The witching hour has arrived!
Sisters who discover they’re witches. Where have I heard that one before? Yes, it’s inevitable Witches of East End will earn comparisons to Charmed, the hit show about the Halliwell sisters who discover their magical heritage. The title also makes it easy to confuse the show with The Witches of Eastwick, witch (ha!) was both a show and a movie featuring those of the magical persuasion.
Joanna Beauchamp (Julia Ormond, Temple Grandin) has a secret: she’s a centuries-old cursed witch. Instead of being concerned with just keeping her own secrets she’s burdened by another: she’s bewitched her own daughters into forgetting their own magical roots and many lives. It seems as though everything is going well but then her estranged sister, Wendy (Madchen Amick, Twin Peaks), shows up to warn Joanna that not only is Joanna in danger but so are Joanna’s daughters Freya (Jenna Dewan-Tatum, Step Up), and Ingrid (Rachel Boston, In Plain Sight).
The biggest problem is the show is simply too condensed. Ten episodes are not enough time to allow for all the storylines to fully germinate, so we are left feeling a distinct lack of weight to the series. Things are kind of glossed over, and could have been fleshed out if there were more episodes. For example, finding out they are witches is not given the freak out you expect and that the discovery actually deserves. Another is the consequence of using magic. Some pretty messed up stuff can happen if you use spells, especially for your own gain, and it feels as though not enough beats are given to the characters’ emotional responses to learning those consequences. In addition to worrying about their recent magical discovery, the sisters have to work out their romantic relationship issues too. Ingrid has a string of beaus, while Freya spends the season torn between fiancé Dash (Eric Winter, Days of Our Lives) and his brother Killian (Daniel DiTomasso, CSI). Both Winter and DiTomasso add the beefcake to the show. There is definitely a soap opera feel to Witches of East End.
On the other hand, there are parts I definitely enjoy. For one thing, I like how each of the main characters has an arc and direction. Also, none of the main characters are put on the back burner for any significant amount of time, rather, every episode has a section dealing with each character, so you’re not waiting to see who is going where and doing what. If you have a favorite, you’re pretty much guaranteed to see them in any given episode. I also appreciate the concept that the magic comes from different places within each person. For example, Freya’s magic is led by her heart whereas Ingrid’s is ruled more by her mind. It’s a different take on the idea of each of them having separate powers. In this case, having a different slant to the effects and direction of the magic means more interesting outcomes are possible.
Witches of East End will definitely fill the Charmed-sized hole in your life. Though a bit more soap opera than dramatic series, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The characters are engaging and the portrayals convincing.
The video transfer is not the best, which is strange when you consider the ten episodes are spread across three discs, so you would expect a pristine transfer. Instead there is compression artifacting and some really soft focus where none is called for. The palette doesn’t call attention to itself, so that’s good. The special effects are pretty seamless, though they too suffer from the soft focus and artifacting. The 1.78:1 aspect ratio does not serve the transfer well; a full frame compression would perhaps help the transfer’s issues be less noticeable. The audio is the highlight of the technical specs, offering a pair of Dolby 5.1 tracks, with which I have no qualms.
As far as special features are considered there are deleted scenes; a featurette about the season overall; and a pair of blooper reels, one featuring the cat and one featuring the human cast.
Witches of East End: The Complete First Season will fill the magical hole in your TV viewing. It’s a soapy bit of fun.