Pilots and Premieres: “Witches of East End” – Series Premiere

THE SPECS:

Who:  “Witches of East End,” currently airs on cable TV, specifically on Lifetime, Sundays at 10:00 PM.

What: “Witches of East End,” a supernatural drama about a family of immortal witches.  Julia Ormond (Legends of the Fall; Sabrina) plays the matriarch, who is cursed to bear two daughters and watch them die over several lifetimes while her younger sister is cursed to die and be reborn as a cat with nine lives to live.  In this current life cycle, the two daughters, Ingrid and Freya, are not aware (as of yet) that they are witches.

When: The series premiered on Lifetime, Sunday, October 6, 2013, at 10:00 PM.

Where: The show is set on Long Island, New York.

Why: My love of supernatural and fantasy stories made me curious, and I did love Charmed.  Normally, the fact that the show airs on Lifetime would be a deterrent, but my curiosity got the better of me.

How – as in How Was It?

The pilot/premiere rating scale:

***** – I HAVE TO WATCH EVERYTHING.  HOLY SMOKES!

**** – Well, it certainly seems intriguing.  I’m going to keep watching, but I see possible pitfalls in the premise.

*** – I will give it six episodes and see what happens.  There are things I like, and things I don’t.  We’ll see which “things” are allowed to flourish.

** – I will give it three episodes.  Chances are, I’m mainly bored, but there is some intrigue or fascination that could hold it together.  No matter how unlikely.

* – Pass on this one, guys.  It’s a snoozer/not funny/not interesting/not my cup of tea… there are too many options to waste time on this one.

Witches of East End = ****

SYNOPSIS

Ingrid is a feminist, a librarian, and characterizes herself as a rationalist.  Freya is a romantic and is engaged to the wealthy son of a local family after a whirlwind romance.  Both girls are oblivious to the fact that they are immortal witches, daughters of mother Joanna (Ormond), who was cursed at the Salem Witch Trials to watch them die and to give birth to them all over again over countless centuries. Their mother decided to offer them a chance at normal lives, unaware of magic; however, past lives and odd occurrences are catching up with them, and now Ingrid and Freya are in danger – both of being exposed for who they are and for their lives in this current cycle.

THOUGHTS

Witches of East End is surprisingly more engaging and involving than this viewer expected it to be; it plays out like a soap opera or a romance novel come to life.  The story concept is certainly intriguing, based on a novel of the same name as it is.  Witches live forever, while two of them don’t know their witches, and the two who do (the mother and her sister) are surprisingly quick witted and easy by which to relate.  Also, setting the action in the wealthier climes of Long Island leads this program to feel like a healthy cross between Charmed and Revenge, with hints of the film Practical Magic.

Still, the writing and performances are a bit of a mixed bag.  The dialogue is sometimes laughably melodramatic, and the two younger actresses really chew on it at times, lending a certain juvenile aspect to the proceedings.  Also, as interesting as it is to see Julia Ormond after so many years, her caliber of talent appears out of place for a program with such elements.  On the one hand, her presence augments the program with some credibility; on the other hand, she seems uncomfortable playing a witch with two flighty daughters and the curse of immortality.

Yet, this program has a juicy quality, like any good romance novel, that will draw the viewer in and get her/him addicted to the show.  This viewer feels that she might be succumbing to such a quality.  It could be because the show is populated by strong female characters who do magic, but there is also a sense of the forbidden looming over these characters: Freya is engaged to one brother but is madly drawn to another brother, while Ingrid is flirting with spells to get her co-worker pregnant that actually work, not to mention Ben from Grey’s Anatomy, despite her stiff, feminist upper lip.  Then, there is the aunt/sister, who revels in her witchiness, though she is doomed to living the nine lives of a cat.

Also, Virginia Madsen plays the matriarch of the wealthy family, and there is something about her character that remains hidden.  The pilot sets up the potential mysteries of the season very well.  This viewer wants to see how they play out, despite some of the ham-fisted quality of the writing and acting.

RECOMMENDATION

Witches of East End, as surprisingly watchable as it is, is recommended to anyone who enjoys fare like Charmed and Practical Magic.  It’s the same kind of story, with the same elements of romance, fate, and magic interwoven into its foundation.  I think it can be classified as a pure guilty pleasure, but I’m going to partake in it because I enjoyed those other vehicles.

THE FUTURE OF THE SHOW:

Due to the fact that Lifetime is its parent network, a full season of thirteen episodes of this program was ordered; otherwise, it may be too early to tell what kind of longevity it can expect.  Cable is more unpredictable, due to its niche markets and target audiences.  Let’s see how it all fares.

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