Charmed 2018 (The CW) pilot preview: Is the #STOPCHARMEDREBOOT movement worth the trouble?

Written and executive produced by Jennie Snyder Urman (Jane The Virgin, Emily Owens, MD, 90210, Gilmore Girls), Jessica O’Toole & Amy Rardin (Jane The Virgin, Selfie, The Carrie Diaries, Greek). Based on the 90’s hit series from Aaron Spelling. Also produced by Ben Silverman (Jane The Virgin, No Tomorrow, The Office, Ugly Betty). Directed by Brad Silberling (Jane The Virgin, Dynasty, Reign, Casper, A Series of Unfortunate Events). For The CW & CBS Television Studios. 61 pages. 2nd Revised Network Draft. 2/27/2018.

Description: Three sisters in a college town discover they are witches right after their mother died in mysterious circumstances. Between vanquishing supernatural demons, tearing down the patriarchy and maintaining familial bonds, a witch’s work is never done. Mel, Maggie & Macy will learn it the hard way…

With Melonie Diaz (Fruitvale Station, The Breaks, Nip/Tuck), Sarah Jaffery (Shades Of Blue, Disney’s The Descendants, Wayward Pines), Madeleine Mantock (Into The Badlands, The Tomorrow People), Rupert Evans (The Man In The High Castle), Ser’Darius Blain (Jane By Design, Jumanji), Charlie Gillepsie, Ellen Tamaki

  

Ever since The CW announced they were working on a Charmed reboot back in january 2017 -we were first to break the news and it was a prequel at the time, which is no longer the case- many outraged fans of the original show expressed their discontent -let’s call it like that- around the globe, while the actresses had some harsh words about it on their respective social media accounts. One year later, the network proceeded with a pilot pick-up anyway, that unleashed hell on earth. Original star Holly Marie Combs unloaded a magical amount of tweets to shade CBS -which owns the rights- like this one:

And she went on and on… In the meantime, a group of hardcore fans launched a Twitter campaign called #StopCharmedReboot, hoping it would discourage The CW but so far it didn’t work, as expected: new actresses were hired to play the three new incarnations of the story and a shooting date has been set (it starts march 19 in Vancouver). The movement is still going strong, with people airing their grievances every day but let’s be honest: unless the network is not happy with the finished product AT ALL, it’s gonna get picked-up to series, it’s gonna air next fall, it will get big streaming deals, it will be successfully sold internationally and even the most infuriated fans will take a look at it no matter what they say. The truth is: in the era of peak TV it’s getting harder and harder for your show to get some attention, that’s why there are so many reboots and sequels, and all this fuss about Charmed is helping it more than anything else; any press is still good press, right? If I had one advice to give to people who don’t want this show to work: STOP. TALKING. ABOUT. IT. Indifference is the strongest force in this universe! Right after The Power of Three, of course.

Without any further ado, I’m gonna tell you what I think of this pilot script. But first, just know I wasn’t a huge fan of the original show, I didn’t watch the entire thing, I never considered it as a must-see and I never understood why it was so popular and why it still is. But I have nothing but respect for a show that was able to please such a devoted and vibrant fanbase all around the world. It’s rare and precious. Also, what will follow is MY opinion only, from a business perspective more than anything else. Is it a promising script? Does it have the potential to become a hit for The CW? That’s what I’m interested in. Feel free to comment but please be respectful!

Back when the pilot was picked up in january, the network described it as “a fierce, funny, feminist reboot”, which was understood by many people as a provocation implying that the original show was not fierce, funny and feminist. Well, things have change, time has passed. What was feminist in the early 2000s -“girl power” and everything- looks a bit soft and cheesy nowadays. It was a first step. An important one. Charmed was a good example of female empowerment for little girls but it was no Buffy The Vampire Slayer. I don’t mean to belittle what was accomplished but let’s not rewrite history either. It was not groundbreaking. More than a decade later, in a world with the #MeToo movement -Rose McGowan is a huge part of it and it’s no coincidence- and shows like The Handmaid’s Tale, a straight follow-up wouldn’t have made a lot of sense. We can’t blame the new writers and producers for wanting to be timely. Their goal is to appeal to a new generation -with younger characters- and address the most pressing issues women face nowadays (the “case of the week” part is about a professor who’s a predator). So let me rephrase it: the Charmed reboot is fiercier, funnier and more feminist than the original show. I’m not sure it sounds better but you’ll have to deal with it! That being said, the script tries way too hard to look “woke”. More subtlety wouldn’t have hurt anyone. They’re clearly making a statement here, let’s just hope they relax a little after the pilot, not making it too heavy all the time.

