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Liz, Sargent & Maurie Evans, behind the scenes

ELIZABETH MONTGOMERY DIDN'T WANT TO WORK in TV. The daughter of Hollywood actor Robert Montgomery, who had hosted an anthology show on NBC for seven years, she had seen how television-production schedules ate up one's life. She did, however, want to work with her new husband, producer William Asher, and when his concept about a suburban witch caught on with ABC, she signed up for the lead role of Samantha Stephens-filming the first shows less than a month after giving birth to the couple's first child. That hints at the hard work put into a show that only looked like goofy fluff. Bewitched retooled movies like 1942's I Married a Witch and 1958's Bell, Book and Candle for the complacent Leave It to Beaver generation, but the show, as knowing as its star, also tracked the paradoxes of its era. Peek behind those vanishing coffee tables and Darrin's miraculously saved ad accounts and you'll see a series that was explicitly about the dilemma of the modern housewife, possessed of hidden powers yet unable to use them for much more than vacuuming the living room. The split turned even more baroque: On Jan. 13, 1966, when Samantha settled further into asexual domesticity by giving birth to baby Tabitha, her hot-to-trot "twin cousin"-played by "Pandora Spocks"-was introduced in the very same episode.

It didn't matter that two different actors (Dicks York and Sargent) played Darrin over the course of the series' eight-year run: He, mother Endora (Agnes Moorehead), and all those crazed relatives were intended as glorious cartoons. But sensible Sam earned our laughs and empathy, twitching her nose and watching the world change around her.

*Article from Entertainment Weekly's "100 Greatest TV Shows of All Time" © 1998, Time Inc.

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