I’m sorry that this is a bit late. I took more screencaps than I’d planned on. ^.^”
So I got over three minutes into reviewing an episode and then realized it was the wrong fucking episode, because the episode order is out of whack on the DVD set. So expect a review of episode 02 eventually, because fucked if I’m letting that work go to waste.
Writer: Nell Scovell
Director: Robby Benson
Original Air Date: Friday, September 27, 1996
Somehow (again, there’s little in the way of Archie television information available on the Internet), the Showtime movie led to ABC greenlighting a weekly television series for the fall. Most of the movie’s cast (except Melissa Joan Hart at least) was Canadian, but the TV series was shot at Universal Studios in Universal City (season 1) and Paramount Studios in Hollywood (seasons 2-7), so that’s probably the reason why most of the cast was swapped out.
Establishing shots of Sabrina’s house were shot at 64 E. Main Street in Freehold, New Jersey. Other establishing shots were shot in Boston, Massachusetts.
Another change made for the series was changing the family’s surname from Sawyer to Spellman. Spellman is actually their last name in the comics; I don’t know why the movie decided to change it, other than maybe it was too “obvious”. Spellman is a real surname; it means “writer of spells”. It comes from England or Germany. It’s also an Anglicization of the Irish surname, O’Spealain, meaning “the scythe”.
One more change made for the series was the relocation of the family from Riverdale to the fictional town of Westbridge, Massachusetts (in the movie, Sabrina had moved from an unspecified town in Massachusetts to live with her aunts in Riverdale; it’s unknown, as of this episode, where Sabrina was from in this universe). This was probably done to avoid questions of why Archie and the gang weren’t showing up. Also, y’know, witch country and Lovecraft country.
Finally, I need to make a note about the music. There were a lot of popular songs played on this series, and there were also performances by various artists. According to Wikipedia: “On the DVD sets, most sequences featuring music has been altered, seeing as it would have been costly to obtain the rights to many songs used in the series. … Almost all musical performances have been cut from the DVD release.” IMDb has a partial list of songs, and there are also the songs on the official soundtrack album, but I can’t find a full list of songs. Just be aware music and footage are missing from various episodes. The running time of an episode might be a clue that something’s missing, but I can’t guarantee that.
The series premiered on ABC at 8:30 PM (EDT) as part of its TGIF (Thank Goodness It’s Funny) line-up. Let’s get into it:
The series opens with a shot of the family’s house in this universe, and it’s pretty nice.
In her bedroom, Sabrina is asleep – but restless. Sabrina Spellman is played by Melissa Joan Hart. MJH grew out her hair between the movie and the series.
Sabrina starts floating. We hear Zelda talking and learn Sabrina’s sixteenth birthday started five minutes ago. So is it 12:05 AM (EDT), or is it five minutes after what it’s written on her birth certificate?
Zelda and Hilda come in. Zelda is excited that Sabrina is “levitating, right on schedule”. So Sabrina’s floating is a bit delayed in this universe compared to the movie.
Hilda wants to wake Sabrina up and tell her that she’s a witch.
Zelda wants to let Sabrina sleep, because she starts her new school tomorrow, and “the first levitation is so special”. She waxes about their “little” niece growing up.
Hilda jokes about zits, and the two of them leave “the perfect little witch” before Sabrina wakes up.
Zelda Spellman is played by Beth Broderick. She’s had a prolific career, racking up 79 acting credits (plus 1 directing credit, also for this series) from 1983 through the present day.
Hilda Spellman is played by Caroline Rhea. She’s had a prolific career, racking up 42 acting credits (plus 1 directing credit, 8 writing credits, and 3 producing credits) from 1988 through the present day.
The opening theme is a fun rock instrumental (20 seconds long).
The sequence involves – what else? – Sabrina trying on various fashions in front of a mirror. The first three are always the same, and then we get the outfit of the week, which Sabrina reacts to:
“This is so not me.” Ha. Possibly a joke at the role that she now has.
After the opening theme, on the next morning, Sabrina comes downstairs for breakfast. The aunts wish her a happy birthday and many more to come.
They give her a present.
It’s a “black pot” – actually a cauldron.
Zelda explains there are two realms: the natural and the supernatural. Then Hilda just blurts out that Sabrina’s a witch.
