Sabrina The Teenage Witch (ABC, 1996-2000, WB, 2000-2003)
You might remember a while ago when I reviewed the American teen sitcom Clueless, which was first shown in this country in a double on Saturday evenings on ITV along with Sabrina The Teenage Witch, so it’s about time to take a look back at that one as well. This was a sitcom also for teens that was fairly fluffy, although it did have something of a fantasy twist.
The origin of the show goes back long before this TV version, when the Sabrina character was featured in the series of Archie comics, which at the time was popular enough to have a TV show and chart-topping single with “Sugar Sugar”, the upbeat song that some people just can’t resist doing a dance to… or so I’ve heard. There was then an animated TV series in the early-70s, before about 25 years later Sabrina would return to the screen, but this time in a live-action sitcom.
Sabrina The Teenage Witch starred Melissa John Hart, already known to viewers for playing the lead role in sitcom Clarissa Explains It All, and hopefully nobody realised that by the time this show started she was actually 20 years old! Sabrina Spellman gets something of a surprise on her 16th birthday when she discovers that she is a witch. Well you would be surprised wouldn’t you, that definitely didn’t happen on my 16th birthday.
Sabrina’s dad lives in a spellbook, while her mum is a mere mortal, so she has to go and live with her two aunts Hilda and Zelda who are both witches too (and don’t look too bad considering that they are about 600 years old). Another main character is Salem the cat, who can talk, and can always be relied on to offer a witty aside about the current situation. It’s probably no surprise that the show was often compared to Bewitched.
And we also meet some characters at Sabrina’s school, including Harvey, Jenny, and Libby, where she tries rather hard to keep her powers under control, and she would rather spend the time at The Slicery having too much pizza. There were also plenty of guest appearances by celebrities, and later episodes featured Sabrina at college and trying to get on with her new roommates including TV’s Punky Brewster.
Sabrina The Teenage Witch was originally shown on Saturday evenings, and it came to ITV on the same day that The Simpsons launched on BBC1 in 1996, where despite being shown around the same time it managed to hold its own. Shortly after this, the show moved to CITV where it was shown very frequently for a while. There was also a comic, computer games, books, plus another animated series, and it can now be seen on 4Music. There were 162 episodes in seven series (including three films), and these have been released on DVD in a huge and very enjoyable 24-disc boxset.