good witches, bad mothers

by Sara Gran
Elizabeth Montgomery and Dick York as Samantha...

Image via Wikipedia

Megan’s post on A Family Affair, and our conversation in the comments section about Missing Mother tv shows (My Three Sons, Silver Spoons, etc) made me think of another recurring TV theme I’ve seen change over the years–the good witch and her powers. In the sixties, all the cool witchy women like Samantha on Bewitched and Jeannie on I Dream of (same) had to hide their powers or they would be in big trouble with their husbands/keepers/masters. Of course, this was incredibly frustrating to watch, and while I enjoyed these shows in reruns, it was the same kind of frustration you get watching a horror movie –Don’t go in the basement! Just make the fucking dinner with your nose, Samantha! And why does Darren get to decide when gay Uncle Arthur and Doctor Bombay can come over! (I would have them over every day!)

In the nineties I started noticing a bunch of shows with, if not witch-moms, witch-teenage-girls who used their powers without apology. Sabrina The Teenage Witch, Charmed, and Buffy were in a sense reversals of the bewitched and Jeannie–there was no thought of the witches abandoning their power and in fact, in the case of Buffy and Charmed, their powers were sorely needed to save the world.

I don’t know of any witch-mom shows on TV now–are there any? The closest I can think of are the psychic-mom shows–Ghost Whisperer, Medium, and the like. I’ve only seen these shows a few times (and I have no idea if they’re still on the air), but my impression is that while the women use their powers as needed, there’s a price to be paid for it–bad dreams, ghosts following them home at night, and the like.

Maybe we’ll know times are good when there’s a new Bewitched, and both Darren and Samantha use their powers to the fullest, not to clean house or impress Mr. Tate (who after all showed his true colors in The Sweet Smell of Success!) but to have the most fun ever casting spells and throwing parties and traveling around the witch-o-sphere with Dr. Bombay.  Speaking of which, my broomstick is waiting…

3 Comments to “good witches, bad mothers”

  1. Gran also made a prepub alert in LJ like Abbott did. Print issue for January, 2011 and online:

  2. Okay, this was only a parenthetical on your part, but once I saw Larry Tate in Sweet Smell of Success, I really DID feel I saw the true Larry. It reminds me of how, after Ordinary People, my dad would tease me whenever Mary Tyler Moore was in anything, assuring me that she was just like the mother in that. It can be hard not to import that knowledge when the vehicles are so diametrically opposed, no? In a different way, it’s like watching Hogan’s Heroes now and seeing Bob Crane and just knowing….

  3. Well, Bob Crane wasn’t terribly far from Hogan, for what that’s worth. And the series was called simply FAMILY AFFAIR, not the title with article that Sly and the Family Stone used for their song.

    Meanwhile, witchy mothers have recently been represented mostly by the shortlived, but possibly to be revived, EASTWICK. MEDIUM is now (perhaps not well-)done (it was never That well-done), as is THE GHOST WHISPERER, though the latter is still broadcast in repeats by the Ion network.

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