They explain they and Sabrina’s father are witches, but her mother is a “mortal”. This is consistent with the comics. The movie had turned Sabrina into a full witch. They explain Sabrina’s here, so they can teach her to use her magic.
Sabrina goes to catch a bus to take her to her “doom” – without having eaten breakfast. I realize pacing is an issue, but it always annoys me whenever characters sit down to eat or drink and then…don’t, and then they just get up and leave the stuff sitting there.
Zelda tells her to have fun, and Hilda cautions her against making “too many hand gestures”.
Salem walks out when Sabrina opens the kitchen door.
Sabrina briefly talks to Salem about how her aunts are “pretty weird”.
“You have no idea.”
Salem is voiced by Nick Bakay, who has racked up 37 acting credits, 5 production credits, 18 writing credits, and some other credits from 1989 to 2013. He was a writer, story editor, and producer on this series. I like Salem’s voice.
Sabrina arrives at Westbridge High School.
She notices Harvey in a classroom. Harvey Kinkle is played by Nate Richert, who hasn’t had much of an acting career outside this series, racking up 12 acting credits from 1996 to 2006. This series was his first role. He also has 1 executive producer credit from 2013. He’s primarily a musician these days, and he’s got the balding, goatee look going on.
Harvey notices her, but then the teacher opens the door for the students (hitting him) and tells them to get the fuck in the classroom.
Sabrina’s biology teacher, Mr.
Dingle Eugene Pool, is played by Paul Feig, who has racked up 47 acting credits (plus 2 music credits, 9 writing credits, 22 directing credits, and 13 producing credits) from 1986 through the present day. Among other things, he created “Freaks and Geeks” and wrote, directed, and executive-produced the new “Ghostbusters” movie.
Sabrina isn’t paying attention in class, so Mr. Pool has to get her attention.
But talk of dissecting frogs isn’t interesting enough to keep Sabrina and Harvey’s attention.
Mr. Pool tells them to choose lab partners. Harvey seems about ready to choose Sabrina, but…
Katy Lemore Libby Chessler gets to him first. Libby Chessler is played by Jenna Leigh Green, who has had a fairly steady, though not prolific, career, racking up 26 credits from 1994 through the present day. She can also sing, having been in “Twilight: The Musical” (yes, that’s a thing).
Freddie and Fran Jill (center) and Cee Cee (right), are played by Bridget Flanery and Melissa Murray, respectively. Bridget Flanery has racked up 22 credits from 1994 to 2011 and also does live theater. Melissa Murray racked up only 8 credits from 1994 to 2004 and seems to have quit acting.
I feel ya, Bri.
Michelle Beaudoin returns as Sabrina’s best friend,
Marnie Littlefield Jennifer “Jenny” Kelley, but this is their first meeting in this universe. She’s the second of only two actors from the movie to make it to the TV series. (Before anyone asks, yeah, she’s Canadian.) I’m not sure why they changed her name.
Jenny suggests naming the dead frog “Tad Pole”. Sabrina agrees and thanks Jenny for asking her to be her lab partner. Um, she didn’t. Jenny was the new kid last year and knows what it’s like. Sabrina asks Jenny if she ever feels like she doesn’t fit in. Jenny says all the time, but she doesn’t wanna fit in. She researched it, and awkward people tend to be much more successful later in life. When she looks at Libby, she sees tragedy.
Sabrina hates doing this and wishes to bring the frogs back to life.
The girls are happy, and Jenny somehow takes this as the frog having still been alive. Mr. Pool vows Mike from Cadaver Shack is gonna hear from him.
In the girls’ restroom, Libby has a laugh over how young that the freshmen look.
There’s a bit of an awkward encounter as Sabrina comes in to wash the “frog juice” off her hands. Ewww… More importantly, though, her table in biology class has a sink!
Libby insults Sabrina’s natural smell, and Sabrina counters by saying Libby splashes on aftershave to remind her of the boy that dumped her last summer.
The thing is Sabrina thought she was just making a casual insult, but she’s actually 100% correct. She has some kind of supernatural insight into people’s lives. Libby asks how she knew that. Sabrina admits she doesn’t know, and this makes herself and Libby more uncomfortable.
Sabrina excuses herself and then says “Smell you later” to Libby.
Libby tells Sabrina to not come in here again. What? Libby and her besties claim ownership of the restroom or something?
Libby tells Sabrina to use the “freaks’ bathroom” from now on.
