On February 12, 2017, at around 3 in the morning, Discovery Family randomly aired an episode of Sabrina: Secrets of a Teenage Witch. Two days later they did it again. And it's never happened since.
It wasn't that long ago this show was new, but everyone seems to have already forgotten that it was ever made. In the end, Secrets of a Teenage Witch just couldn't measure up to the expectations set by.......well, actually, the unfortunate truth is that there's never been a good Sabrina cartoon. The DEEK version was obsessed with moralizing and the Filmation version had the usual Filmation faults. This one was commissioned by the Hub Network, a brief attempt by Hasbro to launch their own children's TV channel. Hub wasn't a complete waste of money -- they did have ONE cultural smash in the form of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, but let's just say that show didn't capture the demographic they intended. Their other scattershot offerings were all over the spectrum, from the adult-skewing (and excellent) Dan Vs. to whatever SheZow was. By the time Sabrina showed up the network didn't have long, and the cartoon's poor quality didn't have the power to save it.
I'm aware it takes a lot of education to build, paint and animate a CGI cartoon. But when you look at just one episode of Sabrina: Secrets of a Teenage Witch, you get the sense that the people making it weren't.....very.....bright. The attempts at humor are painfully amateur. The plots have holes bigger than Swiss cheese. And the ugly character models are very hard to look at:
Originally, Sabrina was simply a witch from Earth. But the more recent incarnations of Sabrina have cast witches as coming from an entirely separate dimension. In the 1996 show Sabrina lived in our world, but her family tree stemmed from a place called the "Other Realm," which played a role in the background. Beginning with Manga Sabrina in 2004, she's had to split her time between these two worlds, with separate lives in both, and separate friends in both.
They've made a lot of questionable choices here. Sabrina's traditional boyfriend Harvey has been turned into a geek (or a vintage 1990s-era interpretation of one) and shoved to the side in favor of a newly-invented love interest named Jim. I get the sense they looked at the name "Harvey Kinkle" and thought "must be a nerd" so they gave him glasses and made him interested in nerdy things like......uhh, Twilight?
Also, he's a werewolf now.
Setting a bitchy popular girl as Sabrina's antagonist is nothing new...what's weird about it is that there's been a different one in every version of the story since 1996. The MJH show had Libby, while the animated series from that time period had a character named "Gem Stone." The comic didn't actually have one, but Libby became popular enough that they had to introduce one there, named "Amy." All elements introduced for the Paramount show became property of Paramount, so Archie does not own Libby. The antagonist on this series is also named Amy, buit it's a different Amy. I think Archie should just pony up the cash to buy Libby and end this.
You know who's never shown up in any of Sabrina's TV shows, despite being a key character in the classic comics? Head Witch Della. I have no idea what her banishment is about. They come very close this time, using a tyrant called "Enchantra" in what comes close to Della's old role.
In the 1970s comics, Ambrose was the name of Sabrina's uncle, and a character named Shinji existed in Manga Sabrina. Neither of these characters are like them, they just borrow their names.
Zanda and Wanda don't actually appear in the two episodes we're looking at, so you don't really have to read anything about them.
The episode that aired February 12 is called "See No Sabrina, Hear No Sabrina." Salem is perched on a roof watching Sabrina talk to Jim. He fumes that ever since Sabrina took an interest in Jim, she's had less time to scratch Salem's ears, and this will not stand. So he prepares to X Jim out of the picture by turning him invisible. Unfortunately he misses and hits Sabrina instead.
The spell is not instantaneous, so Sabrina doesn't start fading until she's at one of her two schools. At Witch School (which is literally named "Witch School") she raises her hand to ask a question, but the teacher somehow doesn't see her. Later on she's chatting with Harvey when she has another brief fading problem. Harvey doesn't notice. It's only when she makes it to Mortal School that she disappears for good, and becomes clued in.
Sabrina now can't see her reflection in her locker mirror. "This day just went from HUH? to WHAAAAAAA?" she quips. Bet the writers were really proud of that one.
Nearby, the school security guard is standing around when she turns her head and notices the locker door wobbling open and shut by itself. Despite this being the more grounded of the two worlds, she IMMEDIATELY concludes that the school is haunted by a ghost. She unlocks a panel to reveal a big red button, and pounds it.
"THIS IS AN AUTOMATED WARNING! THIS IS AN UNSPECIFIED EMERGENCY! YOU HAVE ONE MINUTE TO VACATE THE SCHOOL BEFORE LOCKDOWN OCCURS!" One minute is enough time to evacuate this whole school? Actually, maybe....like most cheap CGI shows, they can't afford to populate the hallways beyond two or three extras.
