Charmed Review and Opinion


Charmed (1999)
created by Constance M. Burge

review by Phil Emery

Once upon a time there were three little girls... Aaron Spelling's latest TV offering, Charmed, stirs up yet again the urge to go all structuralist and point out the female trinities that thread through almost all Spelling's concepts. (Even The Love Boat, with its three couples episode formula - hence three females again.) Let's see, it fits Beverley Hills 90210, Dynasty at a push (well, structuralism was never above the occasional shoehorning nudge). Sunset Beach (TV's only late lamented truly post-modern soap) even had a two-tier trinity with an older and younger trio of female protagonists. And of course the template most obviously fits Charlie's Angels.
   So here we go again, Mr Spelling - once upon a time there were three little witches. Prue, Piper and Phoebe Palliwell - sorry, Halliwell - discover they come from a family with a history of witchcraft, not to mention an obligatory 'Book of Shadows' in the attic. Prue (Shannen Doherty) possesses powers of telekinesis and astral projection, Piper (Holly Marie Combs) the ability to freeze time. Phoebe (Alyssa Milano), the youngest, originally tended to sulk because her power of precognition is pretty passive in comparison, but appears to be getting over this - so watch for another characterising device to take over.
   The stories have the Spelling trademark of inhumanly consistent competence - no real standout episodes, but no real stinkers either. If the blandness starts getting to you, like Charlie's Angels you can always look for signs of the rumoured strain between the actresses - though like Charlie's Angels you won't find any, the performances being just as competent as the rest of the product. Unlike Charlie's Angels, Charmed shows no reluctance to kill off main characters. Prue's love interest in the first season, cop Andy Trudeau went first, and now Prue herself follows in season four. The replacement, strangely enough, also has a name beginning with 'P'.
   When the replacement factor started kicking in with Charlie's Angels the initially sharp contrast between the three principals began to blur. In fact the basic character tarot of Charlie's Angels is uncannily replicated in Charmed: Kelly or Prue equals caring and over-serious, Sabrina or Piper equals practical and down-to-earth, Jill or Phoebe equals flirty free spirit. But at least new girl Paige doesn't seem to look much like Cheryl Ladd.

Related pages:
tZ Charlie's Angels - review of the big screen spinoff

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