Charmed: The Complete First Season review by Mike Long

Unlike many TV-on-DVD boxed sets, there are no extra features at all on the Charmed: The Complete First Season set, so I have no information about the origin of the show or how it made it to television. But, I think it probably went a little something like this:

Aaron Spelling: Hi. I've got an idea for a new TV show.

The WB: Great. Let's hear it.

Aaron Spelling: OK. Shannen Doherty is a witch.

The WB: Fine. But what's your show idea?

OK, seriously, it was probably a bit more complicated than that. And given the fact that the show has now been for eight seasons, I was curious to see what it was all about. I found the show to be intriguing, but I wasn't exaclty Charmed.

Charmed tells the story of the three Halliwell sisters in live in their ancestral home in San Francisco. The oldest, Prue (Shannen Doherty), works in the antique and auction industry and often finds herself running the household. The middle sister, Piper (Holly Marie Combs), is a chef and acts as a go-between with Prue, and Phoebe (Alyssa Milano), the wild-child, who has just moved back to San Francisco from New York. While in the attic, whose door has up until recently been locked, Phoebe finds a large tome entitled "The Book of Shadows". She recites an incantation from the book and suddenly she and her sisters are endowed with magical powers. Prue can move objects with her mind, Piper can freeze time, and Phoebe has premonitions. It seems that both the girl's mother and grandmother were witches, and the sisters have inherited this power. Being powerful witches, they find themselves constantly battling other supernatural beings who want to steal their abilities. Also, the sisters appear to have been charged with protecting the innocent and they must use their powers to help those in need of help. Those constantly puts them in the path of police investigator Andy Trudeau (Ted King), an old flame of Prue's. While using their powers and saving the world, the three ladies must attempt to lead normal lives and keep their secret from others.

Over the last three decades, even when horror was at its lowest, there were still horror/supernatural/thriller films being released. The same can also be said for genre television, as the networks have always seemed game to giving horror shows a try. (Note that I said a "try". I never said that they stick with them.) For the last eight years, fans of occult TV have been blessed with many great shows, the two best being Buffy, the Vampire Slayer and Angel. Unfortunately, the prowess of those two programs make Charmed pale in comparison.

Now, Charmed isn't a total disaster or waste of time (I sat through all 22 episodes, so there must be something to it.), and it certainly has its moments. The show is frequently well-written, especially when it comes to the interactions between the three sisters -- their dialogue and reactions towards one another rings true. The writers also do a good job of pitting the Halliwell's against foes which challenge them and force them to use their powers in creative ways.

But, the show also displays a case of "First Season Jitters". This is obvious in the episodic nature of the series. There are three storylines which run throughout the first season, but these are merely touched on in certain episodes, they don't drive the show. The majority of the episodes have self-contained stories which are nicely resolved in the 40-minute span of the show. Some of these stories aren't exactly clear, especially those which deal with the sister's mother and grandmother. We only get bits and pieces of who these women were and it's not in a "slowly revealing pieces of the puzzle way", but more in a "we forgot to tell you that way". The show is also oddly edited and there are several episodes where it feels as if entire scenes are missing. The variety of monsters and baddies is good, but the special effects are usually quite lacking. One of the odder aspects of Charmed is the Andy Trudeau character. Even if they are driving home the point of Prue being "charmed", it's ridiculous to believe that Andy would be involved in every case that the Halliwell's are behind. At times, it seems as if Andy is the only cop in San Francisco! Charmed is an interesting show which certainly has potential, but Season One felt quite hollow to me. I do look forward to checking out the later seasons to see if the show can truly produce any magic.

Charmed suddenly appears on DVD courtesy of Paramount Home Entertainment. The six disc boxed set contains all 22 episodes from the show's first season. These episodes are presented in their original 1.33:1 aspect ratio. The images look pretty good, as they are quite sharp, but they do show a slight bit of grain. The colors look fine, although they are slightly washed out at times. Also, the picture can be somewhat soft from time-to-time. There are a minor amount of edge-enhancement problems visible, but artifacting is kept to a minimum. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital stereo audio track which is very disappointing. The sound is very weak and tinny, making the dialogue have a definite echo effect. I had to make many adjustments to my receiver to make the audio bearable. As noted above, there are no extras on the disc, which is odd, because according to, two behind-the-scenes documentaries about Charmed exist.

5 out of 10 Jackasses

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