Plot: Prue (Shannon Doherty) and Piper (Holly Marie Combs) are about to welcome their sister Phoebe (Alyssa Milano) back to town and despite Prue’s hesitance, back into their family home. Once the trio of sisters has reunited, the usual drama ensues and the trials of normal life weigh in, but a buried family secret is about to surface. As it turns out, the sisters are descendants of powerful witches and some of that magic has passed down to them. The women learn they each have a special ability, from clairvoyance to telekinesis to outright freezing of time. These incredible powers are impressive to be sure, but they also learn about a power of three, which calls for the sisters to unite their magics as one to overcome even powerful obstacles. While Phoebe starts using her powers to see if one night stands will be worthwhile, Prue cautions against irresponsible magic use, at least until a dark presence begins to make itself known. Can three newly minted witches battle the forces of darkness, sister drama, and the trials and tribulations of the dating world?
Entertainment Value: You could call Charmed a soap opera blended with some light supernatural elements, but it fares much better than most soaps, with good character development and some fun stories that unfold. The core narrative sticks close to the three sisters and their personal lives, usually focused on drama between them or various potential romances each pursues, with a good amount of melodrama, but not so much that it can’t be serious at times. The show’s ongoing elements tend to be rooted in the more personal stories of the sisters, so that is where the continuity kicks in and of course, as the series rolled on, new characters weave in and out of the narratives, even in this first season. Charmed wastes little time in establishing the foundation of what’s to come and wraps up a lot even in the first episode, then expanding and building a cadence as the season continues. Some seeds are planted in these early episodes that pay off slowly over the course of Charmed, some sooner than others. As for the more episodic threads, the sisters battle a variety of enemies both supernatural and otherwise, some of which return from time to time. I don’t think it fits the exact monster of the week trappings, but it has a similar feel to those shows at times.
This first season invests a good amount of time on character development, which means the performers are given a decent amount to work with, more involved material than most episodic shows of this kind. Not to say Charmed is some deep, complex show by any means, but it does make a nice effort to focus on characters and luckily, the cast takes advantage of that. The series is all about the sisters and the three leads in this first season all deliver, with enthusiastic and solid performances. Shannon Doherty stands out as the more high strung sister that tries to be the voice of reason, which of course, doesn’t work out too well in most episodes. Alyssa Milano is terrific as the fun driven sister who starts a lot of trouble, but has a good heart, while Holly Marie Combs falls somewhere in between the other two sisters. The trio have good chemistry and given how much character work is done in this debut season, that is a driving force behind why the show works as well as it does. This first season runs for 22 episodes, so ample time to introduce most of the central threads and themes, while having time to explore some side stories and such as well. If you like the drama of soap opera mixed with some supernatural elements, give Charmed a look.
The Disc: Charmed has been restored for this Blu-ray release and to be honest, it looks light years better than I ever expected. You can tell some care went into this treatment, as the show is so clear and refined, simply fantastic. So while most shows on Blu-ray are a nice upgrade from the DVD sets, Charmed is much more of a step up and really makes the show look brand new. The show has darker visuals in most scenes and the new restoration shines in that aspect, as no detail is sacrificed or obscured, even in the darkest shadows. I should note that this release presents Charmed in a new widescreen version, rather than the full frame broadcast edition. Some will prefer the original I’m sure, but this widescreen effort doesn’t seem to give up much, while gaining a lot of visual sheen.