The ‘Charmed’ Reboot: Are the New Charmed Ones Strong Enough to Survive?

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CHARMED: 1.01 “Pilot”

I was a fan of the old Charmed. I watched it from the start, stuck through it in the middle years (even years when Cole had long outlived his usefulness), watched the first finale, and then moved on to the next. In fact, Charmed was one of those shows I was writing about before I officially started this blog. So when I heard that they were rebooting it with new characters and a semi-new premise, I wasn’t too excited. Did we really need another version?

To be fair, I ask this about a lot of reboots and revivals (and the Gilmore Girls revival has taught me to be cautious, even if I am excited), but especially for Charmed, I was just left wondering what was left to say, what there was left to do, and why we couldn’t just have an original show about witches with new characters and new plot points. I guess, some would argue, the CW tried that with The Secret Circle, and we live in a nostalgia world. That doesn’t quite convince me, but…

Nonetheless, I wanted to see how this show holds up—not just in comparison to the original, but also on its own merit.

My first thought? The girls are too young. This isn’t just because the original had three witches who were in careers (or in the case of Phoebe, between them) and had to balance witchcraft with their real-world responsibilities. Yes, that appealed to me—and it’s probably why I felt the most interesting character in last night’s premiere was the oldest sister, Macy. But even if you push the original out of view, there’s something trivial about hearing someone dealing with demon dogs and her mother’s death…all while worrying, “What about rush?” I can’t really take her seriously, especially since, really, what was holding her back from accepting her birthright as a witch was…pledging a sorority. (This is not to mean that I’m insulting sororities. But when you look at it in comparison to the dark forces at work, it seems less important.)

What’s more, none of these characters have any personality. Macy is the closest, as she tries to research her past and comes to every witch-related problem with a scientific approach (actually, this one element is what makes the show intriguing to me, as nerdy as it is). But Mel and Maggie are blank slates. Other than her need to be part of the sorority, I know nothing about Maggie. Mel is “angry all the time.” That seems to be her main defining quality, which doesn’t draw you in as a viewer or makes her all that likable. She does take a hard stand on polarizing issues, but that’s about it. There’s really nothing more that can be said about these girls.

And that, to me, is the real weakness of the show on its own. Without strong characters, what is there to watch? A demon dog that we didn’t even see the girl fight (but apparently green slime was involved), demons that take over bodies a la Supernatural, and an ice demon that looks strikingly like the Night King from Game of Thrones. The girls seem to have gotten control of their powers rather quickly, and while I do like that they’ve set up Harry as a questionable character with the cliffhanger, you’re left wondering if he and Giles from Buffy went to the same Watcher/Whitelighter training facility. I’m just struggling to see the originality of the series, even if you ignore that it’s a reboot of another show.

And let’s take a moment to compare it to the original. They’ve made it different by focusing on a mother’s death, rather than a grandmother’s. There’s still a Book of Shadows (that they really don’t use yet). And we have three sisters with the same starting letter: Ms, instead of Ps. But what I miss is the learning curve. Somehow Macy was able to get ahold of her powers rather quickly. So did Mel. Maggie just needs to touch someone to hear their thoughts—a power that I find much less interesting than Phoebe’s vague premonitions. But what’s more, in the original, their powers stemmed from their emotions. Piper’s power (which, truth be told, was always my favorite) started when she’d get scared. But Mel? It’s when she’s…not mad. But we don’t really know what sets it off. Pru was when she was angry, which aligns to some extend with Macy, who seemed to draw power from anger or fear. But then again, she seemed to get a handle on it very quickly, considering it is one of the most active powers of all. I personally liked the link to the emotions in the original since it meant the Charmed Ones not only had to train themselves to learn magic but also to learn a little about themselves. Here, it feels more like convenience.

All to say, I went into the Charmed reboot with a relatively open mind, telling myself not to compare it completely to the original. But even then, I’m struggling to find what will capture my attention week to week. If it doesn’t focus more on character, I think the Power of Three will be defeated pretty quickly.

Image by the CW

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Manifest: “Reentry” Takes on Life Five Years Later

MANIFEST: 1.02 “Reentry”

Last week, I lamented that Manifest didn’t spend enough time with its characters adjusting to life that’s been fast-forwarded by five years. This week, we got a glimpse of that. Michaela was working on getting back on the force and dealing with her former best friend. Ben was working out life back with his wife. And his poor son, Cal, seemed to have the hardest adjustment, after realizing that all of his toys, clothes, posters—all things familiar—were gone.

I really felt for Cal in this episode, and it was interesting to see how Grace jumped through hoops trying to make him feel more comfortable. Especially given that he’s going through his treatments, it’s important that he feel like he hasn’t lost everything. After all, he lost his twin sister in a way; she’s now five years older and like an entirely different person (a person, who smartly saved his belongings and brought a smile to his face at the end of the episode).

