The Subtle Way ‘Mad About You’ Gave ‘Bewitched’ A Nod

Upon first glance, Mad About You and Bewitched might not seem to have a lot in common. While each series centered around a married couple, that is where the similarities ended. It makes sense. After all, the shows were filmed almost 30 years apart. Still, Mad About You seemed to pay homage to the iconic sitcom in a subtle way, and it wasn’t the only show to do it.

Mad About You used “the other Darrin” move to deal with a casting change

Paul and Jamie Buchmann had plenty of friends, but they weren’t in the habit of making friends with their neighbors. At the very least, Paul wasn’t. Jamie persisted and ended up trying to befriend their new next-door neighbors, Maggie and Hal. The results were not what Jamie had intended, and the couples ended up feuding for much of the series.

Helen Hunt as Jamie Buchman and Paul Reiser as Paul Buchman in promotional photos for 'Mad About You'
Helen Hunt and Paul Reiser in ‘Mad About You’ | Michael Tighe/NBCU Photo Bank

The feud isn’t where the nod to Bewitched came in, though. The 90s sitcom replicated Bewitched’s decision to swap actors without mentioning it to fans. In Hal’s first few appearances in the series, he is portrayed by Paxton Whitehead. Later, Jim Piddock played Hal. Eventually, the writing team acknowledged the actor swap. They didn’t do it until Whitehead reprised the role, though. Only then did the writers explain that Maggie had been married to two different men named Hal, and had remarried her first husband after divorcing her second. TV Trope suggests the decision effectively “un-othered the Darrin.”

What is “the other Darrin” trope?

“The other Darrin” is a term used to describe a television show that replaces an actor on the show but doesn’t bother to explain it to the fans. The most famous example, of course, happened on Bewitched. When the iconic 1960s sitcom started, Dick York took on the role of Darrin Stephens. York was beloved in the part, but an old back injury and a growing dependency on painkillers made it impossible for him to continue.

Elizabeth Montgomery, Dick York, and Agnes Moorehead, all wearing sleepwear, looking at a telephone with a levitating receiver, in a still from the television show, 'Bewitched'
Elizabeth Montgomery, Dick York, and Agnes Moorehead | Archive/Getty Images

Instead of killing off the character, or having Samantha Stephens divorce, a blasphemous idea in the 1960s, the production team replaced York with a new actor. Dick Sargent took over the role in 1969 and portrayed Darrin until the show ended in 1972. The writing team never mentioned the swap to viewers. 

Several other shows used the same trope to explain casting changes

While Mad About You seemed to offer a subtle nod to Bewitched with the Hal situation, it was far from the only show that swapped actors in the same way that Bewitched did. Roseanne is among the most famous examples. The series swapped out Lecy Goranson for Sarah Chalke as Becky Conner multiple times during the show.

Sarah Gilbert, Laurie Metcalf, Rosene Barr, John Goodman, Michael Fishman, Sarah Chalke and Lecy Goranson in a promotional photo for 'The Conners'
Sarah Gilbert, Laurie Metcalf, Rosene Barr, John Goodman, Michael Fishman, Sarah Chalke, and Lecy Goranson | Adam Rose/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

Daphne Maxwell Reid famously replaced Janet Hubert as Aunt Viv in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, too. Hubert blamed Will Smith for her firing. The decades-long feud between Hubert and Smith was pretty epic until the former castmates finally sat down to hash things out in 2020. In both examples, writers never mentioned the switch to viewers.