The Bewitched Continuum is almost an inch and half (or six internet inches) of amazing. Adam-Michael James researched and catalogued each and every one of the 254 Bewitched episodes. Want to know what happens when Darrin delays teaching Samantha how to drive? It is in the book, Episode 26 on page 49. Did you know that Darrin was transformed into an object or creature nineteen times? Want to know the first time that Samantha said “Oh, my stars!”? Look it up! It is in the book. Do you remember that Samantha and Darrin had a son named Adam? Wow, the author is also named Adam!?! Coincidence or magic?!?
This book has everything you ever wanted to know about Bewitched and so much more. It is over 600 pages of fun facts filled with magic and a bit of mayhem. You can order the book here.
Earle Dutton: What made you decide to dedicate an entire volume to one show?
Adam-Michael James: Well, there certainly have been plenty of volumes dedicated to one show over the years. The first one I saw was The Nitpicker’s Guide for Next Generation Trekkers by Phil Farrand. That’s what turned me on to the concept of continuity, and from there I would edit my own work through that lens. I’ve also analyzed scripts for Hollywood studios based on my knowledge of continuity, and for the past six years I’ve written columns for soapcentral.com where I note the consistencies and inconsistencies of The Bold and the Beautiful. So when I would watch my Bewitched DVDs, I couldn’t help noticing how things matched up and how they didn’t, and I started toying with the idea of writing about it. There are so many wonderful books about the behind-the-scenes aspects of Bewitched, but not so much about the fiction of the series, which to me is what people love about it most. So, since 2014 was going to be the 50th anniversary of the premiere, I figured if I was going to do it, there was no better time.
ED: How long did it take you to write the book?
AMJ: The initial draft was around eight months, which works out to a season a month. I’d watch the episodes and take notes and then try to shape them into something cohesive. That’s actually the easy part, the fun part, because it’s creative. It’s much more tedious to rewrite and edit and decide what to cut out, even if it’s a necessary evil. It helped that I had Herbie J Pilato as my editor; he released The Bewitched Book in the ’90s, and he was lucky enough to interview most of the main stars while they were still with us. So he knew the show as intimately as I did and he really helped set the tone, which ultimately made the cutting easier, though that took another three or four months, if not more.
ED: Tell me about your first experience watching ‘Bewitched’ at around eight years old?
AMJ: I remember sitting in the den and there was a scene where Samantha twitched up a bucket of water and dumped it on this man that was bothering her. Of course I didn’t know what show I was watching at first. I just remember being enthralled by someone that could do magic, so at five o’clock every weekday afternoon I had to be in front of that TV. It turns out that when I really like something, I can be a little obsessive, so I’m sure my parents got tired of hearing about Bewitched pretty quickly. (laughs)
ED: What was your favorite part of the show back then?
AMJ: Naturally, I loved the magic – people popping in and out, the sound effects, and all that. But it also made me feel good, and that may be why I came back to it more than anything else. I would even go so far as to say it made me feel special. Here were these people that were different than everyone else and could do these amazing things. I knew I was different even then, though I couldn’t process being gay until my late teens. That’s just one aspect, though; I’ve long since learned that my being different and having a different sensibility goes far beyond being gay. I think Bewitched was the first thing that made me aware of it.
ED: How has the book been received?
AMJ: I would say that generally, the reaction has been pretty good. I do hear a lot about how big it is – it often gets compared to a phone book. (laughs) I’ll admit that even I was surprised by its girth when I received my proof copy. They always say size doesn’t matter, but I guess in this case it does! I prefer to think I’m giving the reader a lot of bang for their buck. And I’ve had folks tell me how they’re enjoying rediscovering the series with my book by their side, which is really gratifying, because that’s exactly what I hoped my work would inspire.
ED: What are your thoughts on all of the gay and lesbian connections in the show?
AMJ: The big thing about Bewitched is that there were messages of inclusion layered in the scripts from the beginning. They would tackle prejudice and racism, sometimes indirectly through the artifice of witchery, and other times very directly by openly advocating tolerance and equality. That stage is set in every episode and it’s very welcoming, and I think that’s a big reason we gravitate toward this show so much. It was really an extension of Elizabeth Montgomery’s own acceptance, and the show was perfectly comfortable hiring gay actors at a time when society at large was still calling homosexuality an illness. Bewitched was way ahead of its time in that regard.
ED: How do you think that Bewitched ended up with at least 3 openly gay and lesbian actors at the same time? Magic?
AMJ: Magic of a sort, maybe! There were just as many of us in Hollywood back in the time of “Bewitched,” it just wasn’t public information. That’s the thing: Dick Sargent, Paul Lynde, and Maurice Evans may have been out to their friends, and maybe to some of their co-workers, but certainly not to the average Joe Doe watching TV in his living room. It was still considered a career killer then. Perhaps the fact that Elizabeth Montgomery and Bill Asher were so accepting of others that they placed these actors front and center on the show is where the magic lies.
ED: Do you think that Samantha being in the closet, so to speak, about her witchcraft was a veiled or maybe not so veiled reference to homosexuality at the time?
AMJ: Maybe not homosexuality exclusively, but we were definitely included in that reference. I think there was a lot there for us in terms of the show constantly expressing the importance of being true to yourself. For example, there were a few witch illnesses Samantha came down with where Dr. Bombay would tell her how unhealthy it was for her to suppress her witchcraft, and that it created nothing but inner conflict for her. Samantha’s powers going on the fritz was played for comedy, but the clear message was that you’re the one who suffers when you don’t allow yourself to be who you are. I really believe that was a conscious choice on the part of the show.
ED: How did they ever find two actors both named Dick to portray “Darrin Stephens”? I mean the switch was weird enough at the time but the coincidence is just kind of funny.
AMJ: If one Dick is good, two must be better? (laughs) It is funny in today’s context, especially because we’re much freer in the use of that word. Of course, back then it wasn’t so much in the lexicon, and it was pretty typical for men named Richard to be called “Dick” for short. Richard is a popular name, so it’s not all that unusual that two Richards ended up playing Darrin. I always find it interesting that the recast threw people to the point we’re still talking about it today. I guess it’s because Bewitched is a sitcom; on a soap you don’t think twice when a new actor takes over a long-running role, though I can’t speak to whether that was the case in 1969, when Dick York was recast with Dick Sargent. I guess the fact that it was in ’69 is sort of cause for amusement, too. (laughs)
ED: Are you working on a new book? What is it about?
AMJ: Honestly, I’ve been so busy promoting The Bewitched Continuum I haven’t really had time to think about what comes next! I did write the book and lyrics for a musical about Canadian author L.M. Montgomery – she’s famous for Anne of Green Gables. We mounted that for a couple of seasons but it needed extensive rewrites. Now that those are done, I wouldn’t mind getting the show back out there; interestingly, there are some Bewitched-inspired elements in it. I’ve also had a novel in mothballs about a gay man obsessed with the Old West who travels back to that time; it might be fun to dust that off. And I do some acting – I’ve been asked to reprise the role of Lumière in a local production of Beauty and the Beast. I guess I’m your basic creative type. You never know what I might be doing next!