October 15, 2018

SHOWBUZZDAILY Series Premiere Review: “Charmed”


CHARMED:  Sunday 9PM on CW

CW’s reboot of CHARMED wants to be a lighthearted supernatural romp, but it also seeks to push as many topical buttons as it possibly can.  So while the basic story of a trio of young women witches provides a built-in tale of female empowerment, the new pilot also comes equipped with a #MeToo #TimesUp storyline, as well as dialogue that references the acceptability of sororities and the definition of consent.  In addition, the sisters are now the Latina Melanie (Melonie Diaz) and Maggie (Sarah Jeffery), along with their previously unknown half-sibling, the biracial Macy (Madeleine Mantock).  Melanie is also gay.  The script even finds room for an anti-Trump shot.

There’s certainly precedent for mixing fantasy with social metaphor, but it helps to be at the level of Joss Whedon circa Buffy The Vampire Slayer to pull it off.  In that light, it’s worth parsing the writing credits for the new Charmed.  The original series was created by Constance M. Burge, and since the basic premise is the same, she keeps her “Created by” credit and also has her name on the pilot story.  Jane the Virgin creator Jennie Snyder Urman has a share of the story credit too, and she’s one of those on the “Developed by” credit, but she’s not named in the teleplay credit.  That goes to Jessica O’Toole and Amy Rardin, the other “Developed by” writers, which means they’re probably the main creative powers here.  While they’ve also been writer/producers on Jane the Virgin, all this is is to say that one would be overly optimistic in hoping to find here the smooth tone and formal innovations associated with Urman’s work on Jane.

By necessity, the pilot has a ton of exposition.  The sisters’ mother Marisol (Valerie Cruz) dies while in the midst of unlocking her daughters’ powers, which the young women then have to learn about, via the very Giles-like Harry Greenwood (Rupert Evans):  telekinesis for Macy, telepathy for Maggie, and the ability to stop time for Melanie.  The sisters have to meet their new-in-town sibling, and then they have to choose whether to retain their new powers or go back to a non-supernatural life.  Plus there’s their destiny to save the world, and the need to vanquish a couple of demons amid the continuing mystery of their mother’s death.

With all that to impart, the pilot doesn’t have much room for characterization, beyond the fact that Maggie is a bit less earnest than Melanie (Maggie is the one who wants to join a sorority), and Macy is a slightly nerdy scientist.  The three actresses are likable, but have little chance to do more than establish who they’re playing.  The script’s social messages are also so blunt that they might as well be comic book captions.  Brad Silberling’s direction connects the narrative dots, but the special effects budget is notably paltry, even by CW standards, and one assumes that regular series episodes will be even more threadbare than the pilot.

The new incarnation of Charmed doesn’t cast much of a spell on first glance, and it’s a little annoying in its unsubtle incorporation of slogans to proclaim how woke it is.  Now that its exposition is out of the way, however, perhaps its real storytelling can begin.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."