- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 19, 2005

Salem gets ‘Bewitched’

“Bewitched” star Elizabeth Montgomery is now immortalized in stone in Salem, Mass., but not all the town’s residents are happy about the new statue.

The likeness of 1960s TV icon Samantha Stephens debuted last week with an appropriate puff of smoke, drawing a crowd of self-proclaimed witches and those who would like to forget Salem’s tortured history, Associated Press reports.

The statue depicts the late actress, who played the nose-wiggling witch in the long-running ABC sitcom (1964-1972). Her figure is sitting sidesaddle on a broomstick, her skirt flying behind her in the breeze, in front of a crescent moon.

Hundreds of people turned out last week to welcome the statue to the town’s Lappin Park, including some who call themselves witches.

“I think it’s the best thing to happen to Salem in a long time,” self-described witch Linda Monroe told WHDH-TV. “It’s a long time coming for something so fun and cheery. She’s awesome. She’s everybody’s idol.”

While some Salem officials said the bronze statue, sponsored by the TV Land cable network, is just a bit of fun and could draw more tourists to the city, others have criticized it, saying it trivializes the real and tragic events that occurred in Salem in 1692. Twenty people were put to death that year after being accused of witchcraft.

Critics carried signs at the event Wednesday that read “Tragedy [does not equal] Whimsy” and “Is there no limit to the schlock and hype?”

Apparently not, since the statue’s unveiling coincides with Friday’s debut of “Bewitched,” a feature film starring Nicole Kidman and Will Ferrell as Samantha and Darrin Stephens.

The ceremony was attended by show director William Asher, the third of Miss Montgomery’s four husbands, as well as a number of actors who appeared in the original series — including Bernard Fox (Dr. Bombay), Kasey Rogers (Louise Tate) and Erin Murphy (Tabitha Stephens).

The network has placed similar statues of famous sitcom characters around the country, including Brooklyn bus driver Ralph Kramden of “The Honeymooners” at the Port Authority in New York and Mary Richards in Minneapolis, where “The Mary Tyler Moore” show was set.

Firefly’ soars again

The Sci-Fi Channel has scooped up the rights to “Firefly,” a little-seen series from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” creator Joss Whedon. The show, which had a brief run in 2002-03, has been kept alive in the minds of its hard-core fans, Reuters News Agency reports.

Fourteen episodes, including three never-seen installments, will begin airing on the cable channel next month. The show transplanted the Wild West to a galaxy 500 years in the future but didn’t last a full season on Fox. The Sci-Fi acquisition is timed to capitalize on “Serenity,” the upcoming Universal Pictures release that is based on “Firefly.”

New elements of Style

After introducing “Diary of an Affair” — a series that justifies its seamy re-enactments of straying spouses by proclaiming “60 percent of married men and 40 percent of married women” engage in adultery — E!’s Style network is examining relationships through a less jaundiced eye with “Foody Call,” a new program that may actually help the lovelorn, Reuters News Agency reports.

The show (based on Ted Taylor’s saucily titled book “Cook Your Way Into Her Pants”) offers a crash course on domestic skills for love-challenged guys hoping to prove they’re boyfriend material to the objects of their affection.

The 10-part series of 30-minute shows, debuting tonight at 10, is hosted by Rossi Morreale and Michele Merkin.

In other Style changes, the cable network has revamped its “Modern Girl’s Guide to Life” series and hired a new host for “The Look for Less.”

“Modern Girl’s Guide” (another 10-episode half-hour series) will roll out new segments and new hosts for its new season beginning July 8. Host and trend expert Jane Buckingham, who wrote the book on which the series is based, will be joined by actress Eva LaRue, stylist-writer-actress Jess Zaino, and athlete and former “The Price Is Right” beauty Claudia Jordan.

Meanwhile, Yoanna House, winner of the second installment of UPN’s “America’s Next Top Model,” is the new host of “The Look for Less,” replacing “The View” co-host and first-season “Survivor” contestant Elisabeth Hasselbeck.

“Look’s” new season debuted yesterday.

Double dose of ‘Day’

Before Steven Spielberg sets off the latest “War of the Worlds,” TV viewers can catch a glimpse of previous aggressive-alien syndrome with “Independence Day.”

The 1996 blockbuster — starring Will Smith as an Air Force pilot leading the terrestrial resistance against an alien assault — airs tonight at 6, with a repeat showing at 9:30 on cable’s AMC. Vivica A. Fox, Jeff Goldblum and Judd Hirsch are among the film’s other stars.

Nearly a decade ago, audiences looked past the hokey interpersonal relationships to cheer the special effects and spectacular stunt sequences. Here’s a chance to see how that magic compares with Mr. Spielberg’s multimillion-dollar spectacle, which opens June 29.

Compiled by Christian Toto from staff and wire reports.

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