A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Witches of East End includes supernatural imagery that may disturb or traumatize younger or sensitive viewers: creeping fog, graveyards, evil creatures whose features transform into those of demons. The viewer will also see dead bodies with blood but no gore, and bloody wounds. One character transforms into a cat and back into a human; when she turns human she is generally naked and we see her nude from the rear. One character cheats on her partner; we see her seemingly nude in bed rolling around with a man. A main character works at a bar, and many characters drink and refer to drunkenness and needing a drink. Characters are in mortal jeopardy, though generally the level of menace is low and the goings-on are playful. Families who like otherworldly drama may enjoy watching together, but parents should stay on hand if younger viewers are present as they may find the witchy elements too scary.
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What's the story?
Charmed meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer in WITCHES OF EAST END, a show based on the popular book series of the same name. Joanna (Julia Ormond) is a witch living through a terrible cycle: Over and over again her daughters Ingrid (Rachel Boston) and Freya (Jenna Dewan) are born, learn the art of witchcraft, and are destroyed by those who fear their powers. They have never before in dozens of lifetimes lived past the age of 30. In this life, however, Joanna is determined to keep magical knowledge from them, hoping things will change this time around. Freya and Ingrid don't even know they're witches -- they hold down jobs and perfectly normal lives, albeit with some weird happenings. Things are complicated by the arrival of Joanna's mercurial sister Wendy (Madchen Amick), who has a warning for Joanna: Somebody with a whole lot of powers wants to destroy her family to settle an ancient debt. Will the combined strength of Joanna and her daughters hold off the mysterious menace this time?
Is it any good?
Witches of East End is an excellent example of the way that timeworn TV tropes can be made newly compelling with good writing. Witches who have to band together to fight mysterious Forces From Beyond, oh, ho hum, seen it. But in other, blander takes on witchcraft, one of the witches wouldn't playfully tell another that they're preparing a vision potion "with peyote, so don't be surprised if the walls breathe." Nor would a woman respond to the revelation that she's a witch by telling her mom that her sister's going to be "really pissed" that mom sent her to therapy as a teen to dispel the idea she had special powers.
Writer/creator Maggie Friedman (Dawson's Creek) has made a similar show before: anyone remember Eastwick, the TV take on the The Witches of Eastwick? So you'd really think Friedman would have used up all her good ideas. Nope: Her girl-power witch stories aren't new, but they're cute, staffed with charming characters who say funny, fresh things to each other. Teen girls in particular, who often want to believe they have mystical powers just about to break loose, may relate to the characters and enjoy losing themselves in their story.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why dark fantasy TV shows like The Vampire Diaries and Supernatural are so popular right now. Why do people like to watch shows about witches, werewolves and vampires? What do they offer that more realistic dramas don't?
Read one of the Witches of East End books. How is the TV show like the books and how is it different? Why do you suppose changes were made for television?
Stories about supernatural beings are often set at night and in locations like graveyards or empty buildings. Why are these settings so common? Why not everyday locations like a grocery store or coffee shop? What makes one setting spooky and another not? What is added by lighting, music, sound and camera angles?
Witches in particular are a popular topic for dramas meant to appeal to women. Why is that? What fantasies about power do stories about witches satisfy?
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