Paramount // 1998 // 958 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Cynthia Boris (Retired) // March 15th, 2006
"Everything happens for a reason."
Think Charlie's Angels with magical powers, and you've got an under the radar hit show that has survived major cast changes, marriages, pregnancies, and snubs by the critics. Lighter than Buffy the Vampire Slayer, not as light as Sabrina the Teenage Witch; to make a show like this work, you'd have to be Charmed.
For three years, Prue (Shannen Doherty, Beverly Hills, 90210), Phoebe (Alyssa Milano, Who's the Boss?), and Piper Halliwell (Holly Marie Combs, Picket Fences) have been the Charmed Ones. Three sisters who found out very late in life that they were witches with a destiny to fulfill. They practiced their magicks (each with her own special power), they consorted with and made love to both the good guys (Brian Krause) and the bad guys (Julian McMahon, Nip/Tuck), and they saved the innocents on a weekly basis. Oh, and did I mention they always looked good doing it? Those ethereal fashion designers sure know how to work with silk.
But the story does not have a happy ending, because at the end of Season Three, Prue was killed by the Source of All Evil, putting a real crimp in the "Power of Three." Will this be the end of the Charmed Ones? Pish, tosh, no way. Mama Halliwell was well prepared for this possibility, for she sired a half sister known as Paige (Rose McGowan, Scream). Will Paige be tempted to the dark side? Will she come to accept her magical powers? Will she join the remaining sisters and complete the "Power of Three" (not to mention get a closet full of really cool clothes?). You'll find the answers in Charmed: The Complete Fourth Season.
Episodes in this box set:
* "Charmed Again (Part 1)"
* "Charmed Again (Part 2)"
* "Hell Hath No Fury"
* "Enter The Demon"
* "Size Matters"
* "A Knight To Remember"
* "Brain Drain"
* "Black As Cole"
* "Muse To My Ears"
* "A Paige From The Past"
* "Trial By Magic"
* "Lost And Bound"
* "Charmed And Dangerous"
* "The Three Faces Of Phoebe"
* "The Fifth Halliwell"
* "Saving Private Leo"
* "Bite Me"
* "We're Off To See The Wizard"
* "Long Live The Queen"
* "Womb Raider"
* "Witch Way Now?"
Charmed hit The WB just as Buffy the Vampire Slayer moved into its first full season on the same network. While magic and mayhem reigned on both series, Charmed was very much an Aaron Spelling production. It had the glitz and glamour and teen appeal of Beverly Hills, 90210 with the added perk of witches and magic. In a contest between the two invariably compared shows, Buffy was the critical darling, rising quickly to cult status among young adults. Even I gave up Charmed after the first season, drawn away by the more intelligent writing and sarcastic nature of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. But slow and steady often wins the race, and that's the case here, with Charmed churning out its eighth (and just announced, final) season, making it the longest running series with female leads.
Season Four of Charmed is a turning point. It was big news when Shannen Doherty announced that she was leaving the series amid rampant rumors that she couldn't get along with her co-stars. While the departure of any starring cast member can be deadly for a TV series, Charmed had the additional problem of the plot itself. The show's entire premise was based on "The Power of Three" -- three witches, whose power is only effective in unison. Producers had no choice in the matter; they had to bring the series back to three by adding a new character -- and a new, never heard of before sister at that. While many fans see the addition of Rose McGowan as Paige as the moment the series jumped the shark, many more fans have come to enjoy her presence on the show. Though practically the same age as her co-stars, McGowan adds a youthfulness to the series, a fresh viewer perspective that is particularly helpful for those of us who came in late.
The one thing that sets Charmed apart from other supernaturally based series is that it doesn't take itself too seriously. Though not a comedy, there are plenty of slapstick moments and "what just happened here" double takes. When Leo explains the complicated set of checks and balances that are involved in taking down an evil force, Piper replies, "Who makes up these cockamamie rules?" And somehow, just her saying that, makes us all buy into it one hundred percent.
The first few episodes of this season are hard to watch, not because they're bad, but because they deal with Prue's death and the effect it has on the sisters. The two-hour opener is quite sad and depressing, but kudos to the creators for not shoving this plot point into the closet; instead, they let the grief play out over several episodes and it's the basis for some very touching moments. But that's not the end of the big changes for the Halliwell sisters. (SPOILER ALERT) By mid-season, much of the storylines revolve around Cole and Phoebe's impending marriage, and by the end Piper and Leo, prepare to be parents. Add to the mix plenty of demons, vampires, time travel, body switching, and butt kicking, and you've got a jam packed boxed set, and what a pretty set it is, too!
Charmed: The Complete Fourth Season is packed in a lovely rose-colored box with cast member photos of the girls and their less than human lovers. The font used for the text is a tad hard to read, but that's nitpicking. Thanks to Paramount for providing us with six discs instead of double-siding these babies. Each sister is pictured on her own slipcase and the interior and disc graphics are very nice and theme appropriate. The on-screen navigation is simple -- too simple, really. A magical show like this should have had more bells and whistles. The sound fluctuates during the action sequences and the video quality is okay, but not superb. Overall, not much to complain about. Oh, wait...yes there is...
It's whining time, and here I am to complain. No extras! Nothing! This isn't a 1950s sitcom. This isn't a Universal DVD (I couldn't help myself, sorry). This is Paramount. This is a current cult hit, and nothing. No commentaries. No behind the scenes features. Nada. I suspect The Source of All Evil is at work here -- surely he's enchanted the DVD production staff at Paramount and forced them to short-change The Charmed Ones! Come on girls, dig into The Book of Shadows and find a way to break the spell before Season Five hits the shelves!
Honestly, I wasn't expecting to enjoy this boxed set as much as I did. As I mentioned, I was a fan of the series in the first season but gave it up after that. So coming in late, I feared the addition of the new sister and other additional characters would leave me cold and confused, but it didn't happen. Once I got past the teary-eyed funeral for Prue, I found a lot to like -- and much of it in the form of Julian McMahon, whom I adored from Profiler. Julian plays a half man / half demon who is hopelessly in love with Phoebe, and any episode that shows off his protective side makes my little heart go pitter pat. If you're a fan of McMahon, buy this box set, now. If you're new to the series, you may want to start with Season One or you're likely to be confused by the complex relationships between the characters, not to mention the many magical rules.
I hereby find Charmed: The Complete Fourth Season guilty of bewitching me, but I don't mind at all.
Review content copyright © 2006 Cynthia Boris; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (French)
Running Time: 958 Minutes
Release Year: 1998
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* The Charmed Ones Fan Site