Sabrina actually makes it outside before the lockdown happens. But then she spots Salem rushing through the doors, so she has to run back in after him. Salem's looking for Sabrina so he can reverse the spell, but she's a little hard for him to track down in her current state.
She's dismayed to find out she can't use her magic while invisible either. So instead she just kinda pushes against the giant sliding metal barrier, as if this is how such doors work. I'll just tell you now, this won't be a one-off incident. This version of Sabrina really IS that stupid and worse, and you'll see some pretty appalling examples later.
Harvey is working with the guard to trap the ghost, for unclear reasons. They both have crude homemade anti-ghost weapons with plungers at the end, but it isn't clear if said weapons even do anything. Perhaps not, because they set a trap for the ghost instead: when it tries to pass through this door, it will trip a string and get itself caught inside a large burlap bag! It's a plan that heavily involves ghosts being solid enough to trip wires and be contained within bags. Were this an actual spirit, they'd be in serious trouble.
Fortunately, it's just Sabrina. She's looking for a way out, and theorizes she may be able to fit through the small window above the booby-trapped door. So she grabs a chair and places it over the string. You might think she fully sees the obvious trap, but she does not -- she's just trying to boost her height.
The chair isn't tall enough, so she grabs a table. THIS time she trips the string while backing the table into place, and gets caught in the bag.
Harvey and the guard are thrilled they caught their "ghost." The guard insists they have to take a selfie with the bag, but she has her hands full, so she asks Harvey to operate her phone....and Harvey can't figure out the buttons (but smartphones don't have buttons...) This gives Sabrina the opportunity to make a hole in the bag and escape.
But before splitting, she nabs the guard's keys and re-opens the entire school. This is an act the guard and Harvey definitely notice, but by the time they do, Sabrina is long gone.
Sabrina has no idea Salem was the one who made her invisible. Instead she blames Shinji, her rival at Witch School. She decides to torment the clueless boy until he relents and changes her back to normal. She trips him in the hallway, sabotages his school projects, and gets him into detention. But he can't hear her spoken accusations, so she has to write "SABRINA" on the chalkboard to finally clue him in. Shinji swears up and down he had nothing to do with what's going on. This leaves Sabrina with no other leads. In this version, she isn't aware Salem has powers of his own -- she thinks he's just a cat.
Her only hope is that her aunts have a spell that can restore her visibility. She walks into the kitchen where Hilda and Zelda are making magic muffins, and throws flour into her own face so they can see her. They have bad news for Sabrina...only the person who cast such a spell can reverse it, but they can try their best.
They pour a potion over her hair and at first it doesn't seem to work, but then Salem finally returns home. Seeing Sabrina, he immediately tail-zaps her and this time he doesn't miss. Sabrina thinks the potion was a success and everyone's happy, the end.
The episode that aired two days later starts in
Witch World with Sabrina and her supernatural buddies gathering
herbs in the forest.
Allison Lupa uses her
powers to float a bundle of herbs into her bag and declares,
"These ingredients are just what I need to complete the
intricate potion I'm working on! I shall call
"I hate to break your broom, but the humans already came up with that name," Sabrina tells her.
"Oh. Then I shall call it...CANDY!"
So they don't have toothpaste or candy in Witch World? Maybe they wouldn't need to invent toothpaste because their teeth would stay magically clean, but then why would they not have candy? Am I supposed to think so deep on this?
Suddenly a giant bird flies up from out of nowhere and shoots circular beams from his wings, giving Sabrina a mesmerized expression -- and then she falls down. When her friends pick her back up and say "Sabrina, are you okay," her reply is "Sabrina? Who's Sabrina?" Yep, we're doing THIS!
According to their books, the bird that just attacked Sabrina was a "Mind-Wipe Raven." There's a bird that attacks solely by erasing memories.....I guess that'd be an effective natural defense. But if this is an established thing, there must be a cure by now, right? There indeed is, but it can't just be procured from a store. They need to find a specific plant. Meanwhile they haven't been watching Sabrina at all while they were discussing this. They turn around to find she's run off and joined a tribe of trolls.
This is bad because trolls and witches are rivals in Witch World. Witches currently rule, if the very name of the realm didn't give that status away....trolls would love to bash their heads and turn the place into Troll World, but they're at a disadvantage without magic. A solution arrives at the door in the form of amnesiac Sabrina.
They manage to convice Sabrina that she is a troll...which isn't hard. The Queen Troll and her underlings discuss their big plan while Sabrina is just standing there in the middle of their courtroom, completely within earshot. But that doesn't matter, because Sabrina is criminally stupid. When she sees her reflection and asks why she looks human, they reply "because you were cursed by the witches to look PRETTY!" "Pretty? Ugh, what a curse!"
