Title: Charmed (2018) – pilot episode
Genre: Urban fantasy – supernatural
Sweet Strawberries: Sweet StrawberrySweet StrawberrySweet Strawberry

Review: Last week the first episode of a new series aired in the UK.  Charmed is a reboot of the original series which began in 1998, twenty years ago.  The reboot, however, didn’t contain any of the original cast members and ignored the previous series entirely, as if it had never existed.  So was this a good move by the producers, or has the new series started off on the wrong foot?

Like many people airing their love or distain about the new series, I watched the original when I was a teenager.  Getting to know the Halliwell sisters, their new powers and the dark forces they were up against was fun.  That series instantly drew me in and was a big hit with many.  The dynamic between the characters was good, and there were some good personal stories and you got to know a cast of strong characters who all made you feel like a part of the magic.  The previous series was undeniably good and lasted for eight seasons (ending in 2006).  It made a lasting impact on fans and continued to air on channels in the UK until recently.  So when a new Charmed was being created, fans had mixed feelings.  While many reboots to series are popular and bring in the former fanbase as well as new viewers, this new Charmed reboot is different and has had a lot of negative views aired publicly.

The new series began with a pilot episode that felt so-so.  I tried to distance myself from the previous Charmed and decided to treat this like a new show while watching.  While I don’t like many remakes, I know of some that have been done very well – even being better than th original, however this one to me fell a little flat.  From the start we are introduced to two of the three sisters.  Maggie and Mel live with their mother and soon find their mother lying dead, killed by someone, or something.  Although the death was handled well, the two sisters just didn’t feel like characters I cared much for.  Maggie is a girl who is trying to join a greek house, she’s a little like Phoebe in the fact that she just wants to enjoy her life.  Mel on the other hand, we soon learn is a gay feminist and activist who gets very angry and enjoys protesting.  I found it hard to like her character, not because she’s gay or a feminist, in fact those two things are good to see in a modern remake.  But I disliked her because she seemed like such a stereotype.  Their older half-sister is soon brought into the plot with Macy just turning up after reading about the death of their mother.  She just turns up one day, just like that.  The meeting of the three sisters seemed a little too convenient and despite there being tension, mainly from Mel, it just didn’t feel realistic, almost like the acting was forced.

As the sisters inherit their powers and later use them the show becomes more interesting.  We are also introduced to the girl’s whitelighter, a character which wasn’t introduced properly into the original series until later.  The plot of this pilot episode felt very rushed.  There was a decent story with what happens around the issue of the professor and later a demon, but the way the characters are all introduced and the situation they end up in felt so rushed.  The action happens over a short space of time and it felt like the producers just wanted to get all the main plot points about witches, whitelighters, the sisters powers, etc.  out of the way as quick as possible.  The characters don’t seem too freaked out by their abilities, they even master them quickly – unlike in the original series where the sisters had trouble controlling them.  There is also very little interesting dynamic between the three sisters.  There was tension in the original show between the oldest Prue and the youngest Phoebe.  Middle sister Piper was left literally in the middle as the two clashed.  This early tension between sisters felt real and lended to the brilliance of the original episode.  But this new show felt like a mad rush to get all the characters to where they are supposed to be, and any interesting relationship or introduction between the sisters had been lost.

On the good side, this show isn’t afraid to delve into difficult topics.  The first episode deals with issues that surrounded the #MeToo campaign and adds more diverse characters, with all three sisters coming from diverse backgrounds, Mel is also gay which makes the show feel like it’s moved with the times since the original.  The special effects in this show are also much better than the original with the demons looking far scarier and more akin to things you’d see in Buffy rather than the original Charmed, but with better effects as technology has moved on.  But there is a big problem with the series.

It’s clearly trying to target a younger audience than the original did, and maybe this is where it has faltered.  The original series was loved by many and a lot of the fans from the original who were young when watching it, may well want to watch the reboot along with the younger teen audience that this show is aimed at.  But it feels very much more geared toward the younger audience and I remember telling my family as we watched this that it felt like they were trying to Buffyfy (is that a word!?) the old Charmed.  It feels very much like Charmed has been made to resemble a Buffy show, with demons, situations, British guides (Harry resembles Giles from Buffy) and the darker atmosphere of Buffy taking over the original’s light and more fun tone.  And to fans of the original who I’m sure made up a large number of viewers, this just wasn’t what they wanted to see, they wanted a bit of something from the original.

There’s nothing wrong with a new Charmed series, but this one has it’s issues.  I think the pilot has done too much too fast and it’s bad for the producers to rush this first episode as pilot  really does act as a showpiece for the whole series and does affect how many people plan to tune in the following week.  I do plan to keep watching the show, I don’t feel especially compelled, but like with a book that starts off badly, I like to get further into the story to see if it’s worth continuing or if I should abandon it.  Perhaps if this Charmed reboot had mentioned a previous three sisters who were Charmed, or had a cameo by one of the original cast, or if there had been some kind of reference to the original show rather than attempting to write over all which was loved in the original, I would feel more for this initial opening episode.  But right now I can’t give it more than 3 Sweet Strawberries.  It was decent, but there just wasn’t that ‘charm’ of the original.

-All images are copyright of the studio and/or creators and are shown here under fair use.

Have you watched the new Charmed series?  What did you think of the pilot episode?  Did you enjoy the original?  Let me know what you think in the comments below 🙂  -no spoilers of future episodes though please 🙂