"Hear now the Words of the Witches.
The Secrets we hid in the Night.
The Oldest of Gods are invoked here.
The Great Work of Magic is sought.
In this Night and in this Hour
I call upon the ancient Power.
Bring your Powers to we Sisters Three.
We want the Power. Give us the Power."
"Charmed": "Buffy" Lite, but Full of Charm!
by BEN BURGRAFF/IMDb
I couldn't say whether or not "Charmed" offered an accurate representation of witchcraft, but let me give credit where credit is due; while not as intense as "Buffy, the Vampire Slayer", it was consistently entertaining over much of it's eight-season run!
When it debuted in 1998, "Charmed" was heralded primarily as the return of Shannen Doherty, the temperamental star of Aaron Spelling's "Beverly Hills 90210", marking the renewed harmony between the successful producer and outspoken actress. As the eldest of the "Power of Three" Halliwell sisters, Doherty joined breakout "Picket Fences" star Holly Marie Combs (her real-life best friend), and "Dawson's Creek" alum, Lori Rom, as novice witches discovering an inherited mystic heritage. Unfortunately, after filming the pilot, Rom left for "personal reasons", replaced by "Who's the Boss?" star Alyssa Milano (a former child actress who had become nearly as notorious as Doherty, as an adult, due to an avalanche of nude photo 'captures' from her sexy film roles, flooding the Internet). The pilot was re-filmed with Milano, becoming the series' debut episode.
During the first two seasons, as much time was spent exploring the sisters' personalities as in their magical powers, as audiences embraced Prue, Piper, and Phoebe. With only a handwritten 'Book of Shadows' to guide them, confrontations with some truly frightening demons could be both spectacular and suspenseful...and one deadly encounter would cost the life of Prue's police detective boyfriend, Andy Trudeau (T.W. King). A handsome but mysterious young handyman, Leo Wyatt (Brian Krause) soon became a 'fixture' at the sisters' 'Halliwell Manor' home, and he and Piper developed an attraction that grew into love...a love that would be forbidden, when it was revealed that he was actually an angelic 'White Liter', assigned to protect the Charmed Ones. A wonderful supporting cast was also introduced, including Jennifer Rhodes, as the very 'hip' spirit of their grandmother, James Read, as their mortal, estranged father, Finola Hughes, as the ghost of their mother, and Dorian Gregory, as their loyal, if nervous, police 'contact'. For many fans, these seasons offered the series' best episodes.
However, by Season Three, rifts had developed between Doherty, producer Brad Kern, and Milano, fueled, in part, by Milano's more interesting plot line, and greater rapport with cast, crew, and press. Piper and Leo, unable to withhold their feelings for one another, plunged more deeply into their forbidden love, and Phoebe embarked on a tempestuous and even more dangerous affair with sexy, charismatic half-demon Cole Turner (Julian McMahon), in a storyline that brought in huge ratings and media attention, but cost the participation of series creator, Constance Burge, who disapproved of a second long-term, male-oriented plot line, and departed. Doherty would also leave the series at the end of the season, as Prue died, protecting an innocent, in what is universally considered the greatest "Charmed" episode, "All Hell Breaks Loose".
Prue's death resulted in some of the series' finest moments, as the two surviving sisters dealt with their loss, and the apparent 'end' of the "Power of Three". Then a previously unknown 'half sister', Paige (portrayed by another notorious media celebrity, Rose McGowan), arrived on the scene, the offspring of an earlier 'White Liter'/Witch union, involving their mother. Spontaneous, awkward, yet sweet-natured and funny, Paige was embraced quickly by Phoebe, more slowly by Piper, and quickly learned her magical skills.
The series spun off in new directions, some successful, some silly, over the next three seasons, incorporating myths, fairy tales, and legends from a variety of cultures. In the central story lines, Phoebe's affair with Cole, culminating in a demonic 'wedding', eventually ended when Cole, again corrupted by evil, was vanquished by Phoebe in an alternate future he had created; Piper and Leo, after a convoluted courtship, married, receiving a grudging 'blessing' from the Elders (Earth's magical 'protectors', and Leo's 'bosses'), and they had a son, Wyatt, who was destined to become the most powerful witch, ever.
