ABC via Getty Images; Netflix
It is officially the season of the witch.
American Horror Story brought back its coven over the past couple of weeks, the Charmed sisters made their rebooted debut this weekend, and Sabrina Spellman is just weeks away from her spooky reinvention on Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. It’s a good time to be a fan of witchcraft, and a great time to be in the mood for some nostalgia with a twist.
For some fans, however, that twist is more of a confusing stab in the heart. Why bring in new witches when the old ones were perfectly good? Why reboot when you could revive?
Some of the original stars are also not on board.
Melissa Joan Hart told EW she felt “indifferent” about Netflix’s new comic adaptation of Sabrina Spellman, but did admit the darker direction was the “smartest way to reboot something.” Some of the ladies of Charmed, on the other hand, are straight up mad.
“Here’s the thing,” Holly Marie Combs wrote on Twitter. “Until you ask us to rewrite it like [executive producer] Brad Kern did weekly don’t even think of capitalizing on our hard work. Charmed belongs to the four of us, our vast amount of writers, crews, and predominantly the fans. FYI you will not fool them by owning a title/stamp. So bye.”
And she wasn’t done. She also criticized the reboot being described as “feminist,” tweeting, “Guess we forgot to do that the first go around. Hmph.”
“While some may not get why I take issue with the network that didn’t want to renew Charmed 12 years ago ‘reimagining’ it now let me just say I understand it perfectly. Also this kinda stuff given all that Rose and Alyssa have done lately….um no. Just no.”
Combs was referring to Rose McGowan and Alyssa Milano‘s outspoken involvement in the revolution that has taken place since the New York Times first reported accusations of assault against Harvey Weinstein. They’re both towards the front of a movement that has seen women all over the country taking a stand against sexual harassment and the men whose behavior they won’t tolerate anymore. While Combs seems to think that makes it an especially bad time to reboot Charmed, it actually feels like the perfect time to introduce more young and extremely powerful women into pop culture who can help their young fans feel just as powerful in 2018, and who can literally join in that fight against harassment, as Charmed does in its pilot.
The fact is that it’s been 20 years since the premiere of Charmed, and 22 since the premiere of Sabrina the Teenage Witch. The world has changed in a thousand ways since then (especially in the past year), as has the world of TV, and it’s time for a new generation to discover their own magical powers.
Charmed premiered in 1998, starring three fully grown white women in their late 20s. The fashion was wild and amazing, but insanely impractical for running around and chasing demons. Boyfriends were established in the first few lines and romance often took over the series, even if those boyfriends often turned out evil and were then vanquished by the sisters. A total of three confirmed LGBT characters appeared throughout the entire course of the show.
The new series, which stars Melonie Diaz, Sarah Jeffery, and Madeleine Mantock, comes from Jane the Virgin writers Jessica O’Toole and Amy Rardin, along with creator Jennie Snyder Urman. In theory, Jane the Virgin is the perfect background for breeding a new “fierce, funny, feminist” show about slightly younger, more current teen-friendly magic women, all of whom are multi-racial and some of whom are LGBT.
Jane the Virgin is essentially a perfect show (a fact if you ask nearly anyone who watches it), that feels like it’s got magical powers even if it’s supposed to be grounded in (telenovela) reality. The magical realism that Jane so excels at is a perfect jumping ground for a show about actual magic, especially when it’s also about young Latina women coming into their own and discovering who they are, past the legacies of their parents. That’s Jane‘s bread and butter, and Charmed witches with any bit of Jane Villaneuva in them are witches who could and should conquer the world.
Sabrina the Teenage Witch made her TV debut in 1996. It was a comedy, but it was still a story about a young blonde caught between the world of witchcraft and the world of being a normal teenage girl. It had its spooky elements, but it was generally funny and horror-free. Melissa Joan Hart’s teen witch became an icon, defeating high school bullies and slaying the fashion game with a simple point of her finger, even if she still had to deal with homework and annoying teachers.
The series ended with her abandoning her wedding to the wrong guy and riding away on a motorcycle with her true love and official moonstone-approved soul mate, Harvey Kinkle (Nate Richert). A totally happy ending.
Netflix’s much darker Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, based on the recent Archie comics series, still features a blonde teen Sabrina (Kiernan Shipka) caught between two worlds and dating Harvey Kinkle (Ross Lynch), but the stakes are considerably higher, sort of in the same way the stakes feel higher in real life these days.
ABC via Getty Images; Netflix
Sabrina’s choice to be a witch or a mortal now comes with dire consequences, wrapped in ancient oppressive rituals and traditions, ideas of purity and virginity, and the idea that some men still can’t let women make their own decisions, even when those women are super powerful witches. Sabrina standing up and saying no thanks to any of that (as you can see in the first season trailer) is just the kind of scene that 2018 demands.
Now, just because it’s time for witchy sisters and teen half-witches to live anew, that doesn’t mean these new versions are automatically up to the task.
Neither first episode is perfect. Both feel a little clunky, a little unsure of themselves. While we can tell you that Chilling Adventures of Sabrina gets over its growing pains quickly over its first season to become one of our new favorite shows in a long time (and to earn a current 100% on Rotten Tomatoes), we’ve only seen as much of Charmed as the public has, and so far it’s missing something. It premiered last night to mediocre reviews—a 62% on Rotten Tomatoes—though ratings were solid.
So far, the show it hasn’t yet totally captured the magic of the original series or of Jane the Virgin, opting to put its main focus on establishing the fact that it’s a current and timely series instead of casting spells and making sure the show is also fun. But then again, we’ve only seen one episode so far, and the bones are there, as are the opportunities to tell stories that could be timely and empowering as they are entertaining and oh so spooky. Only time will tell if the show can find that perfect mix.
E! News visited the set of Charmed, and you can check out what the cast had to say on the reboot anxiety in the video above!
Charmed airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on the CW.
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina premieres Friday, October 26 on Netflix.