In September, I blogged about watching "Bewitched" on Netflix as my "comedy before sleep" show. I'm still watching it, sometimes taking as many as three nights to get through one episode, so potent is this sleep aid. I want to share two random observations based on Bewitched.
People on TV have whiter teeth now.
I always notice teeth and smiles, and it was immediately apparent that the teeth of every actor on Bewitched is dull and off-white, compared to the gleaming white teeth seen on TV shows today.
This is obviously down to tooth-whitening technology. But it must mean that everyone on TV now is having their teeth whitened, that tooth-whitening has become one more appearance enhancer that is expected of actors and aspiring actors - one more way that TV does not reflect reality.
The difference is quite striking. No one with the kind of teeth I see on Bewitched would be allowed on TV today, except as guests on a Jerry Springer-esque show.
The other observation is about the two Darrins. Bewitched fans know there is the original Darrin, played by Dick York, and "the other Darrin," an expression now synonymous with casting failure, played by Dick Sargent.
As I've been plowing through Bewitched episodes, I've been awaiting the appearance of Darrin II. I purposely didn't look up when the switch occurred, wanting to be surprised. I noticed in Season 5 that Darrin was getting less screen time, and sometimes disappeared for entire episodes, "in Chicago" on business. I assumed this was a bad omen for Darren the First.
Then one day, in the cold open, Samantha calls to her husband, he turns around to face the camera... and there he is: the other Darrin. It's the first episode of Season 6. Elizabeth Montgomery has new, above-the-title billing, David White (Larry Tate) has Endora-style billing in the opening credits, and the theme song has been shortened. (Attention spans were dropping, even back then.) Thus begins Darrin the Second.
It now strikes me as very strange that a show would cast a new actor in a major supporting role, rather than write the character out of the show. I was wondering if any contemporary shows have done this, and found this: 25 Casting Fails on TV that They Expected Us Not to Notice. Many of these examples are character voicings, and many mark the disappearance of a minor character. A few are actual casting changes. But none, to my knowledge, are as major a character as Darrin was on Bewitched.
These casting changes used to happen on daytime soaps all the time, and perhaps still do. (I haven't watched daytime soaps since high school.) A voice would intone, "The part of Joe Smith is now being played by Jamie Joe-White," a new actor would enter the scene, and that would be that. The most famous instance I can think of was on a nighttime soap: when Barbara Bel Geddes was replaced by Donna Reed on "Dallas". This was an unmitigated disaster; the network was forced to concede a better contract to Bel Geddes and put her back on the show.
Does this happen anymore for major characters? On Seinfeld, Jerry's father was originally played by a different actor, as was Pam's mother on The Office. But both were minor roles. I'm wondering if any contemporary sitcoms have changed the actor playing a major role, rather than getting rid of the character.
I'm also wondering if people who watched Bewitched in real time would have known that Dick York was being replaced by Dick Sargent. Would it have been reported in some entertainment media - not in a trade publication like Variety, but in the entertainment section of local newspapers? Or did everyone just turn on their TVs and experience the shock of The Other Darrin?