Sabrina The Teenage Witch Co-Creator Reflects On The Iconic Show 25 Years Later

Sabrina The Teenage Witch

Sabrina The Teenage Witch: watching a speakme cat and a teenage lady navigate the wacky ramifications of spells that make unpalatable lima beans disappear

or give up the college bully from spreading lies may now not appear like an enjoyable Friday night time for these developing up in the TikTok era. But in 1996, Sabrina, The Teenage Witch was once appointment viewing for 17 million households.

Starring Melissa Joan Hart, clean off her star-making flip as the title persona on Nickelodeon’s Clarissa Explains It All, Sabrina, The Teenage Witch has everything—humor, heart, magic, and a lady protagonist with exquisite powers but comparable insecurities as her younger audience.

That’s partly due to the fact Sabrina, who lived with her supportive 600-year-old aunts Zelda and Hilda (Beth Broderick and Caroline Rhea), solely learns that she’s half-witch with magical capabilities at the begin of the series, when she turns sixteen years old.

So, whilst she’s struggling to fine-tune her potions, she’s additionally weathering a pivotal time in her existence as she juggles excessive school, crushes, impending womanhood, and so tons more.

“What’s the matter?” Sabrina asks with exasperation in the 14th episode of season 1. “I have to be a witch, I have to be a mortal, I have to be a teen and I have to be a woman all at the equal time. That’s what’s the matter.”

The innovative thinking of Sabrina is she’s a desirable kid. … She, like me, desired to be appropriate in school, and a top person.

It’s this variety of reflection, weird and relatable in equal measure, that humanizes each Hart’s portrayal as nicely as Sabrina the series. It additionally served as the impetus for co-creator and season 1 showrunner, Nell Scovell, a TV veteran whose writing credit encompasses Murphy Brown,

Coach, and Newhart. “I desired to make a exhibit that I would’ve appreciated to watch when I was once a younger a girl,” she tells on a Zoom name from Los Angeles. “And the modern notion of Sabrina is she’s a desirable kid. She would not prefer to be a cheerleader [or] popular. She, like me, desired to be precise in school, and a true person.”

It’s been 25 years because Sabrina, The Teenage Witch premiered on ABC. It ran for seven seasons, ending in 2003. Scovell, at first, appears modest about its have an impact on and helming the series, which she tailored from the unique Archie Comics. “

It used to be simply walking all the historic sitcom tropes thru this extra twist of magic,” she says. “She would not have a date for the prom, so her aunts make one out of man-dough, as one does.” Scovell can’t assist however snicker recalling the sixth episode of the first season, titled “Dream Date,” with visitor megastar Brian Austin Green.

But the zaniness of the sitcom, and what it would rapidly become—a teen traditional that, in contrast to the older classic, Bewitched, portrayed a younger witch who is motivated to use, no longer conceal her powers—was what made it so remarkable. “What was once so plenty enjoyable for me used to be that twist,” Scovell admits.

Many of the alternatives Scovell would go on to make at some point of her single-season tenure on Sabrina and later in her profession have been immediately influenced by using some of the female she regarded up to developing up post-Bewitched.

But that is the distinction between a exhibit in the ‘60s and a exhibit in the ‘90s created by using anybody who grew up in the ‘70s and had Gloria Steinem in her life,” she says. “It was, ‘Be cautious of your powers, however we will inspire you to use them.’”

Intentionality for Scovell additionally got here from her journey as a girl in a function of energy in a commercial enterprise that was, and remains, run by means of men. She felt a want to maintain the exhibit realistic—even as it concocts fact sprinkles and has characters that chat with a speakme image framed on their kitchen wall.

As Scovell important points in her 2018 book, Just the Funny Parts: … And a Few Hard Truths About Sneaking into the Hollywood Boys’ Club, she obtained pushback from Viacom professionals Steve Gordon and Chris Sanagustin about preserving Sabrina’s mortal mom alive (though she used to be not often on the show) to keep away from the useless mother trope.

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It simply regarded very sad,” Scovell explains with a laugh. “We have been a comedy, and I desired to make positive you had been relaxed with the notion that she was once dwelling with her aunts and that her father used to be solely handy to her via the e book [referring to the Magic Book the place her father, Edward, seems by means of a portrait inside].”