“Talk to the hand, bitch.”
This causes Libby to put lipstick all over her face.
After school, Sabrina comes home to a discount surprise birthday party. Keep in mind that they have a sitcom budget now, not a TV movie budget.
Zelda gives Sabrina a present from her (Sabrina’s) father.
Sabrina lists her lame presents so far and asks “Does anyone shop at The Gap anymore?” Hahahahaha, no, not really.
Sabrina’s dad wishes her a happy birthday. He can communicate with her from “another realm” through the book. Sabrina doesn’t buy it.
It takes Salem talking to convince her, but she freaks out and goes up to her room.
The aunts let her father handle this.
Edward “Ted” Spellman is played by Robby Benson (the director of this episode), who has racked up 70 acting credits, 31 directing credits, 8 soundtrack credits, 6 producing credits, 3 writing credits, 3 composing credits, and 1 sound credit from 1967 to 2015.
The book follows Sabrina up to her bedroom.
“Oh, God, I’m talking to a book.”
I love the stained glass windows in Sabrina’s room. Then again, I love stained glass windows in general.
Sabrina continues to deny she’s a witch and then says she wants to be normal. Dad was being kind of truthful when he said he was with the “foreign service”. Mom is digging for fossils in Peru. Sabrina wants to go and live with her, but she can’t; there’s a “rule”: if Sabrina sets eyes on her mother in the next two years, her mother will turn into a ball of wax.
“What the fuck kind of motherfucking bullshit rule is that?!”
I mean I know witch shows and movies make up rules, but this is Charmed-level bullshit. Speaking of “Charmed”, it would not surprise me in the least if it ripped off the stained-glass design from this series.
Daddy explains it’s the way that “they” discourage mortal-witch marriages. Sabrina asks if that’s why they got divorced. He says no. She asks if they can get back together. He says no and adds she’ll be fine. He tells her to take some time to think about all of this. If she ever needs him, he’s in the index.
Downstairs, the aunts are playing cards. Hilda cheats.
Sabrina comes downstairs and is like “It’s all good.”
Zelda wants Sabrina to try turning an orange into an apple.
Well, it is an apple of a sort.
Many tries later, there are enough pineapples to make a shit-ton of juice. Sabrina is discouraged.
Sabrina wants to try turning Salem into an apple, because she’s a bitch.
They tell her that she’s got school tomorrow, and she’s like “That’s sucks. I’m a motherfucking witch.” She threatens to turn Mr. Pool into something, because she’s a bitch.
After some banter between Hilda and Sabrina, Sabrina goes upstairs.
The next morning, Sabrina’s alarm clock wakes her up while she’s sleepfloating, and she falls. Ha.
Sabrina’s taking her sweet time and casually suggests turning back time, but Hilda says “a witch can’t change time”; it’s “one of the rules”. Sabrina rushes off, and Hilda yells she also can’t get rid of cellulite.
Suddenly, Sabrina’s at school. Often, this series doesn’t use establishing shots or scene transitions of any kind, which is weird.
Anyway, Jenny tells a lame, dated “joke” about Brad Pitt.
Later, an annoying history teacher thanks them for coming and asks them if they enjoyed the pop quiz. Fuck this bitch. The end credits call her Mrs. Hecht, played by Ren Woods. She’s the first of three actors to play this character, maybe because they misspelled her first name.
Sabrina’s hit in the head by a football thrown by some asshole.
Libby blames her for it and then calls her a freak. Why do I have the feeling that she’s a future Trump voter?
At lunch, Harvey asks if he can sit with the girls, and Sabrina says sure.
He asks her about her head. He apologizes for the football incident. He was the one that did that? It’s news to Sabrina as well. She compliments him on his “really good arm”.
Libby comes by and invites Harvey to her party on Saturday night. He accepts.
Libby spills her drink on Sabrina and then says “Smell you later.” Okay, that was kinda bitchy, but it’s not like Sabrina didn’t deserve some of that. Sabrina yells she did that on purpose, and Libby tells her to prove it.
During an unusually dramatic moment (I guess to show Sabrina’s badassness), Sabrina confronts Libby and creates a “twister” (according to one student).
Sabrina turns Libby into a pineapple and then feigns innocence and runs the fuck away with it when Jenny questions her.
After the commercial break, Sabrina comes home with Pineapple!Libby and declares her hatred of being a witch. She explains the sitch.