Ambrose and Lupa catch up. Believing the trolls have kidnapped Sabrina, they get to working their wands and try to pul her out of there. But Sabrina has completely bought into her new role, and starts fighting THEM. "You're a witch, Sabrina! Otherwise why would you have a broom?" They summon her broom and it hoists her into the sky, against her protests. Ambrose orders the broom to take Sabrina "somewhere safe," so it actually warps her to the human world.
Stop tape for a minute. I'm gonna show you something I've observed about TV witches over the last few months. I didn't notice it until recently, but now I notice it all the time...and once I point it out to you, it'll drive you just as crazy as it does me.
Take a look at this illustration. Do you notice anything weird about it? Look closer.
That's a weird and uncomfortable
way to sit, isn't it? Shouldn't she be sitting with her legs
between the broom, not on the side? You might just assume this is
because the chair would get in the way.
Well, have a look at THIS:
This is not an animation goof. I had to pick a shot from a promo because I don't have all day to sift through episodes, but trust me -- in the DEEK cartoon, that is how Sabrina sits on her broom EVERY TIME you see her on one. It is never between the legs, it is always on the side. It looks awkward and strange, and it shouldn't even work -- she's barely on the broom at all. If proper physics were applied she'd fall right off.
This is not an isolated phenomenon. Have you ever noticed THIS?
Half the time you see a witch on television, she rides a broom between her legs. The other half of the time, her legs are on the side, and it is always in an awkward manner, as if they WOULD put the broom between the legs if they COULD but someone told them they couldn't.
My best guess is it's some kind
of "imitatable acts" censor note....as in you can't
have a witch put a broom between her legs because then kids
might put brooms between their legs and discover they REALLY
REALLY LIKE IT.
Which is not only ridiculous but a wasted effort. Is there a kid alive who doesn't know how a witch rides a broom?
Supernatural creatures have been riding brooms between their legs in media for centuries without inspiring any real-world moments of "discovery." The only problematic case I can think of was the incident when a toy company came out with a Harry Potter Nimbus 2000 that vibrated when you pushed a button. It was recalled quickly.
Returning to the story, Sabrina is now in the mortal realm, but she still thinks she's a troll. Sabrina is standing cluelessly on the street when one of her human friends approaches and yells that they're both late for school. Sabrina doesn't even know what a school is, so she's dragged there by the hand. At school, she walks like a caveman into the cafeteria. Several loud crashes and screaming patrons later, she emerges from the door devouring a bowl of glop without utensils. Then she runs into Jim....who she thinks is cute, and a troll expresses this feeling by slapping their potential mate with a large dead fish. Jim is....turned on by this. Amy never stood a chance with him.
A troll was sent from Witch World to bring Sabrina back. It's right after the fish incident that he catches up with her. And...time for a commercial:
Sabrina: Secrets of a Teenage Witch lost its custom bumpers months ago, which were attached to The Hub. These generic stock ones appear instead.
Once Sabrina returns to the trolls' fortress, she declares that NOW is the time to storm Enchantra's castle and conquer Witch World for the trolls! They all raise their clubs and follow her in a mob. Meanwhile Ambrose and Lupa hace tracked down the rare flower needed for the re-memory-fication spell. All they have to do next is find Sabrina....
....which isn't as hard as it used to be now that she's actively causing a commotion at Enchantra's. Shinji is by the door and thinks "trolls? please...this'll be easy" and flings a handcuff spell. Sabrina shoots it back at him and binds his hands. "Wait...what are YOU doing there?" he stammers, confused.
The other witches turn up on their brooms just as Sabrina and her troll gang are slamming the front gate with their clubs. It's now or never to try the cure. Lupa aims and fires, Sabrina is surrounded by a green glow, and then she faints.
The trolls are confused and aren't sure what to do next without instructions. When Sabrina wakes up, she knows who she is and turns on them, smacking the horde with her club so hard that they all fall over at once. Without her as an ally, they know they're in serious trouble, and run off. Shinji is still cuffed, and Sabrina considers undoing that problem if he says "please." Unfortunately saying "please" isn't in Shinji's anti-moral code, so he remains cuffed.
The final scene is back in Human World where Sabrina is lounging at the cafe. She wonders just what she's been doing all afternoon. That's when Jim comes up with a giant dead fish and says he wants another round....human sexuality is the one force scarier than any troll.
Let's not mince words: this whole thing is terrible. But I guess it doesn't matter since no one saw it. When Netflix introduced Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, the media acted like it was the first time Sabrina had ever been on television since the TGIF show. That wasn't accurate, but it might as well have been. Unless there's another 3AM airing in this series' future, Sabrina: Secrets of a Teenage Witch will remain buried and forgotten in a vault somewhere, where no one will ever be subjected to its lunacy again.
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