Magic, mischief and a talking cat. What more could you want in a 90s teen sitcom?
“Sabrina the Teenage Witch,” based on the Archie comic of the same name, began its seven season run in 1996. The series took the typical tropes and formula of similar sitcoms like “Boy Meets World” and “Saved by the Bell” and spun them into a supernatural coming of age story.
The titular character of the show is Sabrina Spellman (Melissa Joan Hart), a teenage girl who is sent to live with her aunts after learning she’s a half-witch on her 16th birthday. The show focuses in Sabrina's life with her aunts Hilda (Caroline Rhea) and Zelda (Beth Broderick) as she learns how to navigate the magical world all while keeping her powers hidden from her classmates, teachers and rivals.
But behind the comedy and shenanigans Sabrina and her family get into, the show has a good message behind it. “Sabrina” reminds the watcher that magic, while helpful, isn’t a quick fix. A person needs to know how to face the consequences of a decision and that not every problem can be fixed in a matter of minutes.
One thing that sets the show apart is that it features strong female characters that were not written into the usual sitcom archetypes. Unlike many similar series from the mid-90s, the females weren’t only presented as girl next door or a love interest but as independent educated and funny individuals.
However, the element that brings me back for a rewatch is the comedy. The show is just genuinely funny. There are slapstick elements but the true charm comes from the one liners. Whether it is anecdotes from the millennia long lives of Aunt Hilda and Zelda or sarcastic biting quips from her talking cat, Salem. I still find myself laughing out loud.
In January 2018, Netflix announced that Kiernan Shipka (Mad Men) would be leading a mature reboot of the iconic 90s series. Undoubtedly inspired by the success of “Riverdale,” a dark adaptation of the original Archie comics, the yet-to-be-titled series promises to be a complete 180 from the campy and quirky Sabrina that most people know and love.
Maybe I’m just old or maybe I just don’t like change, but stripping the show of any sense of fun it had in attempt to be edgy seems wrong. The absurd silliness of “Sabrina” is part of what made the series so great. She had a portal to another dimension in her linen closet and her talking sidekick (who was actually also a witch sentenced to serve 100 years as a cat after attempting to take over the world). Things didn’t always make sense but it only added a sense of surrealism to the show. It’s something that will most definitely be missed from the upcoming series.
Today, Sabrina is just as entertaining as it was 22 years ago. The humor and charm hold up. It’s the perfect show to mindlessly binge while procrastinating homework or lounging around on a free day. Even if it’s just one episode, I would give it a shot before the Netflix series drops in 2019.
“Sabrina the Teenage Witch” is available to stream on Amazon Prime and Hulu.