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Monday, March 26, 2012

Bewitched's Darrin Stephens and Larry Tate Were TV's Original Mad Men

Article first published as Bewitched's Darrin Stephens and Larry Tate Were TV's Original Mad Men on Blogcritics.


As the AMC original series Mad Men starts its fifth season, there is great buzz over the return of the dapper Don Draper (Jon Hamm) and his crew. The show certainly captures the 1960s with great precision, but there is an even better way to catch a view of advertising execs in this era by watching the classic television sitcom Bewitched.
The premise of the show is simple: less than average looking guy Darrin Stephens (Dick York, and later Dick Sargent) marries gorgeous Samantha (Elizabeth Montgomery) and learns afterwards that she has a little secret: she is a witch. While that would be enough for countlessly awkward situations beyond belief in the quiet New York suburb where the sitcom was based, the added tension came from Darrin's work: he was an advertising executive at McMahon and Tate. With deadlines for ad campaigns always looming, Darrin's creativity was constantly challenged by Samantha and her loony family of witches, including the incomparable Agnes Moorehead as Samantha's mischief causing mother Endora and side-splittingly funny Paul Lynde as Uncle Arthur.

For me the most interesting thing about the show was the advertising angle. People watching it now will perhaps think that it has not aged well, but the dynamic of Darrin having to be creative all the time and the pressure put on him by his spineless boss Larry Tate (David White) is interesting in perspective. Also, the fact that the offices always had their cocktail bars and Darrin and Larry were always lubricating their clients (and themselves) fits well into the world now depicted on Mad Men.

Those fans of the current show probably would laugh at this comparison, but the high pressured advertising world depicted in Bewitched, and the fact that all the historic aspects of the 1960s are available in less than impressive technicolor, makes the juxtaposition of the old sitcom and the current AMC drama a must for serious viewers of Mad Men. It also provides a unique perspective for many fans who were not even born when Bewitched first aired, or who saw the disappointing Will Ferrell film and define Darrin by his performance.

Darrin Stephens and Larry Tate were TV's original Mad Men. Those who take the time to watch some episodes of the old show will be surprised by the depiction of the advertising world and get more than a few chuckles along the way as well.

Photo Credits: Bewitched (beckyland.com) and Mad Men (insidetv.com)

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