16 December 2018 | samuellickiss
Entertaining enough, but a tonal mess and even managed to annoy this lefty liberal
I'm exactly who this show is aimed at. I'm a 20-something who grew up watching the original, and now quite happy to enjoy a bit of nostalgia!
As everyone has noted, the similarities to the original exist with proper nouns and little more. This is a much darker take on it, and that's fine by me.
What I did find disconcerting is just how overtly Satanic it is ('Satanism' here refers to an odd mix of Wicca, various pagan belief systems and theistic Satanism). I don't have any strongly held religious views of my own, but I found this rather tasteless and the writers seemed to deliberately want to cause offence.
This clashed terribly with the characterisation, which is cutesy and oddball. Zelda and Hilda ooze with personality with great performances by Miranda Otto and Lucy Davis. Richard Coyle is sufficiently sinister as Father Blackwood, the Satanic high priest, and Michelle Gomez is excellent in everything she's in.
The younger performers do my head in. Ross Lynch plays Sabrina's boyfriend Harvey, and it's not really Lynch's fault, but boy is Harvey is a complete waste of space - you have to wonder what Sabrina sees in him beyond his looks and endless stream of cheesy dialogue which could only be the result of a screenwriter's first draft. Kiernan Shipka is a great actress, and she's perfect for the role of Sabrina, but she's so righteous it's annoying.
The show's political agenda is cloying and watching it has made me realise why conservatives hate us lefty-liberal millennial snowflake types (use whatever terms you like). Their attitude is so holier-than-thou in the face of Hollywood clichés (because we've never seen bullying jocks on screen before) and they're quite keen to advertise how enlightened they are, which only causes division, entrench views and inhibit constructive dialogue. It's unhelpful.
I long for the day when we can watch a film or TV show and see diversity on screen without having it telegraphed at us. Producers and screenwriters seem to struggle with 'naturalistic' diversity and instead like to draw attention to it rather than simply have actors and characters that fit the narrative. The best show I've seen on this recently is Thirteen Reasons Why, and while I have mixed views about the show itself, the characterisation was excellent and the diversity never felt shoe-horned, but natural.
In Sabrina, this detracts from the narrative as we flip between the interesting horror elements and the rather dull real-world storylines. Plot threads come and go, and the pacing is all over the place. At one point, Sabrina gets tasked with solving a puzzle that people have spent years attempting to crack. We know she's going to solve it eventually, but rather than see her work and study at it - unravelling a mystery and having an adventure on the way - she just solves it. Blink and you'll miss it. You're left thinking: oh.
The show is well-made enough. There are some odd editing choices and filming style that will irk some people, but it didn't really bother me. It looks really good.
Otherwise, I really just wish they'd made a solid fantasy/horror show for adults - something in a similar vein to Buffy or even Stranger Things. It didn't need all the extra clutter.
P.S. Oh yeah, and Salem...beloved Salem. He's there, only now he's just a cat who doesn't do a whole lot. His character has been replaced by a guy called Ambrose whose narrative role is to dish out the occasional bit of sage advice and be gay.