THE WITCHES OF EAST END – Season One Review
Earlier this week I sat down with my review copy of The Witches of East End. After watching less than one episode, I was ready to title my review The Show That Needs To Be Burned At The Stake or something equally witty to make everyone realize just how much distance people needed to make between them and this show. The first episode was seriously terrible. It felt like The Witches of East end spent all of its budget hiring Julia Ormond to be in the show and then couldn’t afford to get anyone else to help support her in the role. The results included already hokey dialogue becoming even worse (and noticeable), bad special effects and just a subpar writing team made up of people too afraid to speak up and say “Does anyone else see the major plot holes in this or is it just me?”
The Witches of East End managed to also get Virginia Madsen on the show as well in a supporting role and wow does she ever do an awful job. I’m sure it was partially due to a shaky script but in an instant she makes you forget that she was ever nominated for an Oscar. Then again Halle Berry won an Oscar so I mean, I guess the Academy just makes questionable choices sometimes…
I did a little research on the show and the main writer is Maggie Friedman who kind of really seems to love witches as her main subject matter. Previously she’s written episodes for Eastwick (as in the witches of), the TV movie Spellbound and Dawson’s Creek. The latter doesn’t really have anything to do with anything but somehow still felt relevant in explaining to me what’s up with this show. Now, Maggie Friedman didn’t just come up with The Witches Of East End out of thin air nor did she do any conjuring to bring it into existence (unless money counts as conjuring because she’s also an executive producer…). The show is actually based on a series of books by Melissa de la Cruz. I have not a clue if the show is a faithful adaptation or not and I probably won’t go out of my way to find out.
Let’s backtrack though because so far I’ve been kind of a jerk towards The Witches of East End. I won’t say that everything has been undeserved but I do want to talk about redeeming qualities of the show. It could be that I’m suffering from Stockholm syndrome from watching this but let’s pretend that I’m not as I carry on from here.
The Witches of East End has an undebatably terrible first episode. There is not one thing that I think I can say I enjoyed from it. Truly. But I watched the whole first season and not just the first episode so let me carry on and say that the show actually has a pretty intriguing overall concept to it, which I’m not really going to get into. I’ll just say that it follows a mother and her two daughters as they try to stop something evil from tearing their family apart for good. And they’re witches.
As I was saying, the show does have an intriguing overall concept but the supporting actors and actresses in the show just can’t seem to pull it all off. It doesn’t seem like they’re putting anything into their roles and just feels like they’re reading their lines as best they can so they can pick up their paycheques. This is where the hokey dialogue comes in… some actors and actresses would be able to turn the lines into the fun kind of hokey dialogue but without the charm of someone like that, the lines generally fall flat. It doesn’t help that the writing in the show is wildly predictable. Hokey and predictable aren’t exactly great qualities to have in a TV series.
After that first episode, despite the dialogue issues, the actors do start to fall into their roles a little bit better and begin to feel more comfortable. Things start to shape up and become something more too and the predictability factor never really goes away, but it does get bearable in a just sit back and watch this with your mind off kind of way.
Rachel Boston plays Ingrid Beauchamp and despite definitely having her share of hokey moments, she has lots of charisma and tends to began to win me over with her charms. Again, it could just be Stockholm syndrome or witchcraft or something, but by the end of the show, I was pretty invested in Ingrid as a character. Honestly, despite most things in the show, I was actually pretty shocked to find me invested in most of the characters by the time things came to a close. I don’t know how this show did this to me, but it did. Julia Ormond is almost always wonderful and she was close to being wonderful in this but I have to point out that her accent was pretty abysmal. I don’t recall every really noticing a lot of British actors and/or actresses having a terrible time with an American accent, but Ormond slipped up a lot and it made me wonder why they didn’t just let her keep her accent for the show.
I can list off a few Americans that have botched British accents such as Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins, Anne Hathaway in One Day, Demi Moore in The Scarlet Letter (or the movie Flawless). The point is that I know we North Americans have botched the accents of our friends across the pond on many occasions but Julia Ormond is really, really, really guilty of botching our accent this time around. But now I’m back to just being a jerk about this show again.
I had a couple of technical issues with the DVD as well. The picture quality for this set is pretty subpar. If you’ve ever watched Netflix and you’ve gotten that pixelated screen for a bit before the HD kicks in, you’ll know how this DVD looks. Minus the HD. It clears up a bit in some spots, or at least becomes less noticeable but the quality is definitely not great. There are also a couple of spots when a clicking noise can be heard while trying to watch. It’s definitely not supposed to be there and yet it is. So there are those things to consider.
Tentative buy. If you like hokey and if you like silly and if you like predictable sort of magical mysteries, then you will really enjoy The Witches of East End. It’s Practical Magic meets Desperate Housewives meets Charmed. As long as you’re aware of what you’re walking into and that you know it’s a pretty mindless form of entertainment, then check it out.
It would be more worthwhile if they put it on Netflix, Amazon Instant Video or Hulu for free since the DVD does seem to have a few issues, but again, knowing what you’re signing up for is half the battle. As I said, I did really dislike the first episode so that’s another thing to note as well. If you watch the show and aren’t a fan of the pilot, stick with it for one more episode as it sets a bit of a better pacing and tone for what the rest of the season is like.