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.