How Charmed lost its charm – what went wrong with the magical hit?

From dead sisters to counterfeit Hogwarts.

More than ten years after the eighth and final series of Charmed staggered its way over the finishing line, the CW has announced a “prequel-ish” reboot of the magical teen series.

Charmed broke records and won awards in its heyday, and the female ensemble fantasy show at its best could be thoroughly fun and – well – charming. It was daft, but knew it and made it work.

But the wheels slowly began to come off, so that by the time Old Piper finished telling the Charmed Ones’ story to her granddaughter in the last episode, we’d all forgotten about the good witch the show had been and remembered only the fireball-hurling hag that it became.

So what went wrong? Here are eight things that took the charm out of Charmed:

1. A game of dress-up

charmed phoebe mermaid

When Charmed began, it was a light-hearted and aspirational wish-fulfilment fantasy – occupying a similar place to Buffy. These were young women trying to find their place in the world, working hard and trying to iron out the kinks in their strong family bond.

And they also got to be witches with magical powers who save the world every week, which was pretty damn awesome.

Charmed Phoebe genie


But somewhere along the line, Charmed seemed to stop focusing on the needs of its audience and began to feel very self-indulgent towards its stars. Character-driven storylines were replaced with gimmicks. The biggest evidence of this? The game of dress-up that the show became.

Alyssa Milano’s weekly transformations included mermaid, Greek love goddess, Cinderella, a valkyrie, a genie and a Demonatrix (don’t ask). We’re sure she was having great fun – the audience, not so much.

2. Prue’s uneasy death

Charmed Prue dead


We’ll never know the truth about the on-set feuding and Shannen Doherty’s season three exit. The girls seem to be playing nice these days, and Rose McGowan was a great addition to the cast.

But Prue’s death was handled badly and essentially off-screen, and remained a shadow over the show for the rest of its five years. We get that Doherty was totally out, but in the world it never made sense that she would vanish so completely. Prue never showed up in spirit form, and there wasn’t even a picture of her on their wall.

Every time she was mentioned it was more like an elephant in the room than the ghost of a beloved sister. Awks.

3. The trouble with Phoebe

Charmed Ask Phoebe


The Charmed Ones had serious problems with holding down jobs – remember when Prue went from antiques dealer to celebrated photographer in about a week? But that pales in comparison to Alyssa Milano’s Phoebe, who somehow graduated in psychology and became an agony aunt at The Bay Mirror, then a talk show host and the bestselling author of Finding Love.

But who in their right mind would take her advice? Phoebe (and her past lives) had a tendency to turn evil, not to mention burning through love interests like they were going out of fashion. That included two failed marriages – one to Cole, who the Charmed Ones ended up killing a *few* times.

And then there were her powers, which changed almost as often as her boyfriends. The show had no idea what to do with Phoebe.

4. The sufferings of Cole

Charmed Cole

Not content that he had suffered enough, the show brought him back, making him invincible and generally miserable – and finally, after much hand-wringing, killed him off again.

And what about what the sisters did to Cole and Phoebe’s evil unborn baby? They blew it up – a popular solution to most of their problems.

5. Everyone’s least favourite mum

Charmed Piper


Holly Marie Combs did a great job of making Piper the sensible, reliable (if sometimes a little boring) sister while the others circled the chasm of insanity.

But eventually she tipped over the edge from ‘sensible’ into ‘boorish nag’ – probably thanks to her ever increasing brood of time-travelling magical sons. Either way, Piper deserved better.

6. Incest keeps a family together

Charmed Chris and Phoebe

Speaking of time-travelling sons, remember when Phoebe put the moves on Chris in ‘Oh My Goddess!’?

She might not have known that he was her nephew, but the writers sure did. Ick!

7. The gruesome twosome

Charmed Billie and Christy

You know a show is in trouble when it introduces a ‘fun’ new Cousin Oliver type to “liven things up”. Charmed‘s Cousin Oliver was Kaley Cuoco’s young witch Billie – who read like one of the terrible roles Cuoco’s wannabe actress Penny was forced to take on in The Big Bang Theory.

If this wasn’t bad enough, there was her long-lost sister Christy, who was raised by demons and had a habit of pulling “evil” faces when no one could see her like a pantomime villain.

Billie eventually helped blow Christy up (of course!), and didn’t seem too shaken up by it.

8. Hollywood Hogwarts

Charmed Magic School

The introduction of ‘Magic School’ in season six was a sure sign that the Charmed writers had run out of ideas and didn’t care who knew it.

Of course, Harry Potter‘s Dumbledore didn’t go evil like Charmed‘s headmaster Gideon, nor did he try to kill any babies. Though we’re sure JK was tempted from time to time.

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