We are on the last week of our Teen Scene blog series. We began the month with Melissa Joan Hart in Clarissa Explains It All, and we end with Melissa Joan Hart in Sabrina the Teenage Witch.
Clarissa Explains It All went off the air in 1994, and two years later Sabrina hit the airwaves. The show was on ABC from Fall of 1996 until May of 2000 and then moved to The WB network for three seasons, going off the air in April of 2003.
Neil Scovell created the show based on the Sabrina the Teenage Witch character from the Archie comic series. The premise was that on her sixteenth birthday, Sabrina (Hart) learns that she has magical powers. She lives with her aunts who she learns are 600 years old and also witches: Hilda (Caroline Rhea) and Zelda (Beth Broderick) and their cat Salem who is also magical. Salem was voiced by Nick Bakay. The three family members live in Boston.
A lot of the plots are based on spells that don’t go quite right as Sabrina learns her magic skills. Unlike Bewitched, it’s her father’s side of the family that she inherited her powers from. Other plots come from the circumstances that arise as she tries to keep the fact that she is a witch from her friends Jenny (Michelle Beaudoin), Valerie (Lindsay Sloane), her boyfriend Harvey (Nate Richert), and her suspicious principal Willard Kraft (Martin Mull).
Sabrina has an annoying cousin but rather than Hart playing both roles like in Bewitched or I Dream of Jeannie, her sister Emily portrays cousin Amanda.
There was no live studio audience because of the complex visual effects that were necessary for the filming.
Season one is Sabrina dealing with the fact that she is a witch and that she needs to learn how to deal with her special powers. In season two, she learns she needs to earn her witch’s license or give up her powers. She has to attend witch boot camp before her test.
For season three, she learns before she can use her license, she must discover her family secret. Different family members provide her with clues throughout the year, and eventually, she learns every family member is born with a twin. Harvey learns during season four that Sabrina is a witch. Their relationship is on and off again but he leaves the show at the end of the year.
For season five, Sabrina begins college and moves into a house with other students. She goes to work at a local coffee shop. Her aunts want to stay close to her so Hilda buys the coffee shop and Zelda becomes a professor at the school. Sabrina gets a new boyfriend Josh.
Josh is offered a job abroad and while he is trying to decide, Harvey reenters Sabrina’s life because he is dating her roommate Morgan. Eventually, Josh and Harvey both move away. At the beginning of the last season, Sabrina and her roommates Morgan and Roxie move into her aunt’s house and Sabrina becomes a writer for a magazine. She meets a new guy, Aaron, to whom she eventually becomes engaged. However, in the series finale, Harvey returns on her wedding day and Sabrina leaves with him.
The series was well known for its music and musical guests. During the run of the show, Britney Spears, Avril Lavigne, N*Sync, Coolio, The Backstreet Boys, Paula Abdul, the Violent Femmes, 10000 Maniacs, and Usher all make appearances.
One of my favorite moments comes during an episode in season 2, “Dante’s Inferno.” In this episode, Aunt Hilda has an illness called pun-itis where everything she says becomes literally true. She says there’s a monkey on her shoulder and voila, it is. However, it’s no ordinary monkey. It’s Monkee member Davey Jones wrapped around her shoulder.
This show was genuinely funny. Sabrina was youthful and optimistic and fun. Her aunts truly loved her and brought a warmth and a kindness to the show. Salem’s dry sense of humor and sarcasm make him a delightful pet. They were a delightful family to spend time with.