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Saturday, March 7, 2015

GOOD WITCH Definitely Good, But Not Great Television

Article originally written for Seat42F.


Hallmark has a new drama series GOOD WITCH, which premiered this weekend. It is a continuation of a series of TV movies aired on the channel dating back to 2008, seven in all. GOOD WITCH brings back Cassie Nightingale (Catherine Bell), whose husband featured in the earlier films has passed away. Now, she is moving on in the town she calls home, her husband’s family reunited around her.

I have not seen the TV movies, so this review mainly concentrates on the series pilot, but I did look at synopsis of them, and the current program seems to line up pretty well with what’s come before it. Most of the townspeople and family are back, even if they aren’t main players. There’s the annoying Mayor Martha Tinsdale (Catherine Disher), writer stepdaughter Lori Russell (Hannah Endicott-Douglas), stepson Brandon (Dan Jeannotte), who is following in his father’s footsteps, and father-in-law George (Peter MacNeill), whom still lives with Cassie. All except Brandon are the same actors who previously played the characters, providing continuity for the show.

Of course, there are some things that are different. Cassie’s daughter, Grace (Bailee Madison, Trophy Wife), is now a teenager, providing a storyline in the high school setting. And Cassie’s husband, as mentioned, is dead, so that leaves Cassie open to romantic possibilities. The most obvious suitor is Dr. Sam Radford (James Denton, Desperate Housewives), who has just moved to town, and besides Grace and Cassie, is the only one other main character in GOOD WITCH.

One assumes that Cassie being made a widow is a convenient way for GOOD WITCH to carve itself out some story. While there’s nothing wrong with a family series, this type of show needs romance and some light drama to keep the plot moving. Cassie being single provides that, and it just makes sense, given the tone and structure of the show. Though, this sucks for Lori and Brandon, who have now lost both of their biological parents. It’s a good thing Cassie has enough years with them to be fully accepted into the family before its patriarch’s passing.

I don’t watch a lot of Hallmark, but I imagine GOOD WITCH is perfect for the network’s target audience. It is clean cut and tame, completely acceptable for all-age viewing. Martha is the closest thing to a villain present, and she’s more funny than menacing. The characters are good people with good morals, and any love stories or relationship bits are handled with sanitized, storybook-style courting. There is no cursing or violence, and even the witchcraft is subtle and kept to a minimum. There will be little anyone can complain about or find offensive here.

Which is probably why this show isn’t for me. I find it far too bland, a whitewashed version of Gilmore Girls, to be interesting. While death and sadness is a part of the primary story, that’s also part of life. Nothing really scary or terrible will happen to these people, and the wavelength of events stays pretty even-keel. However, with a plethora of networks out there, there should be something for all different tastes, and while this isn’t mine, I can appreciate that this isn’t a bad show by any means.

The only real complaint I have is when Cassie says she accidentally baked too many pies. I know this is because she can predict what is needed and she does this for a reason, but that line of dialogue is wholly unbelievable. How does someone accidentally make too many pies? You only make pies with purpose, and you make the exact amount you want. It’s ridiculous that anyone buys it, though only one completely ridiculous line in two hours or show is a pretty good ratio.

GOOD WITCH airs Saturdays at 8 p.m. ET on Hallmark.

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