Without claiming to be a fan as such, I’m quite fond of the original Charmed. I wasn’t a regular viewer but I caught a lot of repeats over recent years and I shipped Piper and Leo hard, so even though the series technically ended in 2006, it really doesn’t feel that long ago to me, and a reboot/ re-imagining seems both very early and somewhat unnecessary as a result. I can understand why some of the show’s fanbase are so upset by it. But I can also understand why the CW thought it was a good idea. I mean, ok, on the surface, it’s a fantasy romantic drama about sisters who happen to be legendary witches using their extraordinary magical powers to save innocent people from evil things, but look a little deeper and it’s a warm-hearted feminist fable about a group of women, persecuted throughout history, and the immense power for change and for good that they have when they band together. In the Time’s Up/ Me Too era, it’s bang on trend.
Unfortunately, however, Charmed 2.0 knows exactly how “now” it is and is determined to make sure the viewer is too. I’m not talking about the changes made to the sisters’ ethnicity or sexual orientation; if you have to do a reboot, diversifying the main characters and changing things up so the new, modern version of the show has a new, modern identity of its own is fair enough. But this new version and these new characters are ill-served by the programme-makers’ determination to imbue them with as many Twitter talking points as humanly – or indeed magically – possible. Every second line is either a homily about something – consent, representation, the patriarchy, sexual harassment, etc – delivered with all the subtlety of a foghorn, or it’s a set-up for the next one, and while I’m completely on board with what the show is trying to say, even l don’t particularly enjoy being lectured for fortyish minutes.
Don’t get me wrong, I want my tv drama to be progressive and feminist and inclusive. I want it to be woke. This show is preaching to the choir as far as I’m concerned. But I also want my tv drama to be entertaining and well-written and New Charmed is neither of those things, largely because it doesn’t seem to trust itself or its audience with anything more than constant, flashing neon reminders of how well-meaning it all is. The sisters’ mother, for instance, is (a) a women’s studies professor who is (b) murdered while (c) spearheading an investigation into (d) sexual harassment allegations by a young woman who has (e) since been suspiciously silenced against (f) a respected male professor who turns out to be an ancient demon who (g) feeds his power by draining women of their strength – it’s like the writers are playing liberal bingo, and checking off as many talking points as they can possibly cram in to one episode. Save some for next week, Charmed!
I’ve been trying to write thus review for three days now and each time I end up feeling bad about it. The bottom line is that tv drama is a great tool for exploring important issues and changing attitudes, and New Charmed is commendably keen to be a part of that. It’s just far too heavy-handed about it, and the fun and the, er, charm of the original show is conspicuously missing from this pilot episode as a result. It might well get better once it stops trying so hard, but at the moment it seems boring and cringe-worthy, and neither the characters nor any of the plotlines are anywhere near entertaining enough to make me want to waste any more time on it. I’m done.