The whole Mel character, the middle sister who’s a passionate feminist and an outspoken activist -with the ability to freeze time- sounds a little too cliché, especially when you add the fact that she’s a lesbian. Hear me out: it’s great there’s a lesbian sister in the show, that’s one of the reasons why this version is modern. BUT it might have been more interesting to give the feminist attribute to another character, so we don’t fall into the usual “feminists are homosexuals (who hate men)” trap. Still, she’s probably the most interesting character here; after the family tragedy, she becomes angry and violent, she loses her way, she loses her girlfriend too -Nico, who’s a detective in Hilltowne- so she adds darkness to a show that’s not light-hearted. Maybe that’s the biggest difference with the original Charmed: it can be funny because the dialogues are sometimes great and inspired -and we recognize the Jane The Virgin team here- but it’s pretty gloomy overall. The family manor is right in the middle of frightening woods, not in a sunny street of San Francisco. The opening sequence leans towards the horrific genre, with jump scares, fog, crows, murder of crows even… Same goes for the end with a Ouija board in the attic, and whisperings… A totally different atmosphere that is closer to Buffy, Riverdale or American Horror Story than good ol’ Charmed.

The younger sister, Maggie, is the complete opposite of Mel. She’s 18, your typical millenial girl who’s worried about her social identity -too bad for her, she can hear other people’s thoughts- and she’s not happy at all to discover that she’s a witch. She has a wry sense of humor and she’s part of a sorority that will probably play a major role in the subsequent episodes, between the mean girls she wants to be friends with and the weird guys that are lurking around her. She will probably become a fan favorite. Last but not least, the older sister who didn’t know she had sisters until recently: Macy, a “science nerd” in her late 20s with a Ph.D. in quantum physics. She’s moving with her boyfriend named Galvin to Hilltowne to do lab work. She possesses the power of telekinesis. Her love story is already totally boring and I’m not sure Gavin will stick around much longer. Finally, there’s Harry, the girls’ “devilishly handsome” advisor, refered to as a “whitelighter” like Leo was, who adds a lot of humor and eccentricity whenever he appears. Think Eliot in The Magicians. But he’s not exactly who he says he is…

You’re probably wondering if the Book of Shadows is still part of the story and the answer is yes. The Power of Three? Yes, of course. Are the Halliwell sisters part of the story or even refered to? Not at all. I don’t think they will ever exist in this version. It’s not a sequel. If the overall tone is darker, they kept most of the original show’s premice. They’re still the most powerful witches ever known, destined to protect both innocents and the world at large from demons and other devil creatures. They didn’t lie: it really is an update of the same concept with characters that are more diverse. It’s not just using the show’s name and popularity to do something totally different. It’s fast-paced, with transitions throughout that consist of three quick cuts which are in fact small slices of each women’s stories. Think How To Get Away Murder. They do something similar. I find it irritating on paper here and it doesn’t add much but why the hell not after all… We’re promised monsters of the week cases as well as ongoing stories about the witches’ love lives while the bigger picture is probably kept for later, once they will be familiar with their powers.

The Charmed fans will be pissed to read this but this pilot script is pretty decent. It’s not an insult to the original though they’re doing like The Halliwells never existed (and some might find that insulting, I get it). It’s modern and as feminist as they claimed, though subtlety is not their strong suit. The characters have things to say and stories to tell that should be heard in those troubled times. In other words, it’s not revolutionary in any way but it’s not the trainwreck haters would like it to be and there’s really nothing to rally against. Ignore it, don’t watch it, just let it be. There are more important battles worth fighting for. 

33 comments

  1. Lu says:

    I’m a HUGE fan of Charmed! It was my childhood. I don’t have high hopes, tbh. No reboots I’ve seen have been that good, of anything.

    One thing that did irk me about the original is that it wasn’t like Buffy…. we could’ve had continued stories. I hated monster of the week shows!

