Charmed, I'm Sure
edited: Sunday, February 03, 2002
By Nick Choo
Posted: Wednesday, January 30, 2002
Become a Fan
Published in The Sun on Jan 29 this year was my review of 'Charmed'. As usual, we're pretty far behind in Malaysia. Oh well. The scan on the right is of the actual article that was published.
Every Friday night, my friends and I go for dinner, hang around to lull the time away, and then head back home to catch one of our favourite TV shows. Yet when I stop and think about it, it beguiles me as to why we have become hooked on this show. After all, the plots are usually wafer-thin, the special effects rather transparent and cheap, and the episodes are usually so riddled with flaws that they might as well feature them in their entirety on Super Bloopers and Practical Jokes. The show is corny, without a doubt, and I usually end up fretting over how anti-climactic the storylines are and how the number of holes in the plots tend to excede that of a wedge of Swiss cheese. And yet – for some bizarre, inexplicable reason beyond the limited spectrum of my comprehension – I find myself falling prey to the charm that is Charmed.
One of the highest-ranking programmes in the United States, this entrancing drama tells of three beautiful young ladies who, after the death of their grandmother, discover that they have supernatural powers. They are the Charmed Ones, chosen by the Powers That Be to aid and save mankind from the clutches of such nasties as demons, warlocks, ghouls, goblins and lawyers. Each episode sees the Halliwell sisters coming together and letting their powers combine to eradicate the scourge of evil that threatens to destroy the very delicate balance of good and badness in the world. And they usually succeed – because they make up the Power of Three, which is a union so powerful and mighty that no mere devil or minion from here to the dark depths of the Underworld can stand up against them!
Oh, and also because if the baddies won and they were defeated, there wouldn’t be much else to the series, now, would there?
Granted, the producers of the show try (emphasis on ‘try’) to create tension and make it appear that the lives of the sisters are at stake. Very often we have seen how one sister or another would be threatened by a horned, fur-backed creature, backed into a corner so that it would look as though there were no way for her to escape. And so we watch in eye-widening horror, our hearts thumping and mouths dry as the poor sister is defenceless against the power of the evil one. And just when it feels as if we cannot take it anymore, in come the other sisters. It could be Prue, with her amazing powers of psychokinesis. One squint of her eye or one dainty flick of her wrist, and the demon would go flying. Or it could be the middle child, Piper, who will exclaim “Oooh! Oooh!” and lash out with both arms to suspend time. The creature would freeze, and the trapped sister would escape. Otherwise, it could be the youngest child, Phoebe (assuming it isn’t she who is cornered), who would rush up bravely to the demon and use her amazing powers of –
Well, she would kickbox it to death, assuming that the other sister, whoever she is, either freezes the demon or sends it flying. Because poor Phoebe does not have an active power as yet – although in the latest episodes in the US, she does. Sadly, we are only in season two, about two seasons behind.
Perceptive and smart-thinking readers would now say: “Okay, if Phoebe had been trapped, it is understandable that she would need her sisters’ help. But if it had been Prue or Piper, why would she have to depend on her sisters, when she can easily mind-flick the demon away or suspend it in time?” Good observation. Unfortunately, as my friends and I have noted when it comes to Charmed, more often than not we need to close one eye. No, I tell a lie – we need to close both eyes. Yes, if it were Prue or Piper, they could probably save themselves. But such is the norm with this series that the producers would probably render Prue or Piper defenceless for absolutely no reason whatsoever, leaving the viewers to sputter: “But – but – ”. Illogic, thy name is Charmed.
In the one-and-a-half seasons that we’ve seen so far, the number of faults in this series has been uncountable. In a very recent episode, Prue and Piper get trapped inside a painting, and only Phoebe knows the spell to get them out. But Phoebe, in the real world, wonders how to get the spell to her sisters. So she sends their cat into the painting to deliver the spell to them. Okay. Yes. Ingenious. But why couldn’t Phoebe, having had the spell, have just gone into the painting herself and gotten her sisters out? And one needed to recite another spell to get into the painting in the first place – so how did she send the cat in? (My friend Terry believes the cat could magically talk, and so it recited the spell on Phoebe’s behalf and undertook the daring task. Ha-ha.)
