There is no one on the planet who knows more about the classic TV series Bewitched as a talented writer Adam-Michael James. His deliciously comprehensive first book, The enchanted continuum, was an encyclopedic tome of everything you could ever want to know about the series, which ran from 1964 to 1972, including a detailed recap of all 254 episodes. James wrote the novel a few years ago I, Samantha, take this mortal, Darrin, his desired finale for the series (which was not properly passed in 1972). I was amazed at how perfectly James captured each character’s voices and how his insane knowledge of every nuance of the series enabled him to come to such a believable and authentic conclusion, albeit with some surprises. At the time, the writer thought he was done with the characters, but Samantha (Elizabeth Montgomery), Endora (Agnes Moorehead), and the rest of the lot had different ideas.
Now Adam-Michael James is back with Samantha’s seventies, a new novel that guides Samantha and Darrin Stephens through this tumultuous decade. James picks up where his last book left off and examines the different ways mortals in Samantha’s world deal with the news that she is a witch. It’s great fun and full of fascinating adventures, such as when two aunt Claras show up; Samantha trains her children Tabitha and Adam in the proper use of witchcraft; the witches explore their troubling attitudes toward mortals during a bicentenary that expands the show’s inclusion themes; and the young Tabitha, alluding to her self-titled sequel from the late 70s, jumps briefly into her 25-year-old self. And finally, a surprise couple exchanges “I do’s” at an unprecedented witch wedding.
I was excited to speak to James over the phone from his home in Canada about his expert recreation of these beloved characters.
Danny Miller: It was so much fun reading this book! At this point, it seems like you know these characters so well that you are channeling them.
Adam-Michael James: Or maybe like they’re channeling me. I didn’t plan on doing this book, but it just felt like they had more to say. They kind of sat me down and said, “You know what? We know you didn’t want to write another book, but that’s what you have to do. “
It’s crazy how you manage to suppress every voice so perfectly. It’s really fun to hear all the actors’ voices in my head: Elizabeth Montgomery, Agnes Moorehead, Marion Lorne, Paul Lynde, Alice Ghostley, all so perfectly modeled. And such an interesting premise that so many people know Samantha is a witch. I have never given much thought to the complexities of mortals’ response to it.
Yes, I had to deal with this because that’s how I ended the previous book. It was really fun exploring, and there were some other ideas that made me think, “Oh, wouldn’t that be fun?” Like the part of the book that Tabitha briefly turns 25, which one Reference to the Tabitha TV series and then tells her mother, “I had this strange dream! I worked for a television station and had this yellow car, it all felt so real to me. ”
The mortal reaction when they found out Samantha’s a witch was not what I expected. I don’t want to reveal any major plot points, but I’m just saying that I loved Gladys Kravitz’s reaction to the news. Throughout the series, Gladys was obviously one of the biggest thorns on Samantha’s side when it came to keeping her witchcraft under wraps. So your reaction here is so fun and fulfilling.
I wanted to understand her motivation for why she had been so painful for so many years. If you watch Gladys’ actions throughout the series, all she wants to know is that she’s not crazy as people have always told her that. So I thought that it would be better for people to find out if they were more gentle about it than some of the others.
There is a kind of feminist line there. How many times in history have people told women they were crazy about what they said they knew? I think it’s fantastic that Gladys is the one who accepts the most. She just didn’t want to be lied to and she was fed up with people telling her she was crazy.
Right, because she always knew something was going on.
I am just realizing that the whole time I was reading your book, I was introducing myself to Alice Pearce [the first actress who played Gladys on the series] as Gladys Kravitz and not Sandra Gould [the actress who took over for Gladys after Pearce’s death at the age of 48]. Which also brings me to the two Darrins. I know last time we talked about having Dick Sargent on your mind when you wrote your last book because you saw it as a continuation of the series, but I have to admit all the while reading this book I could only see Dick York.
It’s funny how polarizing the new version by Dick York-Dick Sargent is even after more than 50 years! I still imagined Dick Sargent but it’s okay if you roll it back to Dick York!
I think it’s because of how Darrin acts in this book. Though Dick York’s Darrin was annoying about Samantha’s witchcraft, I always felt that he was more loving to her.
