Three sisters are reunited and together discover they are endowed with the power of witchcraft.
178 episodes of 45 minute duration. The WB 1998-2006.
Created by master television craftsman Aaron Spelling, "Charmed" first came onto the scene in 1998 and was immediately accused of being nothing more than a watered-down version of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer". In some respects that may have been so, but give Spelling his due; he always had an uncanny knack of gauging the public taste and coming up with the right product at the right time, and as "Dynasty" captured the materialistic eighties to perfection so this combination of "Buffy" meets "Girl Power" came at a time when the viewing public was showing a renewed interest in magic and witchcraft. And with unerring Spelling timing it was also the year that the public were about to catch on to a children's character created the year before -Harry Potter.
Of course having three attractive lead actresses doesn't hinder a series chances of success as Spelling had already proved in his 1970's cop series "Charlie's Angel's", but that is a very simplistic (and some might say chauvinistic) view and in all fairness every series should be judged on its own merits. But first -and for those unfamiliar with the series, here's a potted history: After losing her job, Phoebe Halliwell (Alyssa Milano) returns to her family home -a large Victorian house in San Francisco- only to be greeted with a very frosty reception by her two sisters, Prue (Shannen Doherty) and Piper (Holly Marie Combs). Unbeknown to them (at the outset) the three girls are the recipients of a strange legacy because like their mother and grandmother before them, they are witches or 'charmed ones'. Phoebe discovers a book of witchcraft and recites an incantation that awakens the trio's dormant powers. But whilst they had been ignorant of their destinies they had been protected from evil, now that they knew about and could use their powers, they were targets, and in the opening story a witch-murdering warlock turns his attention on them.
Collectively they use incantations from the Book of Shadows to cast spells (although they have to be together as a team for the incantations to work), and each girl has her own unique ability, seeing into the future (Phoebe), the ability to freeze time (Piper) and telekinesis (Pru).
Executive Producer Brad Kern said at the time: "The series is about three sisters who happen to be witches and not three witches who happen to be sisters." Each sister is individual in her own personality and based on writer/creator Constance Burge and her own sisters. "The oldest sibling is always very focused and driven and successful," said Constance Burge. "The middle sibling tends to be the negotiator and the middle-man, and because she's always in the middle, the humorous one. Then the youngest is always getting into trouble or in conflict with the eldest. That was me!" What tended to set this series apart is that it didn't necessarily follow any established format. Burge said the show was driven by the characters and not by the plots. "As long as we're approaching through character we're learning something new about them and that makes the show interesting." Indeed one of the strengths of the show is its ability to evolve its mythology as the powers of the Halliwell sisters continue to grow. As one fan puts it: "You see Buffy is just Buffy. She's the Slayer and she's there to slay monsters and that's about the extent of it." In “Charmed” the characters faced all manner of problems from Warlocks to gangs of robbers. They travelled to different time periods and they even switched genders. In fact, at the outset of each episode the viewer never knew where the journey was going to take them.
After the tragic and unexpected death of Prue (Shannen Doherty 'officially' having chosen to leave the series - although rumours persisted that her departure was against her will, due to a feud with co-star Alyssa Milano), Piper and Phoebe learned that they had a younger half-sister named Paige (Rose McGowan), born to their mother Patty and Sam, her Whitelighter, a guardian angel for witches. From her father, Paige inherited a unique power of her own. Like Prue, Paige had the power of telekinesis and the power to "orb." Paige is able to move an object by calling for it; the object then orbs to her, or to any location she wishes. With the arrival of Paige, the girls were able to reconstitute the “Power of Three”.
A central theme throughout the show's run was the sisters' struggle to balance their normal lives with their supernatural existence. Keeping their secret from the outside world not only created tensions in their friendships but also made it difficult to develop relationships. A few were taken into their confidence such as police inspectors Andy Trudeau and Darryl Morris, tormented half-demon Cole Turner, a mysterious time-traveller, Chris Perry, sisters Christy and Billie Jenkins and Paige's husband Henry Mitchell. Leo Wyatt, a Whitelighter assigned by the Elders to guide and protect the sisters, heals their wounds, advises them collectively and individually, and mediates between them and the enigmatic Elders. He also becomes the love of Piper's life, her husband and the father of her children.
The series ended its US run on May 21st 2006, the finale, "Forever Charmed", pulling in a season high of 4.49 million viewers. "Charmed" was blessed with good writing, a fine line in well honed sibling humour knowingly laced with just the correct mixture of blackness, and an exceedingly well-cast and accomplished young female leads. The series gradually developed from an obvious "Buffy" clone into a wry, often excitingly unexpected example of televisual fantasy in its own right.
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