Zelda stops Hilda from murdering Libby. Sweet Goddess, this series is darkly comedic.
Because Sabrina doesn’t know how to “seal” her spells yet (make them permanent, I guess), Zelda is able to reverse it.
Libby has questions, of course, and Sabrina doesn’t help matters.
Libby threatens to expose Sabrina’s secret to the whole school. She leaves, and Hilda turns it into an argument in favor of murdering and eating Libby.
Sabrina declares her life is over, because Libby is a cheerleader, and nobody has more credibility. Sabrina wishes she could turn back time. Zelda says, collectively, they have powers that a single witch doesn’t; it’s a “union thing”. What’s with this franchise’s habit of information not being revealed to Sabrina until it becomes an issue?
Zelda says Sabrina can appeal to the Witches Council, but they grant time reversal in only extreme cases. According to Hilda, for two months, a bunny ruled all of England.
The Witches Council is ten-million light-years away (so it’s in our dimension?), but…
…there’s a short-cut through their linen closet. Of course.
The aunts fill in backstory. Drell is the head of the Witches Council, and he and Hilda used to date, but they haven’t seen each other in centuries, ever since he stood her up at the altar in the Parthenon (their dad lost a huge deposit).
The aunts argue, but Sabrina just wants to fucking go. The aunts send her off on her own (supposedly, the Council will respect her more), telling her to take a left at the towels, follow the signs, watch out for Drell, and don’t stare at his mole.
You can see the edge of the set.
So the Witches Council has access to the Spellmans’ linens?
There’s a joke about the candle whimpering and Drell feeding it.
Sabrina realizes she doesn’t have an appointment but says she brought a washcloth. Um, okay. Skippy wants it, and Sabrina gives it to him.
Drell gets some info and then immediately denies Sabrina’s request.
Sabrina doesn’t leave, and Drell accuses her of staring at his mole. Sabrina denies it and wants to explain her motive. Cassandra suggests humoring her, and Drell agrees, telling her to speak quickly. Sabrina’s explanation plays at a fast speed. Ha.
Drell sends her off, saying they’ll get back to her.
That night, during the full moon, Sabrina and Salem discuss it. Interestingly, Salem refers to himself as a witch. He reveals they sentenced him to a hundred years as a cat for world domination attempts. Sabrina’s remarkably indifferent and even humorous about this revelation. Remember, everyone, whenever your cat wants to be on the couch, it’s likely a former witch that tried to take over the world. The aunts must know about this, yet they allow Salem to hang out in their teenage niece’s bedroom. I’m not sure if that’s better or worse than the movie, where Salem was a horn
dogcat. Sabrina says Salem takes 5,000 naps per day, which seems about right. *listens to my cat snoring nearby*
Salem laments being a cat, saying the sound of the can opener is the only thing that makes him feel truly alive. Sabrina offers him his rubber mouse, and he accepts.
The next morning, there’s no word from the Witches Council yet, and Sabrina is worried, because it’s about time for her to leave for school.
The Witches Council send their (audible) decision via the Spellmans’ toaster. Of course.
Drell denies the request again and laughs about it again.
Zelda feels sorry for Sabrina. Sabrina wants to move. Hilda sends Sabrina off to school. Sabrina protests. Zelda backs Hilda up. Sabrina goes off, accepting her status as a “freak” and the school’s “weird kid”. Hilda adds she was the weird kid back in her day.
After Sabrina leaves, the aunts talk. Apparently, Zelda was tarred and feathered back in her day. She talks Hilda into trying to convince Drell to change his mind.
At least, the edge of the set isn’t showing this time.
Anyway, Hilda grabs hold of Drell’s mole, and the camera shakes to indicate…fighting?
At school, Jenny tells Sabrina the same dumb joke, and Sabrina realizes time has been reversed, despite the fact that they’re not wearing the same clothing that they did yesterday, and Sabrina is actually wearing the same outfit that she left the house in today. So…what the fuck happened?
Sabrina aces the pop quiz in history, despite the fact that there’s really no reason that she would have studied for it, not knowing whether time would be reversed or not.
Sabrina catches the football, not giving Libby a chance to make fun of her.
During lunch, Harvey sits with them, and Sabrina invites him to the movies with her and Jenny on Saturday night, taking a preemptive measure against Libby. He accepts.
