Videophiled TVD: Lifetime’s ‘Witches of East End’

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Witches of East End: The Complete First Season (Fox, DVD) may qualify as my guilty pleasure of the season. This Lifetime Channel original series is not a remake of The Witches of Eastwick, mind you (creator Maggie Friedman already tried that) but a femme-centered supernatural series centered on a family of witches beset by a curse. Joanna Beauchamp (Julia Ormond) is immortal and doomed to watch her two daughters die before the age of thirty, at which point she becomes spontaneously pregnant again and the cycle comes back around, so this time around she hasn’t even told her girls, Freya (Jenna Dewan-Tatum) and Ingrid (Rachel Boston). Her more adventurous sister Wendy (Mädchen Amick), who has nine lives and a black cat alter-ego, arrives with news that Joanna and her daughters are in danger and sure enough, Joanna has an evil doppelganger show up and Freya is dragged into a netherworld by a centuries-old warlock. Time for a talk about their legacies. Protective mom Joanna reluctantly oversees their magic education and fun Aunt Wendy teases them with the fun side of magic. And of course there are the usual growing pains of mishaps and backfires along with the curses, attacks, and other weapons of magical warfare.

The series runs on Lifetime, where women are the focus, but it also borrows from shows like The Vampire Diaries and Once Upon a Time, where attractive stars and hot and sexy romances spice up the drama. The cheesecake is spread evenly across the sexes here, with Dewan-Tatum in revealing blouses and steamy sex scenes (lots of them dream sequences) with not one but two hot guys, her rich fiancé (Eric Winter) and his rebellious, bad-boy brother (Daniel DiTomasso), who is clearly trouble because his face is in perpetual five o’clock shadow. And the two “matrons” of the show, Ormond and Amick, are just as confident and gorgeous, with Amick’s Wendy constantly losing her clothes after shapeshifting into a cat and back again (it’s commercial cable so no nudity, just a lot of skin and suggestion). It makes you wonder if the creators were hoping to snag some male viewers into the estrogen drama, or maybe just acknowledging lesbian viewers along with the straight audience.

Whatever the demographic appeal, the show is fun and winning thanks to the strength of the four actresses and the family bonds that grow and strengthen along the season of discovery for the two daughters and the reconnection of the estranged sisters overcoming past conflicts to bond over their pact to break the curse and protect the two girls from death this time around. Virginia Madsen co-stars as a Freya’s future mother-in-law and Enver Gjokaj, Jason George, Tom Lenk, and Joel Gretsch co-star.

10 episodes on three discs, plus a featurette, deleted scenes, gag reel, and a collection of bloopers with the cat. Also available to stream from Netflix.

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