Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Charmed—A Review

So, as an unemployed person who has now sent out a grand total of TWO job applications, I’ve been spending a lot of time on Netflix.  Specifically, I’ve been watching Charmed.  I used to watch it on Sunday nights with Mom, in the very post-Shannen Doherty days, but I never bothered to put much effort into it before.  I was quite biased against it, you see.  I have long been a devotee of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and I rather felt that shows like Charmed gave Buffy a bad name—shows that were frivolous and girly-girly, shows that used magic as a prop instead of a metaphor.  I was, and still am, convinced that Buffy was the greatest show of all time, and that Charmed was one of the reasons it was not universally recognized as such—people saw a show about vampires and magic and thought it would be, at best, campy, and at worst, stupid.

I still don’t think I was wrong, but I was probably wrong to blame Charmed.  People believe what they believe, and always have.  Charmed is no more to blame than Twilight—it may not have been quite as serious as Buffy, but it certainly had nothing to do with the vast majority of people dismissing it without a second glance.  Most likely, people who thought shows about magic were unworthy of consideration as serious fare avoided Charmed as well as Buffy.

That being said, Charmed was not perfect.  It was no Buffy.  Like every single show on air today, it had one fatal flaw: it was not written by Joss Whedon.  Alas, the shows that have fallen into such disgrace—untouched by his terrible genius, most have been found wanting, even disastrous (by a jury of mainly me, and probably everyone who still goes on that forum Whedonverse.)  A select few shows have managed to rise above this stunning handicap—Doctor Who, Veronica Mars, Star Trek.  Of course, the first two (Doctor Who in its current incarnation, that is) have openly admitted to Whedon influences.  Star Trek, of course, was robbed even of influence, owing to an unfortunate time-space-continuum issue (chronologically existing in the pre-Buffy era, that is.)

Still, despite not-being-Buffy, Charmed had a thing.  It was pretty damn entertaining and, really, what else can you ask for?  Plus, it did have one thing that Buffy often did not—the end of each episode tended to leave the viewer with a feeling of hope, instead of soul-crushing despair and torment.

So, in that same spirit of hope-not-crushing-despair, I offer up a review of two episodes: “Out of Sight” (season 1) and “She’s a Man, Baby, a Man” (season 2.)

Let’s begin with “Out of Sight.”

In this episode, the Halliwell sisters attend a party for a heretofore unseen friend’s young son, also known as this episode’s stock Kid in Distress.  The girls are sitting at a table, having one of their what-else-but-men chats.  Piper (the MAD cute one) is, once again, trying to date Someone Other than Leo, which of course means that they all end up discussing Leo.  Prue, as she is want to do, asserts that “men are different from women.”  Based on what I have seen of the show so far, this is one half of her two-part philosophy, the other half of which is “Being a witch is super hard.”  Phoebe indirectly suggests that not all men are evil, or at least that Leo might not be, and exchanges a look of barely contained sizzling passion with Piper, while Prue stares on in disbelief.

So much sexual tension for a family-friendly show.

Meanwhile, the Kid in Distress, David, is playing a ball game (called Squish the Squash, which I can only assume is the Cute Kid-ism of the episode.)  He chases the ball into some trees and, lured by the sound of a mewling kitten, tosses it back to his friends and runs deeper into the trees.  Because pre-testosterone, boys are allowed to love cute things.

Anyway, Prue runs after him in a vain attempt to make the audience believe the day will be saved long before the credits roll.  Unfortunately, the day is ruined by Prue’s overwhelming incompetence (remember, being a witch is SUPER hard.)

Although she gets there on time, and, in fact, appears to succeed momentarily, she gets flustered and loses it.

Prue exhibits ridiculous incompetence.

Apparently, she was so stunned by the awesomeness of her powers (the previous 18 episodes having not fully convinced her of their awesomeness yet) that she just…sort of…stopped using them.

Thereby allowing Voldemort to continue his pedophilic exploits for another day.

Anyway, then something way more important than the abduction of a child occurs: a reporter sees Prue using her powers!  And not just any reporter either: he happens to be the most cartoonishly evil reporter of all time.  Actually, he is a pretty accurate depiction of how I imagine Every Tabloid Reporter Ever.  Except, inexplicably, the episode seems to suggest he works for a legit news organization.  Rupert Murdoch in training, maybe?

Anyway, while Prue is dealing with the horrors of the print media (seeing as, in the ’90s, people still read things, including newspapers,) Phoebe meets with a guy who was abducted in the same way a few decades ago—an episode which left him blind.  Apparently, Voldemort the Child Abductor is actually a demon who is not only completely uninterested in molesting his abductees, but is also ACTUALLY interested in stealing their eyesight to see people’s auras.  This allows him to kill a well-dressed black man, which I must assume means that the Voldemort-looking demons are racist as well.  Not that I’m surprised.

So, to cut a 45-minute story short…the Halliwells work to save an abducted child whilst also avoiding the Reporter from Hell (whom, seriously, they could easily sue for harassment, but apparently witches just have no patience for working with law enforcement.)  They end up scouring the sewers for the demons, who, being far more helpful than your average demon, manage to kill the obnoxious reporter before succumbing to hissing-acid-death themselves.  Oh, but, downside—Andy the Cop/Prue’s former love interest now knows about magic and stuff.  And then Prue says “Do I have to use my power on you?” to get him to leave, and, honestly, if my opinion of her could have fallen any lower, this would have done it.

Then Voldemort pops in again, and Prue, determined to make me hate her, DROPS THE FREAKING POTION MEANT TO KILL IT.  Fortunately, she isn’t alone this time, so her being terrible at magic and HOLDING STUFF doesn’t get them all killed.  Phoebe hits Voldemort over the head with a pipe, thereby illustrating with her own awesomeness exactly how terrible Prue is, and allowing Prue to magic up the spilled potion into the not-really-a-pedophile-demon’s face.  BOOM, done.  Everybody continues to pretend that Prue’s extreme sucking didn’t just put this kid into a lifetime of therapy, and all the demons’ victims get their eyesight back.  Including the guy Phoebe met earlier, but he turns out to be kind of bald and gap-toothed, and so not nearly handsome enough to be a love interest for her.

And the ladies get on with their incredibly attractive lives.

Mainly these two.  My hatred of Prue prevents me from seeing her as attractive.

And this post has run on far too long, so look for my review of the other episode, “She’s a Man, Baby,” in the near future.

And in closing:

I think the best thing I have discovered about Charmed since I began wasting countless hours watching it has really been Piper.  That is to say the incredible, unstoppable cuteness of Piper.  I mean, just look at that face.

Cuteness incarnate, right there.  Even her name evokes cuteness, man.  Ridiculous.  Like, Willow levels of cute, but without the Willow levels of naiveté.  Ridiculous.

So, join me next time, for more pictures of Piper's cuteness, in "She's a Man, Baby, a Man."

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