Libby comes by. Sabrina’s like “Tough shit” and then casts a spell to spill her drink on her. Sabrina seems to be squandering this new chance at concealing her secret.
Libby runs out of the cafeteria, and the “good guys” have a laugh over her misfortune.
Sabrina comes home very happy – but not happy enough to kiss her aunts.
There seems to be a bit of encoding error or tape damage here, or there was when I was playing the video. Trust me.
Sabrina runs upstairs to tell “the cat”. That’s oddly impersonal.
Sabrina bursts into her bedroom, picks Salem up, and dances with him, adding she doesn’t play “Squash”. Huh?
Procedural note: The ending credits credit Shaunn Weiss in the all-important role of male student. He’s racked up 37 acting credits, 4 writing credits, and 4 producing credits from 1986 through the present day.
The end-credits scene has Sabrina studying her book while Salem regales her with tales of his attempts at world domination.
Sabrina interrupts to go to get some more milk, but Salem’s like “Use your magic, you dumbass.”
Sabrina is impressed and says she can get used to this magic. Salem tells her to share her milk.
“Fuck no, asshole.”
This was the original ending of the episode. Apparently, according to Sabrina Wiki, a second ending went like this: “Salem tries to tell the audience that they are under his control, but leaves when he hears a can opener. ‘Please be tuna.’ ‘Please be tuna.'” I’m not sure why they would record two endings for this episode.
Much like almost anything else regarding the original TV broadcast, I can’t find any info on what this CBS-Paramount logo replaced on the DVD set (since the music is still playing when it appears). I’m guessing an ABC logo.
So that’s the first episode of the long-running “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” live-action series. Overall, I like it. It’s cute. Compared to the movie, it rehashes some elements from it, but its overall feel is different. It’s shot like a sitcom (on a soundstage), not like a movie. There’s an added laugh track (which I don’t mind; it makes me feel like I’m watching the show with someone). It feels less “real” than the movie. Which is better? It’s hard to say. Both casts are good. This is just a somewhat different approach.
Also, I should point out that Hilda and Zelda’s roles from the comics are reversed here. Zelda is now the serious one, and Hilda is now the fun one.
This series reinvented Sabrina for modern times and reintroduced her into the public consciousness. It was massively popular. It ran for seven seasons and a total of 163 episodes across two networks (The WB picking it up for the final three seasons), finally concluding on Thursday, April 24, 2003. It included two made-for-TV movies (“Sabrina Goes to Rome” and “Sabrina, Down Under”), which aired during the run of the series. Its popularity led to the creation of two animated series and a made-for-TV animated movie. All of this makes Sabrina Archie’s most successful television property ever.
Over at Archie Comics, this newfound popularity led to the creation of a one-shot special in 1996 and a new monthly Sabrina title. It ran for 32 issues from May of 1997 to December of 1999 (cover dates):
On a personal note, prior to starting this blog, I had actually never watched the movie, and I saw only maybe bits of the series here and there when it was on the air. I hadn’t started really watching it until recently, and I’m enjoying it so far. It is available on DVD (in individual season releases and a misnamed “Complete Series” set, the latter of which I bought for myself on my birthday). Just be aware of what you’re getting.
I’d like to discuss character ages now. You know how the Archie characters are perpetually teenagers? Well, this means their year of birth is advanced every year, so the characters keep getting “refreshed”, dropping older traits and stories in favor of newer ones. The characters of the long-running radio show were born in the 1920s-1930s. The Filmation characters were born anywhere from the early 1950s to the early 1960s. The characters from the 1990 movie specifically graduated in 1975, so they were probably born around 1957. The New Archies were probably born in the late 1970s, perhaps being a bit older than me. The movie Sabrina was born in 1980 and graduated in 1998. This makes her the television incarnation of an Archie character that’s closest to my age (I was born in 1978 and graduated in 1996). Sabrina could have been my schoolmate (if not my classmate). Later incarnations of the characters get even younger than me, and the age gap keep growing. It’s kinda depressing.
If this blog lasts long enough (Goddess willing), I’d seriously consider upgrading this series to one of the three primary series to review in full (either once I finish “The New Archies” or if “Riverdale” is cancelled). I’m just worried that I won’t be able to account for the cuts and music changes on DVD.
You’re welcome. 🙂
Tune in next Wednesday, when things get weird…