A few weeks ago, my friend Sydney introduced me to the 1996 TV show “Sabrina the Teenage Witch.” Lately, I haven’t been watching nearly as much television as I used to, mostly because I can’t find anything that takes my mind out of the sludge of existential dread. But in the weeks since Sydney and I watched the first episode, I’ve finished the other 24 in the first season.
As a child, I was obsessed with the early 2000s TV show “Gilmore Girls.” It featured a mother-daughter duo and all the antics that ensued in their small New England town, and I had the complete DVD set. “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” falls under the same genre, but with a much different flavor.
Sabrina is a teenage witch who lives in a glorious Victorian home with her two aunts, Hilda and Zelda. Hilda, a force of chaotic energy, and Zelda, a scientist and voice of reason, guide Sabrina through her teenage years, made even more tumultuous by the fact that she’s learning to manage witchcraft.
While the plot isn’t necessarily compelling (and many of the episodes are almost unbearably cheesy), the show is filled with a peppy quirkiness that keeps me watching. One of these quirks is their black cat, Salem, and all of his zesty one-liners. A cynical little creature, Salem is an old, evil witch who was cursed to live in a cat’s body as punishment for attempting to take over the world. He often sits in Sabrina’s charming bedroom, offering her quips of advice about life in a witch’s world.
Another is the whimsical nature of Sabrina’s golden-retriever-esque boyfriend, Harvey, and best friend, Jenny. Jenny is an awkward and sometimes annoying girl with long, curly hair who faithfully stands by Sabrina’s side throughout the first season. One of my favorite episodes is called “Jenny’s Non-Dream,” in which Sabrina invites Jenny over for a sleepover, but wild, witchy antics ensue. The most memorable image from this episode is when Jenny and Sabrina, in matching white nightgowns, are lying on Sabrina’s bed confessing secrets. “I believe in other realms,” Jenny says dreamily. “I think there’s another world just outside of our reach, if only we opened the right door.”
Lines like these are one of the reasons that I find “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” to be a show compelling enough to drag me away from my woes. The idea of another world, and other such innocent musings, take me away from the current state of the world and into another one — a cute, peculiar, early 2000s world.
If that isn’t enough, I could also watch the show exclusively for the fashion. Hilda and Zelda piddle around the house in witchy outfits leftover from the 90s — cheetah print sets, long black dresses, dark lipstick, and patterned blouses. Sabrina decks herself out in velvet dresses and corduroy skirts, and the show is filled with the sound of their heeled black boots clacking against the old, hardwood floors.
The show isn’t that substantial. For unknown reasons, Jenny disappears in the second season, and the plot ebbs and flows with small conflicts and sweet resolutions. But Sabrina the Teenage Witch reminds me of something I would’ve loved as a child, and that’s enough for me.