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Something I Said: ‘Charmed’ Revisited

Dwight Hobbes.

By DWIGHT HOBBES

If something isn’t broke, don’t fix it.  So goes the truism.  Not always the case.  Constance M. Burge’s Charmed (CBS/1998 – 2006) was state of the art pop.  Solid scripts, strong cast about three white women waxing supernatural against the forces of evil.  Charmed (2018 – 2022) reinvents that wheel, doing a fascinating job of it.  Starting with casting Latinas as the leads, something nobody could’ve seen coming. Added to which, one sister is lesbian. And there’s a womanist bent. Talk about pushing the envelope, which isn’t all that surprising, considering Canada’s track record for quality commercial fare, including the supernatural hit Lost Girl.  

This time around for Charmed, there’s feisty firebrand social protester Mel (Melonie Diaz), sexy nerd cum genius biochemist Macy   (Madeleine Mantock) and sardonically easy going college kid Maggie (Sarah Jeffrey). Ace ringer Rupert Evans (Hellboy) is glib, debonair spiritual guide Harry.  Valerie Cruz  (Dexter, Homeland) lands a fine showcase as Marisol the sisters’ tragically slain mom whose ghost holds the key to their lives.  

The pilot engages, intrigues throughout, Marisol’s murder setting in motion cataclysmic forces of evil versus good.  Whereupon daughters are called on to save the world against overwhelming odds.  The intrepid trio prevails, usually by the skin of their necks. A new dimension is how dark the storylines get, at times grim, putting real teeth into it.  As well, there’s authentic diversity, which, in the original series went no further than a colorblind, p.c. nod with recurring guest Debbi Morgan and supporting star Dorian Gregory. This Charmed references, among other cultural underpinnings,  the African-Cuban religion Santeria and even the soundtrack is a rich blend of styles, not a steady diet of mainstream fare.  Notably, where the original steered clear of so much as mentioning  that non-hetero folk exist, Mel’s love life, matter of factly registers that LGBT’s are people, too.

Charmed afforded the greatest exposure for Latina actors since Netflix’s  Orange is the New Black.  Importantly, it also employed such behind the scenes talent as executive story writers Emily Lou Diaz (Station 19) and Christina Piña (Power), writer Natalia Fernandez (Z Nation) and director Gina Rodriguez for instance. 

The reboot sparked regrettable controversy – and cheap shots – from original cast members. Holly Marie Combs and Alyssa Milano got bent out of shape because it didn’t have their blessing (never mind CBS owns the rights).  Rose McGowan carped, “The reboot sucks.”   She had not watched one episode. McGowan, Combs and Milano, blinded by spiteful self-importance, overlooked quality  – you don’t go 4 seasons on TV without something to show for yourself.

Don’t look for a lot of this kind of thing.  It was a daring display of artistry integrity that paid off.  Something that rarely happens takes place on television.

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