Charmed: Complete Series
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Charmed: Complete Series

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The fascination that people have had with magic goes back to before recorded history. Tales of people who could do things that go beyond the laws of nature are found in every human culture in every era of time. There is also one aspect of magic that is consistently part of the stories; beautiful women. In films there was Kim Novak’s portrayal of a witch in ‘Bell Book and Candle’. On television there were shows like ‘Bewitched’. The combination of beauty and the supernatural is a provide way to ratings. One show of this genre stands above the rest ‘Charmed’. It is about three sisters who discover they are powerful witches. The show lasted for eight years; longer than any other television shows with female leads. Of course, when a show lasts this long there is bound to be many changes along the way. This series managed to thrive with major alterations in the main and ancillary cast, producers and creative directions. It was resilient and that showed how it retained a loyal fan base. There was a spark of imagination in this series that set it above many imitators. The creators of the show did more than make a TV series; they created an entire universe complete with its own set of rules and mythology. This is what works best with fans of the fantasy genre. I happen to be one and when a bunch of us get together we discuss the minutia of such universes. ‘Charmed’ was rich in this; there was entire tapestry of back stories and fully drawn characters to populate this universe. Like most television series each of the eight seasons have found they way to DVD releases. If you wanted to get them all it would cost about $320 retail and take up over eight inches on your shelves. Now CBS Paramount has come up with an alternative and it is fantastic. The entire series is in one special edition set retailing for about $250. Those out there with more DVDs than room will be glad to know it is in the form of a book and takes up two inches; albeit the height is much greater. This is not only a great series to have but this is the best possible way to have them all. Many series have run for a long time but this one tells a story that requires all the seasons to tell.

The story starts out in season one with the Halliwell sisters, Prudence (Shannen Doherty), Piper (Holly Marie Combs) and Phoebe (Alyssa Milano). After the death of their grandmother Penelope Halliwell (mostly played by Jennifer Rhodes) who was affectionately called ‘Grams’ by the girls. She left them a large house in San Francisco where she raised the sisters after the death of their mother Patty (Finola Hughes). As soon as they are reunited they old fights and bickering start up but has to be put on the back burner when the discover that besides the house they inherited supernatural powers. Prue can move things with her mind; Piper can stop time and Phoebe gained the ability to have premonitions of the future. They find out that they are witches and together they will fulfill a prophecy of becoming the ‘Charmed Ones’ the most powerful good witches in history. This initial season was naturally the introduction to the character traits and universe that will pervade the series. Prue as the oldest always considered herself the head of the family. She worked for an auction house. She was the overachiever and control freak. On the opposite end of the spectrum is the youngest sister Phoebe. She was the free spirit of the sisters. She left home to get away from the controlling nature of Prue. Caught in the middle was Pipper. As the middle sister she had to constantly play the part of mediator between her warring siblings. He dream was to work as a chef in her own restaurant. This first season explored the way the ladies dealt with their new powers, responsibilities, destiny and personal lives. Usually this season fell back on the freak of the week format with the sisters vanquishing a demon or evil warlock. We are also introduced to their magic book, the Book of Shadows, kept in the attic. It is the combined knowledge of generations of witches in their line.

Romance was always key to the stories in this series. Men seemed to come and go but one would stick; Leo Wyatt (Brian Krause). At first he seemed to be the local handyman helping to fix up the manor. It turned out that he was a whitelighter; an angelic being charged with protecting good witches. He falls in love with Piper and they eventually have two son; breaking the family tradition of daughters. As children of a witch and whitelighter the boys were destined to be extremely powerful and sought after by the root of all evil, the Source. The relationship of Leo and Pipper and their sons would drive much of the following seasons. Another significant other in the mix is Cole Turner (Julian McMahon). He initially appears as a sympathetic district attorney but is later revealed to be a powerful demon Belthazor (Michael Bailey Smith). He wavered between good and evil and at one point became the Source. He would marry Phoebe but even after they divorced he stuck around for awhile.

At the end of season three Doherty left the series. Instead of coping out and just replacing her with another actor like the other witch oriented TV show, ‘Bewitched’ or trying something like her looks were magically altered they producers did the right thing and killed off the character. This opened a whole new direction for the stories. Since the power of the Charmed One was the power of three this was now broken. The evil underworld was certain that the threat of the Charmed Ones was broken. Unknown to nearly everyone Patty had an affair with her whitelighter which resulted in a daughter, Paige (Rose McGowan). In many ways this revitalized the series. Paige had to come to grips with her new found powers, the ability to ‘orb’ or move objects, and a brand new family. It also reinvented the familiar roles of the remaining two original sisters. Piper was now the eldest and in charge. Phoebe was moved from the irresponsible youngest to the role of mediator and mentor. Paige would have a lot of difficult in the major changes in her life but eventually embraces her dual magical heritage and becomes the headmistress of the other realm’s magic school. In the penultimate seventh season the secret the sisters have kept for so long came out forcing them to fake their own deaths and take on magical disguises. This hindered their ability to openly fight evil so they take on a young witch, Billie Jenkins (Kaley Cuoco). She is rebellious and strong willed always trying to do things her way. The final episode ties up all the loose ends and gives a brief look into the future of the Halliwell clan; a satisfying conclusion to a well crafted series.

CBS Paramount has out done everyone with this full series set. They have been releasing several DVD collectors’ editions of popular television series but this one is truly special. There are two ways to get this set; the standard edition and the deluxe edition. Both hold all 49 discs which encompasses all eight seasons plus a special previously unreleased disc of extras. Both are in the form of the Book of Shadows. The standard edition measures 8’ by 11 1/8’ by 2.5’; the deluxe comes in at a massive 12.5’ by 15’ by 2 5/16’. They may seem expensive but when you consider the per disc cost they are less than the individual season sets. I have to admit that even after receiving thousands of DVDs this one impressed my before I opened the shipping package. There was a weight to this I have never encountered before. The quality of the book is about that of a standard hard cover novel. Besides the pages that hold the discs there are other pages directly from the show’s Book of Shadows. They included spells and facts about some of the major demons and evil creatures that appeared in the show. The episodes are listed in the same old style font giving the book a look of being old and magical. Two colored ribbons are provided to keep your place as you work your way through the series. Season eight has its own special extras disc and there is a series oriented retrospective extra collection. Like many of you have my share of special collector’s editions. This one redefines the word special; it is in every way. This is not only a full series it is something that will grace your bookshelves. CBS Paramount has reset the bar for all DVD collector’s sets to come.

Posted 11/03/08

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