In Season Six, a new 'White Liter' from the future, Chris (Drew Fuller), was introduced, and it would be revealed that he was actually Leo and Piper's SECOND son (a plot device that took into account Combs' real-life pregnancy), on a suicide mission to prevent Wyatt (portrayed, as an adult, by Wes Ramsey) from turning evil. In the poignant 'finale' episode, the adult Chris 'dies', just as he is being 'born'. The episodes featuring Fuller and Ramsey were very popular, even initiating an unsuccessful 'grassroots' movement to promote the creation of a spin-off series ("Charmed Sons") for Leo and Piper's adult magical siblings.
In Season Seven, Leo, now an Elder, was wooed away by a seemingly omnipotent race, the Avatars; while he would ultimately aid the Charmed Ones to defeat them, he was 'punished' by being stripped of all of his magical powers, returning to a mortal state (but allowed to remain with Piper and their sons); Phoebe had a brief, bittersweet affair with a charming 'reformed' demon (Billy Zane), secretly sent by the spirit of long-gone Cole Turner (McMahon, in a surprise appearance), now serving penitence time in Limbo; and Paige mourned the loss of her first 'real' love, FBI agent Kyle Brody (Kerr Smith)...but a VERY public confrontation with Homeland Security, during an epic battle with demon Zankou (Oded Fehr), in the Season Seven finale, forced the sisters to stage their own 'deaths', and assume new appearances and identities.
Suffering declining ratings, "Charmed" was very nearly canceled at the end of Season Seven, but was given a reprieve, offering loyal fans hope for a more satisfying finale to the series. Sadly, much of Season Eight was disappointing. In exchange for a promise to assist on 'unusual' cases, the sisters were allowed to renew their identities and original appearances, with Homeland Security concocting a story that they had been 'undercover'; budgetary constraints forced Leo to 'disappear' for half of the season; an annoying, whiny novice witch, Billie Jenkins (Kaley Cuoco) became a 'regular', taking precious air time away from the Halliwells; and loose ends were tied up far too quickly and cheaply. Billie's rescue of her long-lost sister, in the Underworld, was referred to but NEVER filmed(!); Paige met, dated, and quickly married a parole officer (Ivan Sergei); and Phoebe, in an increasingly annoying "Love Quest" subplot, finally found her soul mate in a 'new' Cupid (Victor Webster).
Fortunately, everything 'jelled' in the series' final two episodes, as Billie and her sister, Christy (Marnette Patterson), who had been secretly trained by the revived demonic Triad, aligned against the Sisters. With both sides tapping into the 'Ultimate Power', "The Hollow", there was a cataclysmic, if brief battle, destroying nearly everything and everyone, and forcing Piper (and the returned Leo) to journey into the past and future, in the series' finale, to straighten things out, and provide the 'Charmed Saga' a happy, satisfying conclusion, as the Halliwell sisters' descendants continue their magical adventures well into the new millennium.
Despite the marked decline in quality over the last few seasons, "Charmed" will be fondly remembered for it's exceptional cast, often exciting story lines, and 'magic' it possessed, at it's peak. Setting the record as the longest-running female-lead series, ever, it's place in television history is secure!
Alyssa Milano, Holly Marie Combs, and Rose McGowan
Holly Marie Combs, Rose McGowan, and Alyssa Milano
Shannen Doherty ("Prue Halliwell")
Holly Marie Combs ("Piper Halliwell")
Alyssa Milano ("Phoebe Halliwell")
Rose McGowan ("Paige Matthews")
Brian Krause ("Leo Wyatt")
Julian McMahon ("Cole Turner")
T.W. King ("Andy Trudeau")
Dorian Gregory ("Darryl Morris")
Wes Ramsey ("Wyatt Halliwell")
Drew Fuller ("Chris Halliwell")
Jennifer Rhodes ("Penny 'Grams' Halliwell")
Finola Hughes ("Patty Halliwell")
Family Time at Halliwell Manor...
Cast Caricature of "Charmed"
Holly Marie Combs, Alyssa Milano, and Rose McGowan
Shannen Doherty and T.W. King
Brian Krause and Holly Marie Combs
Julian McMahon and Alyssa Milano
Alyssa Milano and Victor Webster
Rose McGowan and Kerr Smith
Ivan Sergei and Rose McGowan
Jennifer Rhodes, James Read, and Finola Hughes
Jason & Kristopher Simmons and Unknown Actor(s)
Wes Ramsey and Drew Fuller
Oded Fehr, Joel Swetow, and Gildart Jackson
Michael Bailey Smith (in two roles), and Billy Drago
I visit 'Halliwell Manor' for inspiration, Summer, 2005...
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