That intended that the first three names on the name sheet had been women, which used to be simply unheard of at the time. They joined a co-executive producer and two supervising producers who have been all women. “Golden Girls, Designing Women,

and Murphy Brown had male government producers,” she says. “Susan Harris, Linda Bloodworth-Thomason, and Diane English all labored with their husbands who govt produced their shows.” She laughs and adds, “My husband’s an architect.”

Scovell’s fiercely impartial imaginative and prescient got here into play in myriad storylines, together with the sixteenth episode of the first season titled, “Mars Attacks,” one of her private favorites. It’s when Sabrina is depressing on a Mars ski holiday with her aunts due to the fact she is away from her boyfriend, Harvey (Nate Richert), till she meets a warm ski teacher (David Chokachi) who tries to sweep her off her feet.

“He touches her hand and begins to make a pass on her,” Scovell remembers vividly. “She stops him and [is like], Nope. When Harvey touches me, it feels a positive way. When you touched me, I did not sense that, so I’m now not going to go forward. What amazed me is that that scene is a virtually proper mannequin of consent.”

Even today, Scovell finds herself pausing and reconsidering selections she made, on the other hand subconscious, whilst growing an exhibit that used to be inherently mild and fun. “I can not say at the time I thought, In this scene, we will mannequin consent,” she continues.

But when you have a girl showrunner—I wrote that episode too—and it really is section of your lived journey and the way you choose the world to work, you get to show that to the audience.”

By that equal token, she notes in Just the Funny Parts that the very particular lived experiences she depicted on the first season of Sabrina excluded human beings of coloration in the core cast—despite having the possibility to solid Cicely Tyson as Hilda.

I’m conscious of all the excuses I ought to make to justify the homogeneity due to the fact they’ve all been made towards me on male-centric shows,” she writes. “I had the possibility to encompass extra voices and I didn’t make sufficient of an effort. That was once a mistake.”

Over Zoom, she reiterates that regret. “It’s a lack of imagination,” she says simply.

Mulling over this some more, she adds, “I was once caught on that thinking that they’re a family, so they need to have the equal pores and skin color. There was, on my part, some moral licensing due to the fact we got here after Family Matters. I suppose there used to be this feeling that that exhibit had a Black family, and we have a white family, and it’s okay.”

Obviously, in hindsight, Scovell realizes that that used to be shortsighted, noting the importance of inclusive indicates like Hamilton. “The range we see nowadays has solely made TV better,” she says. And to be fair, the whiteness of ‘90s tv prolonged some distance past Sabrina to Beverly Hills, 90210, Party of Five, and infinite others. “Buffy,

The Vampire Slayer used to be amazing white and Charmed too,” Scovell says, citing the latter sequence which she moved on to write for a few years after Sabrina. “Frankly, most of the shows—Murphy Brown, Coach, Newhart. That was once the cultural bias, and that was once wrong.”

While Sabrina had its flaws (certain strains of communication are additionally especially dated today) it receives a deposit for toppling all expectations for what a sitcom about a teenage witch can accomplish. That consists of the twenty-third episode of season one, titled

The Crucible,” which sees Sabrina confronting the fallacy of the Salem Witch trials—and, by way of extension, ladies and female who, like her, are considered as different—at a mock listening to on a classification day trip to the unique setting.

Though Scovell says that excessive college “was no longer the happiest of experiences” for her, she would possibly have been fascinated in returning to the world of Sabrina in Netflix’s Chilling Adventures of Sabrina had she been asked, specially when Broderick and Rhea guest-starred on the collection in 2020.

It should have additionally been an chance for her to be a phase of an generation of a personality she modernized from the supply cloth and that had been in addition up to date for today’s demand for inclusion on screen. Still, she notes that the Netflix sequence lifts a lot from the ‘90s show.

“They use so an awful lot of my IP,” she says. “It cracked me up because, in the book, their ultimate name, Spellman, got here from my dad’s excellent friend, Irving Spellman. And the backstory about Sabrina having a mortal mom and a witch for a father—that wasn’t in the comedian books. I created that for our series.”

That said, she’s solely considered the first few episodes of Chilling. “It used to be challenging for me, obviously, to respect what they have been doing, due to the fact I was once continually evaluating it [to my version].”

Still, Scovell acknowledges the price of a persona who has persisted for a long time and observed new relevance with ever-evolving audiences who want incantations and teenage battles towards the patriarchy. “Every era receives the Sabrina they deserve,” she says, “and these are chilling times.”

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