Sabrina the Teenage Witch: The Final Season
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Melissa Joan Hart continues to bring her unique magic to Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, the bewitching comedy series, as it enters its seventh and final season. Sabrina begins her professional life with a new job at an alternative music magazine and an office full of eccentric co-workers.
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After cramming three years of high school into the first four seasons, Sabrina Spellman (Melissa Joan Hart) manages to graduate from college in just two. She and her roommates/friends Roxie (Soleil Moon Frye) and Morgan (Elisa Donovan) move into her aunt's house as they try to start their lives by finding jobs. Her aunts? In the weirdest resolve of the weirdest cliffhanger, they are turned into teenagers themselves and go back to the other realm. (Never mind that Caroline Rhea has a cameo in the series finale). That just leaves a few random bits of magic around the house in addition to Salem the cat (voiced by Nick Bakay).
Sabrina gets a job at a hip trendy magazine called Scorch and spends much of the first half of the season trying to prove to her boss that she can do her job. It gives us plenty of chances to see actors playing musicians, and, of course, spells to go wrong. She, Morgan, and Roxie join a singing competition thanks to some magic talent. Plus she switches personalities with a mean rapper.
Late in the season, Sabrina meets Aaron (Dylan Neal), a handsome record label owner. The two quickly fall in love and plan to get married. The only problem is Harvey (Nate Rickert) is still in the picture. Does he still love Sabrina? Will that stop her from marrying Aaron?
Actually, I find the season picks up once Aaron comes into the picture. Until then, we've got the same old same old with a different setting. Substitute Roxie and Morgan for the aunts, for example. They get many B stories like the aunts used to get, only these don't involve magic. And Sabrina still creates spells that get out of hand, only now she needs Salem and Harvey to point that out to her instead of her aunts.
My problems with the first half of the season are two fold. First, Sabrina's desperation at work just isn't funny, and I never can warm up to Annie (Diana-Maria Riva), her boss, who is mean to Sabrina for no reason. Second, watching Sabrina's magic get out of hand and her over react is funny as a teenager but cringe worthy in an adult. Not to mention, she should have learned how to control it by now.
Not to say there aren't some very fun episodes here. I enjoy "In Sabrina We Trust" where the out of hand spell gets the entire city trusting Sabrina. The magical systems check the house undergoes at the beginning is pretty funny as well. Her attempts to be perfect in "Present Perfect" are pretty good as well, and the Wonderland theme in the episode where she first meets Aaron is lots of fun.
There is a certain amount of overacting from the cast, but it fits the show and helps make the wacky just that much more believable. The special effects are great, and with all the magic there are quite a few of them.
Despite what the packaging says, there were 22 episodes in season seven. The final two were just aired back to back, and they are lumped together here as well to give us "21" episodes. They are all presented in their original full frame and stereo sound. The issues I had with my season six set have been fixed, and I didn't have any problems with this set.
Which brings us to the special feature. That's right, for the first time in the series, we actually get one. It's the TV movie Sabrina Goes to Rome. Don't ask me why we haven't seen the other two movies released on earlier sets or why this wasn't part of the season 2 or 3 set since that's when it was filmed. But since it was the better of the two TV movies I've seen, I'll take it.
This movie finds Sabrina and stowaway Salem heading to Rome to try to open a locket. Sealed inside the locket is an aunt she hasn't heard of before who was banished after revealing her secret to a mortal. Unfortunately, Sabrina's new roommate Gwen (Tara Charendoff Strong) is a struggling witch who gets them noticed by Paul (Eddie Mills), a cute guy that Sabrina has run into - literally. Paul is a tabloid journalist who starts getting close to Sabrina to get proof of her secret so he can become rich. Or will love win?
Like many episodes of the series, the ending of this one is never in doubt. And yet it's fun. The story draws you in and makes you care. (Although considering how serious Sabrina was about Harvey at the time, why is there no mention of him?) The story moves along quickly, and the acting and special effects are on par for the series. It was actually filmed in Rome, and that makes it feel real and helps draw me in as well.
Honestly, Sabrina Goes to Rome is the best part of this collection. Don't get me wrong, there are still some fun episodes in season seven, but the best of Sabrina the Teenage Witch was definitely behind us. I'm glad it ended here.
Also on this set is the "Sabrina Goes to Rome" movie, one of two films done before and while the show was on the air. I'd have loved to have "Sabrina Down Under" included, but it seems it'll remain a VHS release until CBS decides to release it though it seems unlikely at this point. Is the last season worth having? I'd say so. You could safely skip over a number of episodes without fear of losing continuity if you're only in it to see Sabrina's happily ever after.
Sabrina Spellman (Melissa Joan Hart) is heading to college, but she's just moving across town. She's found an apartment close to campus where she is sharing a room with the prickly Roxie (Soleil Moon Frye). Down the hall is paranormal expert Miles (Trevor Lissauer). And their resident advisor, who puts in a full 24 hours (just not all in the same day), is Morgan (Elisa Donovan).
But what about her aunts? They are still very much involved in Sabrina's life. Zelda (Beth Broderick) gets a teaching job at the college, while Hilda (Caroline Rhea) buys the coffee shop where Sabrina works with Josh (David Lascher). And talking cat Salem (voiced by Nick Bakay) still manages to keep causing trouble for everyone.
Season 4 ended with a major cliffhanger. After trying to decide between long time boyfriend Harvey and new crush Josh, Sabrina discovered that Harvey had learned her secret. That was too much for him, and apart from a couple of cameo appearances Nate Richert isn't around this season at all. But that doesn't mean that Sabrina and Josh start dating. Before that can happen, Morgan gets her claws into Josh.
Also gone are plots that rely on Sabrina casting a spell and things getting comically out of hand. Yes, those plots still happen, like when she casts a spell to make herself go faster, causing her roommates to run slow. Instead, we get stories about Sabrina investigating Morgan's sorority and working to help the residence of an apartment complex about to be destroyed. She becomes the most hated person on campus when she rallies against preferential treatment for athletes.
Not that magic is completely gone from her life. Hilda's biological clock gets lost, and she might never be able to do magic again. Her evil twin resurfaces and almost gets her stuck in the Other Realm. While attempting to throw a Halloween party to end all Halloween parties, she gets caught in a domestic fight between Frankenstein and his Bride. And thanks to Miles, Sabrina must face off against the leader of a cult who might be a witch and almost gets kicked out of her house when his paranormal detection device picks up something strange around her.
To be honest, it was only this time around that I noticed the loss of the formula that had served the show for the first four seasons. And it's a welcome break, frankly. The shows are still funny, but they aren't quite as predictable. The more grounded stories allow the actors a chance to play things more realistically as well, and the acting continues to be fine.
There are lots of changes, and the one I still don't care for is the lack of Harvey. I always loved his character. But the new ones more than make up for it. Morgan, Roxie, and Miles are all lots of fun, and they each bring something different to the show. It's nice to see new characters that really do add new dynamics, so that's something else they got right this season.
There were 22 episodes this season, and they are preserved here on 3 discs in full screen and stereo sound. We get nothing in the way of extras, but plenty in the way of laughs.
Sabrina the Teenage Witch was always a light sitcom, and that continues with season 5. If you are a fan of the show, you'll find much to appreciate with this set.
As a silver lining, if you have to watch this against your will, you can play the colonel gentleman game and try to spot how many scenes have the fake cat vs the real cat.
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