Sabrina Won Us Over Without Magic

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.

Photo: wonderwall.com

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.

Photo: usmagazine.com

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).

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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.

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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.

Photo: yahoo.com

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.

Photo: insider.com

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.

Arthur: Entertaining All of Us for 25 Years

Photo: arthur wiki-fandom.com

In 1996, one of my all-time favorite kids’ shows debuted. I admit I could only take so much Sesame Street, Caillou made me want to cover my ears with a blanket after 10 minutes, and don’t get me started on Teletubbies; I could not even make it through the theme song. However, one show I never get tired of is Arthur. I may or may not have been known to watch it even when I am the only one home.

Arthur was a 30-minute show, which consisted of two 11-minute stories with a live-action segment in between. The series was based on the books authored by Marc Brown. The series was developed by Kathy Waugh for PBS, and it’s produced by WGBH. Each show began with Arthur talking to the audience about a situation which is then explored in the story. We get to know Arthur, his family, and his friends intimately.

In a Scholastic interview, Brown said the character Arthur was born when his son Tolon asked for a bedtime story about a weird animal. He started going through the alphabet and an aardvark was the first animal that popped into his head. Tolon is now a producer on the show.

Photo: pinterest.com

The themes are the same ones that kids have to deal with in real life, some big and some small. During the 25 years that it has been on television, the show has covered bed wetting, dyslexia, cancer, autism, sibling rivalry, cheating in school, watching scary movies, divorce, fear of the dark, getting sick, and so many others. In a 2019 episode, Mr. Ratburn, Arthur’s teacher, marries a same-sex partner and Alabama Public Television declined to show the episode.

The series is fun to watch and presents issues kids deal with in a realistic, yet humorous light. Kids and parents can relate to the stories and characters. When Marc Brown described Arthur, he elaborated that “He is an eight-year-old aardvark who is navigating the mud puddles of life. You know, as we all are really. We all have obstacles and it’s how we handle them, and if Arthur can show kids that you can get through problems, solve problems, that’s really a good message for kids, it gives them confidence.” He added, “It’s a good message Arthur has, right, believe in yourself.”

What animal is Arthur? - How To Discuss
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Arthur Read, age 8, lives with his mother Jane, father David, younger sister DW (Doris Winifred), and his baby sister Kate. His Grandma Thora is also around a lot as is his dog Pal. (Except for one episode, DW always wears a pink dress.)

His best friend is Buster. Some of his other friends include Francine, Muffy, Binky Barnes, Prunella, Sue Ellen, and The Brain. Even though the characters are all animals, they live in human homes and live life like most humans do. They live in Elmwood, which is a suburb of Pittsburgh. Brown grew up in Erie, PA and based many of the stories on his grade school life.

Arthur: PBS children's show to come to an end after 25 years
Photo: usatoday.com

I won’t get into the actors who provide voices for the various characters because there were many; some characters had more than five people playing them over the years. One interesting fact about that though is that DW was always voiced by a male.

I am not sure why but the first season of Arthur cost $12 million to create which is astounding to me. I tried to find more details about the reasons behind the big price tag, but I came up empty.

Photo: medium.com

One of the most memorable things about the show is the catchy theme song. Written by Judy Henderson and Jerry de Villiers Jr., “Believe In Yourself” was originally recorded by Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers for the show.

The show featured a lot of guest stars over the years. Some of the more fun episodes included Fred Rogers as himself visiting Elwood City, Art Garfunkel as a singing moose, Yo-Yo Ma as a music rival, Alex Trebek as Alex Lebek, game show host, Michelle Kwan teaching Francine to skate, Larry King interviewing Arthur, and The Backstreet Boys in concert.

Photo: imdb.com

I truly just picked four of my favorite PBS kids’ shows to learn about this month, but it turns out they were all the longest-running shows on the network. Arthur is the longest-running animated series for kids and is second in animation overall to The Simpsons. The show received a Peabody Award and four Emmy Awards for Outstanding Children’s Animated Program.

Photo: theguardian.com

Last month the last episode of Arthur aired. While I’m sad to see it end, it surely had a great run. My boys read Arthur books and watched the show, my grandkids are reading the books and watching the show, and I’m hoping that my great-grandkids will enjoy the books and reruns of the show.

One of my favorite Arthur books and episodes was aired during Season 1 and is “Arthur’s Chicken Pox.” I think it’s one of my favorites because it is truly an ordinary but delightful look at an everyday event. I remember getting chicken pox at about Arthur’s age.

Thank you Marc Brown for creating such an eclectic group of characters and so many enjoyable stories and moments, and thank you PBS for recognizing what a great series it could be and funding it for two and a half decades.