Sabrina, The Teenage Witch: Season 4
There is something about magic that fascinates a lot of people. Just the thought of being able to conjure up anything you want does have a certain appeal. When I was a kid most of the boys bought and read comics with superheroes like Superman and Spider-Man. The girls, on the hand liked the Archie comic books. Besides Archie and Veronica one of the most popular characters was Sabrina, the Teenage Witch. She was a typical girl living with her aunts but secretly she was a magical witch. The girls loved a character that they could relate to but endowed with special abilities. In the mid sixties the comic was made into a television series that lasted some seven years. Now, the forth season is being released by Paramount-CBS to DVD and there is another show you can safely watch with the whole family. Even though the target audience is what is now known as ‘tween girls, the comedy and fun works for all ages. There was always some moral to be had by the end of each episode. Usually it was something along the lines of the benefits of honesty, dealing with the pressures of school and wanting to grow up faster than you should. In most cases the two adult aunts had the answers giving kids some idea that adults be be worthwhile having around.
This forth season was a pivotal one for the series. Sabrina Spellman (Melissa Joan Hart) turns eighteen in the first episode and is entering her senior year of high school. In the last season she had obtained her coveted ‘witches license’ making her a full fledged witch and citizen of the mysterious and wacky ‘other realm’. Even though she is technically an adult, Sabrina still looks to her aunts Zelda (Beth Broderick) and Hilda (Caroline Rhea) for advice. Many of the stories show how a girl this age is trying to balance a growing sense of self reliance with admittedly she doesn’t know it all. Continuing with the personalities created in the first three seasons Zelda is the ultra intelligent practical aunt while Hilda is a free spirit you lives for the moment. There are a lot of changes in the list of characters starting with this season. For one Sabrina’s high school arch enemy Libby Chessler (Jenna Leigh Green) has been sent off to boarding school. Her best girl friend Valerie Birkhead (Lindsay Sloane) has also moved away. The new girl friend for Sabrina is Dreama (China Shavers). She is a young, inexperienced witch living in the mortal realm. Now that Sabrina has her license she has to help train Drema and get her ready to get hers. This character helped maintain the magical high jinx now that Sabrina is more knowledgeable in magic. Still around is Sabrina’s faithful and put upon boyfriend Harvey Kinkle (Nate Richert). No matter what happens to him he remains in love and devoted to Sabrina. Harvey gets a new best friend in this season. Previously he only hung out with the girls but now he at least gets a buddy. In comes in the person of Brad Alcerro (Jon Huertas) who he previously knew from Texas. Much to the chagrin of the Spellman family he has the rare witch hunting gene. He can detect the use of magic and if he realizes what it is and exclaims ‘she’s a witch’, the witch is immediately turned into a mouse. The adult nemesis of Sabrina and on again off again boyfriend of Zelda and Hilda (alternately) is Willard Kraft (Martin Mull). At this point he has been promoted to the principal of the high school. He is uptight, rule oriented and a general pain for Sabrina. Sabrina gets a new favorite teach with Mrs. Quick (Mary Gross), a neurotic mess of a woman. One character that never changes is the family cat Salem (voiced by Nick Bakay). He is actually a 500 year old warlock who because he tried to use his magic to take over the world was sentenced by the powerful Witches Counsel to living in the form of a cat for a century. He can talk but usually his advice is self serving and gets Sabrina into even more trouble. Also showing up again this season is Sabrina’s mischievous cousin Amanda, played by Hart’s real life little sister Emily. By this time Hart had her own production company with her mother so it was just a matter of keeping things in the family.
In the first episode of the season Sabrina’s father Edward (Doug Sheehan) returns. He has been divorced from her mother for some time and now works for the Counsel in the mortal realm. He invites Sabrina to come live with him in Paris. In this episode Hart’s real life friend back then, Brittany Spears makes a cameo appearance as herself. Also starting in this season Hilda buys a local coffee shop that is a popular hangout for the local high school and college kids. After school Sabrina frequently works there. In the Halloween special episode Sabrina turns her back on this the most special holiday for witches and decides to work at the coffee house instead of celebrating with her aunts. While they bring back Edgar Allen Poe to tell scary stories Sabrina and Dreama are surrounded by zombies. Many of the gags involve how witches tend to manifest what is wrong with them physically. In one case Sabrina gets her first other realm credit card. She goes on a buying spree and spoils herself. She begins to stink, she is literally spoiled rotten. It is only when she comes to her senses and learns that people are more important does the smell go away. The coffee houses’ college clientele also brings Sabrina in contact with an older crowd. She begins to develop a crush on a college guy, Josh (David Lascher) and tries to act older so he will not see her as a silly high school girl. This does introduce an element of jealousy in Harvey and creates a romantic dilemma for Sabrina. When Sabrina uses magic to make herself look older for Josh it backfires, nothing new there. She begins to rapidly age until she is an old lady. Another relevant topic is explored when Sabrina decides she has to lose weight. She begins to use an ‘other realm’ diet supplement. It works all too well and she becomes invisible. The big problem is she is supposed to go to a big school dance. The only way to be seen is to use a magic camera. The effects wear off fast and Dreama has to constant re-take Sabrina’s picture.
Paramount-CBS releases this forth season DVD set in much the same way as the previous ones. It is bare bones with no extras. All twenty two episodes are here in full screen with Dolby Stereo audio. This is a great little series for the whole family and may just help the kids learn a lesson or two.