Grace and Cal was probably the most redeeming part of Grace’s storyline, though, as we waited the entire episode to find out if she was going to come clean to Ben about her relationship. Of course, Ben found out another way, and then she was left to make a choice: a life with her husband or her new love. Now, based on the end, it looks like she’s choosing Ben, but I doubt this tension is over. My guess is that whoever she is seeing will make an appearance and cause more issues and complexity to this marriage.

As for Michaela, well, she’s not only trying to accept what happened to her on Flight 828 but also the death of her friend in the car accident, which apparently happened while she was drinking and driving. She’s also dealing with the reappearance of her best friend Lourdes, who showed up at the police station to reconnect. Now, if I were Lourdes, I would’ve tried calling Michaela at Ben and Grace’s house and asking to meet for coffee, rather than blindsiding her at work unannounced, where, by the way, Michaela’s former boyfriend and Lourdes’ husband works and was present. But that’s just me. Fortunately, that was all cleaned up by episode’s end, when Michaela says that she was planning on turning down Jared’s proposal, even if it was a lie.

So our main characters seemed to smooth over some rough edges in “Reentry,” though all of these bits do seem a little too easy right now. I would’ve expected more struggling—or at least for it to last more than one episode. Who knows? Maybe it will.

The more interesting part of the episode was what was happening with the other passengers of Flight 828. No, I’m not talking about our “case of the week,” which was…fine? It didn’t draw me in that much, not because it was poorly done, but because I’m must more interested in the larger mystery and story arc than individual weekly cases. But I’m starting to see that this is going to be a habit for each episode. Someone hears something mysterious, follows its lead, helps someone out, and tracks down some sort of criminal by episode’s end.

No, more intriguing is the shadow figure that is apparently now killing fellow passengers. Why? We don’t know. Was it because she spoke out on the news? Or something else? And who is the shadow?

Yes, I find this more compelling than the visions and voices. Clearly, whatever happened on that plane wasn’t simply magical. There is some human involvement. But how? And why? And why kill the passengers? And did Cal have some sort of vision, in order to draw the shadow in his family picture?

All good questions with no answers yet. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

‘God Friended Me’ Packs a Lot into Its Pilot, Including Some Flaws

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GOD FRIENDED ME: 1.01 “Pilot”

I’ve read a few reviews and tweets about God Friended Me, and they haven’t all been positive. I’ll get to their points, but I’ll go ahead and preface this post: As someone who was a fan of Kevin (Probably) Saves the World and Joan of Arcadia, the idea of someone getting some godly intervention, making them question their beliefs and their own sense of self, appeals to me. So with that in mind, a lot of God Friended Me hit the right notes in my book.

That said, the episode I watched yesterday was in no way what I expected. First of all—and please don’t judge me here—I somehow missed the boat that this was an hourlong show and thought it was supposed to be a half-hour sitcom (maybe it was the 8:30 time slot? Ok, ok, I really have no excuse). So already, the tone and overall feel of the show was very different than what I thought I was tuning into. Would it have worked better as a half-hour sitcom? I don’t know. I liked the show overall and what it tried to do, but it probably would’ve set itself apart from its spiritual predecessors if it was. But it’s not, so let’s move on.

The whole idea is that podcaster Miles is friended on Facebook by an account known as God. While this may seem strange for anyone, it’s especially odd for Miles, who is an atheist, despite his reverend father. Naturally, Miles thinks the God account is a hoax, but when it starts suggesting “friends” who need his help, he starts to realize there’s more to this account than meets the eye—whether it’s a hoax or not.

Now, the biggest complaint I’ve read about this show is in this premise. First and foremost, they argue that Millennials don’t use Facebook anymore. What’s more, the show tossed in so many Millennial key terms to make it seem relevant to the younger audience, it somehow came across forced and out of touch. As someone who is in her mid-30s, that didn’t quite bother me. I was able to gloss over it.

Instead, I focused on the God bit. And overall, it drew me in. Did it take on a lot? Sure. I felt like some of it was a little too easy. He saved the guy from the train. His new friend reunites with her estranged mother and becomes part of her new family—with a sister. He may not have smoothed things over with his father, but at least they’re spending time together again. And even in his podcast, he may not be a believer in a higher power, but he acknowledges that we should at least think about it.

Some of this feels like it should’ve been taken on over the course of the season. Sure, save the guy in one episode. Maybe baby steps with the mom. Maybe show up in the back of the church for the father, but stop once you see Miles walking away and hold the chess scene for a later episode. As for the podcast? I can’t imagine that Miles would have been that easy to admit that you should be asking questions when his entire platform is on atheism—and he’s so strongly confident in that viewpoint that he’s able to take on a rabbi in the opening scene.

But as far as setting up the show, I thought it did a solid job. Like I said, I’m a sucker for this kind of show. Has it been done before? Sure. But I’d still choose it and its attempts at creativity through episodic trials over the overdone procedural and hospital show any day. Plus, it’s got an entertaining cast, so I’d like to see where it goes.

Image by CBS