|I, Samantha, Take This Mortal, Darrin|
I, Samantha, Take This Mortal, Darrin where he gives the show the finale it deserves.
AMJ: Well, in a way, “I, Samantha...” is an original story. [laughs] At least, it is in that the arc is my own creation, as are the combinations of characters that interact. I do have other original stories to tell, and I will, but this one decided it wanted to be told first.
Tony: Fan Fiction has gone from fan pages to Fan Fiction sites to mainstream on sites like Kindle Worlds. How does one go about taking your story to getting published?
AMJ: You’re not far off the mark in mentioning Kindle. Both of my “Bewitched” books are indeed self-published. With “The Bewitched Continuum” I tried for a traditional publisher, but got turned down. So I went through CreateSpace and have been very pleased with them. While self-published books don’t quite get looked down on the way they did 10 years ago, it’s still very easy to produce something that screams “I’m self published!” Which is why I always go out of my way by personally choosing fonts, proofreading the hell out of things, and making sure the cover comes off professional. For this book I was lucky to get Dan Parent, a writer and illustrator for the “Archie” comics, to do up a rendition of the Stephenses for me. He did a bang-up job!
Tony: This story was told in your book
. Why tell it again?
AMJ: True, it’s in “The Bewitched Continuum”, but only in four paragraphs. And admittedly, that was all it was intended to be. But you know that the world – or at least our part of it – has been changing, and not for the better. You also know that Elizabeth Montgomery and Bill Asher filled “Bewitched” with messages of equality and acceptance, which need to be heard now just as much as they did during the civil rights movement, when the show first aired. In fact, I think we need to hear them more. Since I had layered these same messages into my original series finale synopsis, it seemed only right to fesh it out and speak out for the rights of everyone to be who they are the way Samantha would have.
Tony: At this point you are in the Bewitched business?
AMJ: [laughs] I’ve been in the “Bewitched” business ever since The Bewitched Continuum” came out, as the promotion has never stopped. You could say I have 40 years on-the job training, though, since I saw my first episode in 1977.
Tony: This is not just a story this is a finale. Why didn't Bewitched do a final episode?
AMJ: We’re really used to the idea of a series finale now, but it was a rare thing when “Bewitched” was in first-run. “The Dick Van Dyke Show” had a wrap-up, as did “The Fugitive” - however, it wasn’t until “M*A*S*H” went off the air in 1983 that the series finale became a cultural phenomenon. With “Bewitched”, I’ve heard two stories: one that they knew they were done, and one in which a ninth season had been planned. So the odds are that the cast and crew didn’t know the show was ending, and wouldn’t have filmed a finale if they did.
Tony: Your story features three characters that were introduced in the episode Sisters at Heart. These characters were never seen again. Why did you want them in your story?
AMJ: “Sisters At Heart” was such an important episode, and said to be Elizabeth’s favorite. The way it tackled racism, the way it took a stand for equality – it was the most direct way the show had addressed these issues up until that point. Then, you have Tabitha’s friend Lisa finding out she’s a witch, and I’ve long thought it was a shame “Bewitched” didn’t bring back Lisa, or any other mortal character with knowledge about the witchcraft, since they were aware of the truth. That’s why the whole Wilson family returns, as well as many other characters, both mortal and witch, that either only made limited appearances or who were major players that hadn’t been around for a while. Uncle Arthur and the Kravitzes, for example, were missing from the entire eighth season. But they’re in my book. My only rule was, no new characters! Everyone who shows up has a history with the show – and I’ve got endnotes galore, so people can reference which episode these folks come from.
Tony: How did you want to wrap up the series?
As I mentioned before, I felt it was important to take the show’s overall messages of equality and acceptance and amplify them. But also, in any series finale, you want to see a show come full circle in some way. The title “I, Samantha, Take This Mortal, Darrin” is a fip on the pilot, which was “I, Darrin, Take This Witch, Samantha.” You always saw Darrin stuck in his position at McMann and Tate, and every once in a while you saw that dangling carrot of the agency becoming McMann, Tate, and Stephens. It never happened on the show, so that’s where my story starts. Samantha throws a party and you see characters interacting that never shared scenes on the show. And there are tons of nods to past episodes and events, which is another reason for including endnotes – aside from making sure people knew what was my idea and what was the show’s. So this big party with mainstream and obscure funk songs goes swimmingly until something magical happens in front of everybody; instead of trying to bluff a dozen people, Samantha just decides to tell the truth – also a parallel, considering the show began with her telling Darrin she’s a witch. Well, the Witches’ Council doesn’t take too kindly to that and Samantha has to defend herself against them, with the stakes higher than they’d ever been on the show, another facet I thought would be appropriate for a finale. Plus, being out of the confines of physical TV show, there were other parts of people’s stories, to say nothing of the witch world, that could be explored in novel form.
Tony: How much longer do you think the show could have gone?
AMJ: Wow, that’s the million dollar question, isn’t it? It’s hard to answer knowing that Elizabeth was getting tired of doing the show and that they were producing a higher number of remake episodes at this point than ever before. I still think there was enough originality that there could have been a Season 9, at least.
Tony: As the author of The Bewitched Continuum, how hard was it to not throw everything you know about the show into the book?
AMJ: It really wasn’t that hard. Once I had the overall story, picking and choosing what to highlight just sort of came naturally. I’m not gonna lie – I did craft “I, Samantha...” as sort of a tie-in to “The Bewitched Continuum”, since they’re linked anyway. For the most part, I knew what show details I wanted to use to drive my own story. But sometimes I either had to wrack my brain trying to remember a detail or I had to flip through “The Bewitched Continuum” trying to find something that would fit into what I was trying to say. In which case I had to reference my own reference book! [laughs]