One of the challenges with reviewing a reboot is remembering that what you actually remember about the previous version is the characters that the actors and actresses created over time, the final product so to speak. If I look back at Season 1, for example, of Star Trek: The Next Generation, the characters seem almost like caricatures in comparison with who the actors “became” as they learned to embody and develop the role. Similarly for shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer…season 1 is nowhere near as polished as the more mature versions of the characters a few seasons later.
So watching the pilot for the reboot of Charmed, I should try to compare it to Season 1 of the original Charmed, not the fully developed characters of the later seasons, right?
Well, in short, I can’t. There are three things that stand out for me in the episode as different from the original Charmed.
First and foremost, the sisters seem WAY younger than the originals. When Charmed appeared in 1998, Shannon Doherty had already done 111 episodes of Beverly Hills 90210, and at the age of 27, she was a seasoned TV veteran. Holly Marie Combs was only 25, but had 88 episodes of Picket Fences under her belt. Alyssa Milano was in the middle at age 26, with 40 episodes of Melrose Place and 196 episodes of Who’s The Boss.
For the new show, Melonie Diaz looks like she’s 12 even though she’s actually 34, yet she has only a handful of TV shows for multiple episode arcs plus guest-of-the-week gigs. Madeleine Mantock is 28, and has been on a few shows for full seasons. I liked her on The Tomorrow People and Into the Badlands, although I find it interesting that she seems older than Diaz in the episode. Sarah Jeffery is the relative baby of the group at age 22, but she has a couple of shows that have gone for a season or two. Overall then, on the age front, the new Charmed ones are actually spread out more, but they look way younger in the roles, and have far less experience of creating roles over multiple seasons. I actually felt like I was watching the high-school version, rather than a freshman university level trio.
Second, they have upped the ante on spookiness. There are several scenes where people popped out or birds erupt from doorways, and it was enough to make me jump more than once. I don’t remember a tense/fright factor in the old show, but it was also often a bit too light-in-tone, almost a PG version of hunting demons.
Third, maybe it’s the change from old series premise (grandmother dies) to new series premise (mother dies), or the fact that the third sister shows up and while a complete surprise to the other two, one of them is like “Cool”. No angst about “mom never told us”, no “WTF?” moments over time. Sure, one is suspicious of the person claiming to be a third sister, but there is NO recrimination against mom by the other two, and only a mild complaint by the sister who was abandoned.
Or maybe the issue is that I just didn’t buy the whole “oh, look, I have witch powers” being such a quick change for the three of them. By the end of the episode, I feel like it was just “Okay, we’re superheroes now, all good.” Even the final battle is WAY too easy. And don’t get me started on the previous battle that we DON’T EVEN GET TO SEE (?) that happens off-screen.
Bottom line…I wanted to like the show, as I liked the old one, and I hoped it would be good enough to keep watching. Sight unseen, I did however predicted it would be CANCELLED, and after watching the first episode, now I’m sure of it. I just don’t see any of the three of them being strong enough to anchor the show.
Sorry, Charmed ones, I’m out.