Sunday, February 13, 2011

Charmed: That '70s Episode (1.17)

Charmed was always a series which bathed in its own sincerity at times. This is especially true whenever the Halliwell's long-gone mom is brought up. In later seasons, it was an excuse for Rose McGowan to do that annoying 'talk-really-slowly-and-shed-a-tear' thing she does. It's always been an odd dichotomy in Aaron Spelling series. You have the boobs and the hot chicks and the sexy outfits, and then the most-of-the-time undeserved moments of cynical weeping or trite 'messages', like the show has completely bypassed the boundary-pushing escapism of late-'90s WB TV and settled into Touched by an Angel territory.

That '70s Episode at times dips its toe right into that pool of mawkishness, but if you bypass the corn, it becomes something admittedly powerful and engaging. It's also the strongest episode of the first season, and pretty much a series classic.

Charmed repeatedly based episodes around time loops and time paradoxes, and a lot of its greatest hours came from this area. Unlike something like season six's similarly-plotted Witchstock, That '70s Episode doesn't utilize its premise as an excuse to merely mock the era or reference the past, but instead uses it to develop the show's leads.

The reunions between the sisters and their mother are all beautifully played. From Piper and Prue's awestruck faces when Patty serves them in the diner to Phoebe's cute realization that both she and her mom are total klutzes, it's all really heart-warming stuff. A lot of the time, too, the script just avoids total sentimentality. I loved Prue and her younger self both saying how beautiful they are (chortle), followed up by a Piper rolling her eyes and proclaiming "oh brother". There's a real intelligence to this script, and it all works so well. Pretty darn wonderful. A+

Guest stars Finola Hughes (Patty Halliwell); Andrew Jackson (Nicholas); Jennifer Rhodes (Penny "Grams" Halliwell")
Writer Sheryl J. Anderson Director Richard Compton

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