Charmed: Season 1
August 28, 2005
Charmed could have easily been a simple television retread of The Craft (1996). Instead, it has become, over the years and seven seasons later, a positive representation of smart, beautiful, empowered women. The show quickly dispels the traditional image of witches as evil, old hags dressed in black and riding broomsticks and presents them as contemporary women who tap into Mother Nature and fight for the forces of good. Charmed also treats the Wicca religion with the proper amount of respect that it deserves.
The three Halliwell sisters inherit a house from their grandmother and discover The Book of Shadows which unlocks a secret: they are actually descendants from a long line of witches. The Book also unlocks their dormant powers: the head-strong Prue (Doherty) can move objects and people, the responsible Piper (Combs) can freeze time and the wild child Phoebe (Milano) can see into the future.
Every episode has the sisters face some deadly threat—usually demons or warlocks—that force them to work as a team a.k.a. “The Power of Three” and only then do they prevail. In addition to fighting the forces of evil, the Halliwell sisters have to be careful not to reveal their powers in public and risk exposing their true nature to society (who would either fear or not understand them). However, they end up repeatedly crossing paths with two police detectives, Trudeau (King) and Morris (Gregory) who are initially suspicious of them. The sisters always seem to be involved in crimes that defy normal logic but gradually the two detectives become their allies.
Over the course of the season, romance blossoms between Prue and Trudeau and the sisters fight an assortment of baddies, including a sleep demon that almost defeats an overworked Prue, a rival witch who tries to steal the sisters’ powers, and a vengeful 300-year old warlock who was trapped in a locket by a Halliwell ancestor. The appearance of Leo (Krause) partway through the series not only provides a potential love interest for Piper but a surprise ally. He turns out to be a White Lighter, a being with the ability to heal and teleport himself and others. Krause brings a fresh-faced boy-next-door vibe and the chemistry between him and Combs is good (something that later seasons will capitalize on).
The show is well cast. The roles of the three leads are suited to their respective strengths and play well off their public reputations. Shannen Doherty, who is known to be an opinionated diva in real life plays Prue as the sister who tells-it-like-it-is. Alyssa Milano, who appeared in several racy B-movies prior to Charmed, plays the flirtaceous Phoebe. Holly Marie Combs is the glue that keeps them altogether and has a natural earth-mother quality that is perfectly suited for the practical Piper. The dynamic between the three actresses is excellent. They do a good of playing off each other and over the season accurately portray the tensions that often arise between siblings—especially when they are living under the same roof. They get under each other’s skin and have their disagreements but, ultimately, they love each other.
The creators of the show aren’t stupid. They know what gets ratings and three actresses often parade around in tasteful but tight-fitting clothing or mid-rift revealing outfits that show-off their attractive figures. Charmed also maintains the right mix of mysteries for the sisters to solve, action sequences and a healthy dose of humour (they jokingly reference The Exorcist at one point and playfully poke fun at the traditional witch stereotype).
Charmed also capitalizes on its setting—San Francisco—with many establishing shots that give a sense of place. Most television shows rely predominantly on generic sets that give off a neutral vibe but this show never lets us forget where we are this only enhances the atmosphere.
This is perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the set. With such a devoted fan base that has waited so long for DVDs of this show to finally come out, the surprising lack of extras is a real slap in the face. No trailers, featurettes, or commentaries. Nothing. The folks at Paramount really need to study the work Fox has done on their TV shows (especially Angel and Buffy) to see how it’s done and to support the show’s loyal fans.