One of the shows I’ve most enjoyed viewing both in first-run and in reruns or on tapes/discs has been the television series, Charmed. It gave a great modern twist on the familiar Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie memories I have from childhood. As much as I enjoyed it, during its eight-season run, a few things about the series still bug me to this day.
6. The Elders
The Elders were such an annoying plot device that I couldn’t quite get myself to just give in and go with the flow. I’d have to go through all the seasons, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the sisters actually got more useful help from a variety of demons than they did from the Elders. I mean, how often did Leo (or any other Whitelighter-type person) go to the Elders only to return saying that the Elders didn’t know or that they couldn’t/wouldn’t help? At times it was difficult to tell if the Elders were actually on the side of the Charmed Ones. With friends like these….
5. Ms Hellfire
I focus on this second-season episode because this was where, for me, the series “jumped the shark”. I’m not saying that I didn’t enjoy the rest of the ride, but it was here that it seemed that it changed.
One of the things I find most important about SF/F stories is that they be internally consistent. When you violate the rules you’ve set up, in spirit if not in deed, then I have a problem.
We’d been assured that even Charmed magic was ineffective on good witches. That was one of the limitations of the universe. But, when Prue was affected by Barbas, she was able to use magic against her sisters. While some might claim that “technically” it wasn’t Prue or a Charmed One wielding the mystical mojo, for me the contract that had been established between the show and myself had been fractured. After this episode, the rifts caused by magical malpractice only started growing.
Though I have absolutely nothing to substantiate whether this had an effect on storytelling or not, it does seem odd that Executive Producer Constance Burge left her position at some point during this period of the series. I can’t help but wonder what the series might have been like if she’d stayed attached.
Barbas was on quite a bit–more than I felt the character deserved. I’ll admit, some of this was due to what Billy Drago brought to the part. He creeped me out.
That said, I’ll concede that in some episodes, especially “From Fear to Eternity”, his first appearance, Barbas was a decent enough villain. Even so, I always cringed a little when I knew Barbas was going to be the plot device.
3. Prue’s Absence
It’s no secret that I’m a bit of a Shannen Doherty fan. I love what she brought to Charmed. (I also liked Rose McGowan in the series as well…this is not a case of either/or.) I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little shocked that she was the one who left the show when the climax of the 3rd season finale, “All Hell Breaks Loose”. The story in this episode strongly hinted at Phoebe ending up as the dead sister. This isn’t what irks me.
The thorn in my side is how they handled Prue’s being gone afterward. While I acknowledge that there are union-based financial issues that have to be addressed when cameoing an actor, this isn’t something that couldn’t have been worked around by both sides. The show could even have taken the full financial hit every now and again during those final five seasons. When Prue should have been showing in flashback, or in a photo, or even in dialog and wasn’t–well, the elephant in the room was rather obvious.
2. The Source
I loved the concept of the Source. While the initial realization was somewhat incompetent, he served as formidable foe for the Charmed Ones. But then they made the Source corporeal.
When formless, the Source seemed bigger: a threat not only to the Charmed Ones but to the Elders and anything else “good” that got in his way. Once an actor was put in those robes, the Source just became yet another demon. For me, it diminished the evil that the sisters were fighting from something otherworldly to being just another foe.
1. Phoebe’s Powers
Without a doubt, the one thing that makes me ball up my fists and shake them at the screen is how the show treated Phoebe and her powers.
While Melinda Warren put the happiest possible spin on Phoebe’s initial power of seeing into the past and to possible futures, the lack of an active power always served to make Phoebe a bit of a tag-a-long baby sister.
I knew that Phoebe was never going to get really cool powers when they gave Prue the power of astral-projection. That simply confused me. Astral-projection is NOT an extension of telekinesis but a visible manifestation of a mental power. While they tried to balance that with giving Phoebe the power of flight–which seems more like a telekinetic extension–but rarely allowing her to use it for non-comedic effect, it was clear that Phoebe was getting the short end of the magical gift basket.
But it got worse. Paige came in with a Whitelighter version of teleportation and healing, but Phoebe eventually LOST her powers except for spell-casting. A lot of this was mostly a plot device (with–groan–Barbas again in the mix) which seemed all-in-all rather arbitrary. Yeah, the Source thing, and yes, the sins of her soul’s previous life, and blah blah blah– those transgressions seemed rather par for the course for any of the main characters. But no…they picked on Phoebe. (I liked electric tendrilled brain-frying future Phoebe…she had moxie.)
I’m still bitter about the astral-projection thing, though. So not a Prue power.
And those are my biggest irks with Charmed. Sure, there are little things here and there, but I largely enjoyed the series for what it was. I often still go back and watch episodes and smile as I revisit my old friends, the Halliwells.