In the painting, Prue is attacked by fireballs; but during the final scene in which all three girls are in the painting, the fireballs are mysteriously nonexistent – almost as if the producers of the show realised that superimposing the images of fireballs during that final scene would mean exceeding their budget. And another huge blunder is when the painting is burnt, leaving just its frame situated on a wooden chair. The frame is charred black as charcoal; the chair is unblemished. Huh? All these in just one episode – and one of the better episodes, at that!
The interesting thing is that despite these glaring defects, my friends and I still stay devoted to the show. There is just something about Charmed that, despite its goof-ups and sheer cheesiness, beckons to us and keeps us wanting for more. There is something exciting about the prospect of beautiful young ladies defending themselves with mystical powers and physical prowess – the intrigue in the idea of beautiful young maidens getting into deadly situations and kick-butting their way out of the situation (“You go, girl!” is a phrase commonly uttered by one of my friends during our Friday night screening sessions).
It is because two of the three girls are well-known for their previous roles, as well as their personal attributes, that we like to watch them and see what they get up to. Shannen Doherty, who plays Prue, was once on Beverly Hills, 90210, and was kicked off the show for being difficult to get along with. (Interestingly, this will happen at the end of Charmed’s third season, where Shannen will be replaced by Rose McGowan, who is married to devilish rocker Marilyn Manson. The irony knows no bounds.) Meanwhile, everyone knows Alyssa Milano for her role in the long-running comedy series Who’s the Boss?, as well as in movies such as the titillating Poison Ivy 2 (ahem-ahem), and, if you cared enough to remember, Commando, alongside Arnie Schwarzenegger.
Some of the show’s fans might just be interested, as I am, to see where their powers will lead them and how they will grow. Newer episodes of the show will see Prue being able to ‘astral project’, allowing her to be in two places at once. Piper, who can freeze molecules into non-activity, will later be able to move them at such a rapid pace that she can blow things up. And Phoebe, who currently has the inactive ability to see visions of the past and future, will be able to levitate. Coupled with her kickboxing skills, we will be able to see the pert and perky Ms Milano perform Matrix-style legwork on the most macho of enemies. My cup runneth over.
And some of us simply enjoy watching programmes during which we don’t have to think. Let’s face it, Charmed ranks nearly nothing on the scale of intellectualism. It does not have much in the way of excellence in scriptwriting; in fact, some of the lines are banal at best, especially the inane rhyming spells the girls recite from their scriptural aid, the Book of Shadows.
However, the show does exemplify some creative thinking in terms of the outlandishness of scenarios and the outrageous magical abilities of the Charmed Ones’ adversaries. We have seen the girls battle evil Chinese horsemen who seek the souls of the good Chinese dead. They have gone against madmen who kill women in their sleep, and warlocks who frighten good witches to death by making their worst fears come true . They have been to the future and to the past, have fought underground demons who steal the eyesight of children, and have triumphantly defeated a particular nasty who kept turning back the clock so that he could kill them. And there’s more to come: later episodes will feature the girls going up against a water demon that drowns people, exorcising a ghost bent on killing an innocent little baby, and uniting to combat an evil ice-cream seller.
Charmed might not be the greatest supernatural-themed drama on TV, but it is definitely one of the more entertaining shows out there. It is a simplistic, light-headed show that falls far, far beyond the cleverness of spine-tingling shows such asThe X-Files – or even Buffy, The Vampire Slayer. But with the casting of Doherty, Holly Marie Combs and Milano, who carry off their roles as the bewitching trio convincingly enough and who are definitely a sight for sore eyes, who needs perfection?