Created by master television craftsman Aaron Spelling, Charmed first came onto the scene in 1998 and was immediately accused of being nothing more than a watered-down version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
In some respects that may have been so, but give Spelling his due; he always had an uncanny knack of gauging the public taste and coming up with the right product at the right time, and as Dynasty captured the materialistic eighties to perfection so this combination of "Buffy" meets "Girl Power" came at a time when the viewing public was showing a renewed interest in magic and witchcraft. And with unerring Spelling timing it was also the year that the public were about to catch on to a children's character created the year before - Harry Potter.
Of course, having three attractive lead actresses doesn't hinder a series chances of success as Spelling had already proved in his 1970's cop series Charlie's Angel's, but that is a very simplistic (and some might say chauvinistic) view and in all fairness every series should be judged on its own merits. But first-and for those unfamiliar with the series, here's a potted history: After losing her job, Phoebe Halliwell returns to her family home-a large Victorian house in San Francisco-only to be greeted with a very frosty reception by her two sisters, Prue and Piper. Unbeknown to them (at the outset) the three girls are the recipients of a strange legacy because like their mother and grandmother before them, they are witches or 'charmed ones'. Phoebe discovers a book of witchcraft and recites an incantation that awakens the trio's dormant powers. But whilst they had been ignorant of their destinies they had been protected from evil, now that they knew about it and could use their powers, they were targets, and in the opening story a witch-murdering warlock turns his attention on them. Collectively they use incantations from the Book of Shadows to cast spells (although they have to be together as a team for the incantations to work), and each girl has her own unique ability, seeing into the future (Phoebe), the ability to freeze time (Piper) and telekinesis (Pru).
What tended to set this series apart is that it didn't necessarily follow any established format. Indeed one of the strengths of the show was its ability to evolve its mythology as the powers of the Halliwell sisters continue to grow. As one fan puts it: "You see Buffy is just Buffy. She's the Slayer and she's there to slay monsters and that's about the extent of it." In Charmed the characters faced all manner of problems from Warlocks to gangs of robbers. They travelled to different time periods and they even switched genders. In fact, at the outset of each episode the viewer never knew where the journey was going to take them.
A central theme throughout the show's run was the sisters' struggle to balance their normal lives with their supernatural existence. Keeping their secret from the outside world not only created tensions in their friendships but also made it difficult to develop relationships.
The series ended its US run on 21 May 2006, the finale, "Forever Charmed", pulling in a season high of 4.49 million viewers. Charmed was blessed with good writing, a fine line in well honed sibling humour knowingly laced with just the correct mixture of blackness, and an exceedingly well-cast and accomplished young female leads. The series gradually developed from an obvious "Buffy" clone into a wry, often excitingly unexpected example of televisual fantasy in its own right.
(The series finished in 2006 but was rebooted in 2018 - the reboot is currently not featured on this site).
Published on December 3rd, 2018. Written by SRH for Television Heaven.