    Let’s hope they do it justice!

    Is this script available for us to read? How did you manage to get your hands on it?

  2. UK Couple says:

    We are sick to death of reboots, remakes, sequels and prequels!!!

    Come up with something new for pities sake!

    We don’t watch any boots, remakes, sequels or prequels.

    Oh and while we are here, we are sick to death of superhero style series and films, post apocalyptic films and series, and ‘very dark’ stuff.

    Bring back light, fluffy, positive and life affirming stuff… There’s enough doom and gloom in the world without having it rammed down our throats on TV and cinema!

    • Khloe says:

      How is it down your throat no one is making you watch it and as for why the reboots because tv made it that way if you don’t like it I suggest not watching tv cause reboots are every where nowadays ‍♀️

    • Michaela says:

      I agree. “Darker” doesn’t necessarily mean better. Shows that try way too hard to be dark and gritty make me roll my eyes. Part of the appeal of the original version of Charmed was that it didn’t take itself too seriously. If they’re going to cynically and lazily exploit Charmed’s IP, the least they could do is avoid leaching the fun out of it.

  3. Vince says:

    I am shocked that it is getting a darker tone. Could losing Sabrina made them go for that tone?
    Are there hints of power advancement like in the original show?

  4. Katie says:

    Does the script make it clear exactly what the ages of the sisters are? How much age difference is there between Madison/Margarita and Mel and Mel and Macy?

  5. Richard says:

    Wondering if the mother is actually alive and dies in the first scene or is like the original series where Grams was already dead before the series?

    I’m liking the darker feel of the series and it is way more than the original series, so I hope the first demon they face in the pilot is cool unless they don’t even vanquish anyone in the opening episode?

    Great script preview!

  6. Khloe says:

    Love the darker tone aspect feel like imma like this way more than the original it was okay but after s3 it went down hill quick looking forward to this ❤️

  7. Craig says:

    Interesting they went with the story of the second set of sisters from Charmed. Macy being the Paige who learns she has sisters. Only difference she is the oldest and grew up as an only child. Unless she is a full sister but just wasn’t raised with them.

    Guess well find out why Macy didn’t grow up with her sisters or half sisters?

  8. Jeremiah says:

    I loved the original show but at this point im so desperate for another supernatural tv show and we should at least let the show come out before judging it. Sure the original is and always will be best but give the reboot a chance.

      • James says:

        Apparently, where the line is drawn between Generation Y and Gen Z fluctuates depending on certain factors, but many seem to peg it betweem 1996-1998. The years following 2000 would have been the defining moment where children born in that era have grown up never having known what life feels like with online technology they have since immersed themselves in.

  9. Oxygen says:

    I am a huge fan of the original Charmed and I wasn’t excited by the project. And I am still not sold, but not because there is a project, even though I am protective of the original, but because the project just didn’t sound good. And knowing a charmed reboot with a lesbian witch is a dream for me, that says a lot.
    First problem being the lack of subtlety (and it isn’t a first from CW) be it in the synopsis or character descriptions. The handmaid’s tale, since you mentioned it, didn’t need to describe itself as feminist, it’s a given. So yes, I didn’t like that promotional stunt. And the cliché, I am homosexual and quite feminist, and that character description had me eye rolling really really really hard. What did we say about subtlety?

    Actually “fiercier, funnier and more feminist” does sound a lot better. Haha.
    For all the love I have for this show, it sure had a lot of faults and seeing a fiercer, funnier and more feminist charmed, a better charmed is in fact all I could want.

    I loved the show because of the relationship and the bond between the sisters and the way it was written and it had a mythology with a great potential. And it’s also part of my childhood.

    • Michaela says:

      The lack of subtlety is definitely a major problem. If they actually manage to make the storytelling and the characterization of the three sisters more feminist, that would be awesome. I’m just worried that they’re using feminism as a marketing ploy and they’ll only back it up with the occasional #GirlPower speech. Like you said, the feminism should be self-evident in the writing like it is in shows like The Handmaid’s Tale. The main focus should be the relationship between the three sisters and the fun mythology. I like that they’re trying to update it for modern times and I hope they’re not using Mel’s queerness and feminism as a gimmick. Both things need to be consistent parts of her character but they can’t define her.

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