By The Sound Man, Bill Lane
There is no need here to emphasize the wonderous charm our beloved television sitcom Bewitched has bestowed upon us. It just simply goes without saying that it was the greatest sensation ever to hit the airwaves during prime-time of yesterday and still goes unchallenged in uniqueness in the dawn of this new millenium despite the general population having encountered umpteen variations of the same general idea. It knows no generation gaps, as children born long since the series' demise in 1972 are mesmerized by its theme and special effects, and it gives me a great feeling knowing I have devoted so much time of my own childhood to this immortal series and that enthusiasm for it is even more widespread now than ever thanks to the role of the Internet in bringing fans together! I'm thrilled to be welcomed aboard and I will do my utmost to provide you with "quality" commentary wherever need be! Good luck to all in erecting this fine monument!
The series has enthralled me through a variety of avenues since I first tuned in toward the end of its original 4th season airings back in 1968. I was 9 at the time, and they say a child's ear is to be trusted implicitly. Coming from a musical family, it didn't take me long to become interested in the various sound effects and the wide array of music in general featured in Bewitched, and I turned a very attentive ear to all the sounds connected with the series. It is my goal here to share some of the audio sides of the series with you, hoping to be successful in relating something audio - visually!
What has always made Bewitched stand out miles above other productions of the same genre has been the creativity on the part of the sound and music departments and their ingenious method of combining (at least in later seasons) a sort of "logic" with the choice of sound effects linked to their object. From the 5th season onwards we see and hear perfect pairing, where the (dis)appearance of tiny objects would be linked to a light, high-pitched sound (e.g., the one accompanying the tiny suit and tie Sam zaps onto Darrin when he had been shrunk to mini-size in # 141) or a deeper and bolder "thump" connected with the arrival and departure of figures bearing these qualities such as the bassy tuba-like effect accompanying the departure of bully witch Brun Hilda in # 142, which from this point on became Dr. Bombay's mark (though this was for some reason put on ice during the entire 6th season). Oddly, it was finally used to accompany Darrin's (dis)appearances from the 7th season and Maurice's throughout the 8th. Blooper or not?: In 7th season # 212 ("Samantha's Magic Potion"), Dr. Bombay's pop-in/out mark is Samantha's trademark sound effect from seasons 5, 6 and 8. This always struck me as peculiar -- I never felt it suited his build!
The 4th season has always been my favourite as it was the great 'pioneer' season for sound effects, the colourful renaissance period of the series. Never before or since were so many sound effects used and experimented with than in that season, whereas they were more or less standardized and much fewer in number in most of the 2nd and 3rd and then from the 5th throughout the 8th. That is, the various characters had their distinctive (though often shared) pop-in and pop-out sounds with very few exceptions outside of the 1st season (which had a modest handful of them) and the 4th season. The 4th was a cornucopia of these sounds, as many of the same sound effects were used both for characters and inanimate objects -- and there were scads of them (sound effects, that is)!! With the exception of Samantha's standard twitch and one other sound effect used from # 2 to #254 (the final episode of the series), no single sound effect survived the full 8 years. But a good deal of those "born" in the 4th season were used right up to the end of the 8th and final season and the others were left behind.
The pop-in/pop-out sound effect that lasted the entire series eludes identification instrumentally on my part, but it is easily referred to. In the 1st season, it was one of a scale of 6 clangs, which were all used interchangeably both for people as well as objects, and they are all conveniently displayed for you in sequence and in one run from lowest to highest in # 16 ("It's Magic") when Samantha, whilst on stage with The Great Zeno, enables the 6 rabbits to jump backwards back into the hat. It was the clang accompanying rabbit no. 4 that spanned the entire series from # 2 (used for the very first time when Samantha pretties up the cake she's baked for Darrin in their rented house), used for the final time in # 254 (when Endora makes her last pop-out from the Stephens' home at the foot of the stairs). Mind you, this sound varied in quality and tone throughout the series, having a mild tone in the early years, eg. in # 11 ("It Takes One to Know One") when Samantha disappears from Janine's apartment for the first time after discovering the Samoan lotus leaf, to having a harsh, almost jarring tone as in Esmeralda's appearance in the Stephens' kitchen during the final 2 minutes of # 195 ("Who's The Wise Witch"). Why this one particular sound effect should last the entire series with minor adjustments along the way and without ever being phased out has always been a mystery to me.
Of the remaining sounds of the "Scale of 6" (which were the backbone of the entire 1st season and a good portion of the 2nd), only one other made it into the colour episodes (the sound accompanying the 1st rabbit in # 16) and it was finally retired in the final episode of the 3rd season, i.e. # 107 ("There's Gold in Them There Pills"). Here it is the sound accompanying the Cold-Bombs taking effect. Although rarely used after the black and white episodes, it can be found in 3rd season # 80 ("Endora Moves in for a Spell") when Arthur makes Endora's house disappear, and in # 86 ("Sam's Spooky Chair") when Clyde reproduces a replica of the antique chair, and again when he disappears.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg. I've never counted how many sound effects were used in the series and this would be next to impossible as a few of them had variants, in some cases music from the show also doubled as a sound effect and vice-versa, so the identity of many of them can be quite hazy. But wherever they came from or however they were produced -- they gave Bewitched yet another special side to its personality, and I'm sure they found their way into the subconscious of many, adding an extra touch to the show's appeal.
|Editor's Note: I queried
Bill Lane about another sound effect that viewers of the show may recall.
I found his response interesting and I hope that you do as well!
Melanie: My favorite Bewitched sound effect wasn't mentioned. It is when Endora is about to marry one of Darrin's clients and Samantha pops in to stop the wedding and Endora pops her back to her house (# 125, Once In a Vial). Sam tries to fly back, but Endora has zapped her powerless. Sam waves her arms and all you hear is a "kerplunk!"
In the States (in the late 70s/early 80s), there was a Heinz 57 ketchup commercial where a tomato is sucked into a bottle with a kerplunk! It's the same sound that was used on Bewitched years earlier!
Bill Lane: That sound effect was only used in episodes # 118 and #125 as an audio sign that someone's powers were on the fritz. In those 4th season episodes involving both Sam's and Endora's loss of witchcraft, they used some really ingenious sound effects, which were never used in any other seasons involving similar power losses. The "kerplunk"sound effect you referred to in # 125 (which I would more or less term as the "FFFFFFF-THOOMP") was ingenious as it also had comical value. People here in Denmark that I have introduced Bewitched to (the series was never aired here, so I have had the personal pleasure of introducing it to my friends here and witnessing their reactions) always chuckle over that particular sound -- it'll tickle anybody's funny bone! My personal favourite sound effect in # 125 is the one used when Endora waves her hand to levitate the coffee pot from the countertop between the dining room and the kitchen. Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't that the same sound effect used in several Hanna-Barbera cartoons whenever someone gets bonked on the head?!?!