Something witchy this way did not come for the 2018 reboot of Charmed. If anything, it feels like an opportunistic attempt at capitalising on the legacy and success of a much-loved series.
At its peak, the original Charmed (1998-2006) was the longest running TV series featuring all-female leads. Beneath the campy fun about spells and potions, it explored the intricacies of sisterhood along with the joys and pain of womanhood in a subtle, yet strong way.
Watching the Halliwell sisters – Prue, Piper, Phoebe and later on Paige – navigate through love and life as both powerful witches and ordinary women, made for very good television indeed.
It tackled dark issues such as emotional spousal abuse and chauvinistic workplace, while delivering spellbinding fantasy effortlessly.
This latest reincarnation of Constance M. Burge’s creation bills itself as a feminist show. But given the accomplishments of the original, how much more “feminist” can Charmed get?
In this photo-or-it-did-not-happen era, the feminism in question has to be outright. That might explain why the reboot (developed in part by Jane The Virgin creator Jennie Snyder Urman) kicked off the pilot episode with a minor, albeit conspicuous, subplot about the Time’s Up and #MeToo movement. Not feminist enough? How about we throw in some clunky dialogue about consent?
Its careless, trivial and almost forced treatment of female empowerment aside, the bigger offence to me (and many other fans of the original, I’m sure), is the blatant creative license it took.
The Charmed universe as we know it, is given such a rude overhaul, the new series should be titled something else and not be known as a reboot.
And that kind of got me thinking: Had I not watched the original Charmed, would I have liked this reboot better?
The problem with that view, though, is that the reboot relies heavily on the backstory crafted by the past Aaron Spelling production. Where the original took its time creating its witchy lore, the reboot pretty much expects viewers to already be familiar with stuff like The Power of Three and Whitelighters.
Naturally, comparisons are unavoidable. But for objectivity’s sake (and at the risk of sounding like a scorned fan), let’s leave talks about the original at the door for now.
The new Charmed is set in a fictional college town and tells the story of the Vera sisters Mel (Melanie Diaz) and Maggie (Sarah Jeffery).
Perpetually angry Mel treats any form of injustice against her or her girlfriend as violation of her female rights.
On the contrary, younger sister Maggie is so basic, she wants nothing more than to join the sorority.
The girls’ lives take a bleak turn when their mother, who happens to be a women’s studies professor (feminism, anyone?), mysteriously dies.
Three months later, the girls learn they have an elder half-sister – Macy Vaughn (Madeleine Mantock).
In the midst of all this upheaval, the siblings discover that they are the most powerful witches in the universe. Macy can move things with her mind (telekinesis), Mel has the ability to stop time while Maggie can read thoughts (telepathy).
Helping the sisters navigate through this magical journey is the Whitelighter Harry Greenwood (Rupert Evans), a cheap rip-off of Buffy The Vampire Slayer’s Giles.
Sounds like a lot of emotional turmoil to sieve through, right? But no, the Charmed Ones process all these recent events with the ease and casualty of doing your weekly grocery shopping.
And here’s where the writing fails miserably. In the haste of diving right into the action in the first few episodes, the writers do so at the expense of character development.
Another glaring issue is the almost nonexisting chemistry between the Vera-Vaughn sisters. What made Charmed charming was the emotional upheavals between the Halliwell-Matthews sisters.
With the reboot, sisterhood feels secondary amid more grandiose aspirations like … well, feminism.
But credit where it’s due, I like how the show tries to integrate logic with scientist sister Macy. There are also some witty pop culture references thrown in.
Perhaps a younger generation of viewers might find some frothy witchy fun here.
But my advice is check out The Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina instead which has the right brew of empowerment and spellbinding themes.
At this juncture, the Charmed reboot is more mayhem than magic.
Charmed airs every Tuesday at 9.45pm on Blue Ant Entertaiment (unifi TV Ch 473).