my post on who created BEWITCHED. A number of you suggested real credit should go to the screenwriters of the 1942 movie I MARRIED A WITCH. With all due respect to those writers – Robert Pirosh, Marc Connelly, Norman Matson, Rene Clair, Andre Rigaud, Dalton Trumbo and Thorne Smith (whose story the movie was based on) – they may have tread on similar territory but it is not BEWITCHED.
Others wonder how Sol Saks could receive creator credit on BEWITCHED when he only wrote the pilot. Why didn’t he stay with the series? First of all, that's not relevant. And secondly, who cares? Maybe he had three other projects and didn’t want to commit to a series. Maybe he lived in New Hampshire and didn’t want to move. Maybe he and the studio hated each other. Who knows? And we’ll never know how different the direction of the series might have been had he stayed at the helm. But Danny Arnold did a fantastic job assuming the showrunner role.
Meanwhile, some commenters suggested the idea was the studio’s and he was just hired to write it.
Okay, first off – the Writers Guild has very specific guidelines for determining created by credits. So if he passed that test, he’s the creator. Period.
But it’s more than that. Let’s look at what creating a series entails. Networks buy upwards of fifty pilot script a year (more back then). Out of that they decide to make maybe ten or fifteen. Out of those four perhaps five get ordered as a series. So there’s tremendous competition. Your script has to be good enough to buck those odds.
Now, the script itself. A sitcom pilot must set up the premise, introduce all the characters, set the tone, tell a story, be funny, and clearly indicate where the series is headed – all in twenty minutes. Young writers trying to break in are now asked to submit original material. Most are writing pilots and learning firsthand what a holy bitch they are to write.
Oh, and a good series has to be about something. There has to be a theme.
So let’s look at BEWITCHED specifically. A mortal marries a witch, much to the consternation of her mother. The mortal doesn’t want the witch to use her powers. He wants her to act “mortal.” What’s the series about? Magic? Fantasy? Craziness? No. It’s about culture clashes. Remember, BEWITCHED came along around the time of the Civil Rights Bill. What a fun twist on a mixed-marriage where the white guy is the outsider. And as for the notion of Samantha not being able to use her witchcraft – how different is that from gay people being unable to be who they are? Sol Saks had a lot going on underneath the jokes, didn’t he?
And then there are the characters. Besides a central romance that’s so well-drawn, the Endora (mother) character is the perfect comic antagonist. You don’t design great characters like that by just twitching your nose. Sol Saks introduced them and brought them to life.
He also fashioned the very clever story that introduced everybody and set the series into motion. And wrote all the jokes. Execution is everything. How many shows have been set in bars? From DUFFY’S TAVERN to ARCHIE BUNKER’S PLACE and probably six others in between, a show set in a watering hole has been a common premise. But in the hands of the Charles Brothers & James Burrows, it became magic. It became CHEERS.
So credit where creator credit is due. Sol Saks created BEWITCHED. And for that, I -- as a huge Elizabeth Montgomery fan -- am eternally grateful.