Sargeant did a better job emulating that. Or maybe I was just more used to one than the other since the re-runs I watched showed the later episodes more and never showed the black and white one’s. And to be fair Endora’s teasing was more fun when York was the receiver. Despite this debate, Darrin doesn’t win the category here because I think Salem was a better character believe it or not. He had a backstory, a past, and as I noted a bit of a range. You knew there was a real person in there, he would get upset, depressed, overjoyed, and even counseled Sabrina on a few occasions. I loved the respect and even love Sabrina had for Salem, and I think it was shared though Salem would be a little slower to admit it. Darrin was very much a sitcom husband, there to react to what was going on and that was about it.
CATEGORY 5-THEME SONG
No contest here, Bewitched has a theme song which is one of the most memorable theme songs ever. Did you know it also had lyrics? Sabrina went through a few theme songs and none of them were really memorable. The Bewtched melody is perfect, fitting the show like a glove.
And as always, this is where it gets tricky. Which series told their stories better? The magic tricks on both shows were clever and creative, but as I mentioned before when talking about Free Spirit you need more than that. In Sabrina it was pretty much the same, Sabrina casts a spell and something goes awry. Bewitched had Samantha promise to not use her magic, which didn’t usually work very well especially with the meddling Endora casting all sorts of silly spells on Darrin. One of my favorites was the episode where he speaks in nothing but cliches. He was turned into a pig, an old man, and the list goes on and on. Samantha usually figured out what was going on and saved the day. She also saved the day many times regarding Darrin and his job. Darrin was in advertising so many stories revolved being stuck on an idea and Sam somehow helping him out. But where Sam usually reacted to things happening with others, the things directly happened to Sabrina. She got into situations with her magic and had to find her way out. Yeah her aunt’s were there to offer wisdom and help but for the most part it was up to Sabrina to find the answers, especially with the big problems like solving the family secret. The Halloween episodes were always well done, with Sabrina getting into some crazy jam ane even the Christmas episodes were good. Where as Bewitched which was pretty much the same through the years Sabrina changed with the time. She grew out of high school and into college, maturing as she went. She went from being instructed to being the one doing the instructing. On Bewitched, very little really changed overall in the series. The addition of Tabitha and Adam did give some new stories, but for the most part it was the same formula in every episode. Darrin gets in trouble because of Endora, or a relative gets in trouble, and Sam has to get them out and saves the day with Darrin’s client. Rinse and repeat. Ok there were exceptions like the Salem, Mass arc which was boring but overall that was it. But the worst thing Bewitched did was something that just flat drives me crazy. The show went eight years, and during the last two years the series started to REMAKE OLD EPISODES! Yes, not even kidding they would re-make episodes from the earlier seasons. I mean, this seems so lame even for the time this show was on. Did it not occur to anyone that people would watch the re-runs and notice the same story, not to mention jokes? You would be laughed off TV if you tried that today! Yes, Sabrina stayed a bit to long too we will get to that in a minute, but I have to give the show credit for taking more risks and thinking outside the box once in awhile.
CATEGORY 7-JUMPING THE SHARK
I have done a bunch of these face-off’s, and usually when I get to this category the answer is obvious. One show usually stands out as the show which really went off the rails worst than the other. But this time, it’s not as simple. Bewitched never had a formal series final, in fact there were plans for a season 9 but that never happened. The final episode was just a standard episode, and of course a re-make (argh!). But Sabrina had bigger problems than that. The show switched from ABC to the WB (now CW) but that didn’t really hurt it any. What did hurt it was that the show just evolved into something different than what it was. That last season has Sabrina, Roxie, and Morgan living in the house together (and they never found out the truth?) and it became something different than what it was. Imagine if Friends focused on Monica and Chandler raising the kids, or if Scrubs switched forcus from the hospital to a classroom…wait, that last one happened. All the charm was gone, and I stopped watching. I did tune into the series finale, and was very happy to see the returning cast members as well as the ending where Sabrina and Harvey finally got together . I haven’t talked about that much but they were a cute couple and clearly loved each other, and I liked seeing them together “at last”. However, a sweet final episode can’t make up for the fact that the show sucked hard that last year. It comes down to which was worst, a show that was one so long it started remaking episodes or a show that was on so long that it just got boring? I give the nod to Bewitched, because people were still watching when it went off the air and I think its safe to say that it’s legacy as a smart and funny series is safe. Sabrina will always be remembered more as a comic book and a movie, and while the series was good it still suffered from being a TGIF “kids” show. It isn’t even in re-runs anymore while Bewitched runs to this day. So the better show is the one that has stood the test of time and will always be cherished. That show is…..
Final Thoughts-This was a tough call since I have a special place in my heart for both. It goes to show that if you want a series about magic to work, you need strong and memorable characters!