The CW's Charmed reboot debuted at Comic-Con 2018 on Thursday. While I'm a big fan of the original, I was willing to give the modern adaptation a chance. I'd (partially) forgiven the network for disregarding Alyssa Milano, Holly Marie Combs, and Shannen Doherty after they showed interest in reprising their Halliwell roles — after all, actresses of their caliber aren't cheap. I was willing to give the show a fair shake despite its questionable trailer (beware: the comments section is a bleak place). If there was any possibility of getting Charmed back in my life, I was open. Sadly, however, I finished the pilot with one conclusion: All the Camila Cabello in the world isn't going to make this watchable. And I love control.
In the new Charmed, sisters Mel, Macy, and Maggie grapple with their newfound powers after their mom mysteriously dies. With the help of their mentor, a whitelighter named Harry (Rupert Evans), they face their fates and learn what it means to be witches in 2018. It sounds great. In the end, though, there's one thing that makes The CW's version a no-go for OG Charmed fans: It's not made for us.
"The original was so much about female empowerment and sisterhood and strong women taking over the world," said Urman, "and I feel like that’s what we need right now. It felt like a good time to get back to that and show women kicking ass."
"Charmed is so iconic. They laid the groundwork and we want to be respectful of that and the mythology of everything," Jeffery shared. "We want to honor it while bringing a modern twist. Come join us!"
"We come in peace," added Mantock. "The original was so wonderful and they were trailblazers and we could not be here without them. There is something in here for everyone, little treats for [original fans]."
But if its pilot is any indication, the series doesn't even try to pay homage to the original. It borrows the name and uses it for recognition, but it's a brand new production — one with cheesy lines, choppy editing, and a plot that feels stitched together from the wreckage of Charmed Ones past. It claims to be a new, improved "feminist" take on the original series (which was a badass, female-facing show in the first place) but it tries way too hard.
For example, in the pilot, grad student Mel bursts into Maggie's prospective sorority and yells at kids about consent. Later in the episode, Mel ends up punching someone in the face over an argument that starts because she puts too many "Time's Up" posters on a campus billboard. Their deceased mom was a women's studies professor and her replacement is a rumored pervert. When the sisters discover they're witches — arguably the most important scene of the episode — Harry reminds them "being a witch is a fully pro-choice enterprise."
This is a time when we desperately need the issues of equality, women's rights, and sexual harassment to be taken seriously. I'm all for a pointed joke about the patriarchy, but shoehorning feminism into every other line feels tone deaf in itself.
To make matters worse, the series contradicts its so-called feminist message as often as it preaches it. As Maggie aspires to join the sorority, she deals with a superficial mentor who epitomizes the "dumb blonde" stereotype. Aren't we supposed to be moving away from '80s tropes? In a separate scene, after a bad day, Macy's telekinetic powers manifest and she deprecatingly refers to herself as "drunk and clumsy" before she leaves a bar. Feminism shouldn't have to mean screaming the word "equality" to the skies. It should encourage subtle improvements that result in longterm change. In this way, the reboot has it backwards — a disappointing revelation when you consider Urman also made Jane the Virgin, one of the best series for women on television.
Charmed fans who don't mind fresh faces and a teen vibe will enjoy the show's souped up special effects and Evans's on-point acting. It's also possible the show needs time to develop its own identity. It has potential — not for fans looking for a true Charmed reboot, but as its own show, separate from the legacy it has failed to continue.