I can see that. I remember Elizabeth Montgomery saying that she thought Darrin had slacked off about witchcraft over the years anyway, regardless of who played it. That was what I was tracking, that Darrin had his own journey and that everyone in his world who found out about Samantha’s witchcraft was somehow liberating for him because he didn’t have to be that careful and it even lets him do some things learn about yourself. I think he eventually came to terms with the psychological and physical ramifications of his question when he wanted his wife and children to deny that part of themselves. That was even addressed in the series. You may remember the episode where Samantha got this disease from suppressing her witchcraft.
Yes. I was very impressed with how deep you go into the actual physiology of witchcraft and how it affects people who are only half-witches, etc. You could do a PhD in witch biology at this point! How the hell did you come up with all that stuff that sounds so real?
(Laughs) Well, I’ve come up with a lot, but there have been bits and pieces throughout the show that dealt with science, especially in the later seasons. Like a sentence here and there, especially when Dr. Bombay was on. I loved exploring this with the kids as they are basically a combination of two different types. I was interested in finding out what made them different, but also how similar they were to mortals. That is an overarching theme in the book, that we are all much more similar than different.
And it’s hard not to apply your subjects to some of the situations we face in this country today. I mean, on the one hand Darrin didn’t accept his wife for who she was, which always poses problems for the LGBTQ community, on the other hand you have the top tier of witches who basically act like white supremacists and think they are Far superior to mortals. Such a fascinating dichotomy. And you’re directly dealing with racial issues here too, with the character of Lisa we saw earlier in one of the tougher episodes of the series when she and the young Tabitha were exploring racial prejudice.
I think the show did a lot of groundbreaking things with inclusivity long before other shows dared tackle it on TV.
I also liked the complexity surrounding Samantha’s estrangement with her friend Louise Tate after Louise finds out she is a witch. So unexpected and interesting again. I don’t want to give it away, we’re just going to encourage people to read the book!
Yeah, that just occurred to me. I wanted a character who would have big problems with Samantha and her decisions, and I knew it shouldn’t be Gladys Kravitz.
I also appreciated that you specifically made Abner and Gladys Kravitz Jewish, although I don’t think this was ever mentioned on the show.
Part of my attempts at inclusion.
What also reminds me of Uncle Arthur – you only briefly pointed out in your last book that he is an LGBTQ character. I was so happy that you brought it out here even more, with some surprising twists and turns with other beloved characters!
If you watch television in the 1970s, especially the late 70s, these issues were gradually addressed, although in large part sexual orientation was still treated as a joke. I really wanted to explore this and show more of Uncle Arthur’s personal life, it just seemed like the natural thing.
And that certainly fits in with our memories of Paul Lynde in real life.
I always think of Elizabeth Montgomery when I write my books because she was so instrumental in bringing these elements of representation to the show. I want to create things that I think would be happy if they were still there. I want to honor your legacy. I hope she’d be happy with the books.
Oh, there is no question to me that Elizabeth Montgomery would love your books. It’s so interesting to me that she hasn’t been around for 26 years and still is so loved by fans, even those who weren’t born when she died. Such a special woman.
For sure. I grew up with such a love for Elizabeth Montgomery. When I was 14 I wrote her a very stupid fan letter about a TV movie she was in. Second look: a love story in which a blind woman played. A few months later I got a hand-signed picture back from her, referring to something I had written in my letter and even including a small paw print from the guide dog I mentioned in the film. I always thought how cool it is that this big star took the time to answer this kid’s fan letter so personally. And when I first attended the annual Bewitched Fan Fare event in 2014, I heard one story after another. It made me love her even more.
Well, we hope that whatever your plans, the characters will come to you at some point and ask you to accompany them through the 1980s. I think we need to see Samantha and the gang grappling with the Reagan years.
Samantha’s seventies is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.
–Danny Miller for Classic Movie Hub
You can read all of Danny’s classic conversational articles here
Danny Miller is a freelance writer, editor, and co-author of About the face: the life and times of Dottie Ponedel, make-up artist for the stars. You can read more of Danny’s articles on Cinephiled or follow him on Twitter at @dannymmiller.