Charmed – The Sisters and the TV Magic

Charmed had many fine qualities of a top TV show. It had classic good vs evil fights, grey lines (not the 50 shades kind) and moral lessons on sisterhood and why we all occasionally get tempted by the dark side. The three sisters Phoebe (Alyssa Milano), Piper ( Holly Marie Combs) and Prue (Shannen Doherty, whose character was eventually replaced by a half-sister) receive their magical inheritance in their twenties on the death of their grandmother, who bound their powers as young children to protect them. Prue had the power of telekinesis, Piper could freeze and blow up things and Phoebe received premonitions and occasionally levitated. They also made potions and created spells which were all kept in a special book. Their powers combined kicked ass. The inheritance came with a prophecy that together they would be the most powerful force of good the world had ever seen, so naturally the show consisted of a constant barrage of attacks from varied bad guys out to steal their powers and tip the balance from good to evil. They usually attacked them in their home and the magical house and grandfather clock blew up so many times I couldn’t keep count. And then there was the time Piper magically disappeared it altogether. The furniture seemed to miraculously get fixed but we never see them magically fixing anything. They generally kept to the no magic for personal gain rule, even if it seemed annoyingly unfair.

Holly Marie Combs, Shannen Doherty and Alyssa Milano in Charmed
Holly Marie Combs, Shannen Doherty and Alyssa Milano in Charmed

Charmed wasn’t all serious though, there was plenty of fun involved. The nightclub owned by Piper showcased late 1990s and early 2000s rock bands (not to mention the sisters’ skimpy outfits). Not to be outdone by Buffy, Alyssa Milano in particular rocked the badass kickboxing routine. There was plenty of comic relief in witty banter. The bad guys in Charmed were far more interesting and portrayed a more complex structure of the evil underworld than in many supernatural TV shows. The writers took the time to give the demons, warlocks, ghosts and many other bad dudes human-like motives to explain why they were attacking good instead of just lumping them with the usual ‘me bad – you good’ simplicity. Their organisation was often surprisingly efficient and there are lots of amusing evil lawyer/corporation references dotted throughout, such as when the four horsemen of the apocalypse turn up using a high tech strategic corporate structure.

When it comes to love Charmed fans usually fall into one of three camps. Here’s a little quiz:
1. Do you like angelic heroes, are you a diehard romantic?
2. Are you into the rich attractive bad boy routine?
3. Are you really just watching the show because you are attracted to Aylisa Milano?

The Phoebe and Cole relationship was definitely the most dramatic because Cole was so in love with Phoebe that he came back from the dead to be with her more than once. He tried being good for her and she went evil for him. Phoebe agonised over him and refused to kill him because she loved him too much. You felt their burning desire for one another in steamy kisses and forbidden exchanges and even when the romance inevitably ended in literal flames with his death (again), she still loved him. My preference may be due to Julian McMahon’s acting skills which usually overshadowed anyone else on set, except for maybe Aylisa Milano.


On the other hand Piper and Leo (Brian Krause) have a charming normality despite his otherworld heavenly status. His lengthy absences filled in some character depth for Piper and gave her a role other than being the Mom-like figure in the family. Their love wasn’t necessarily epic but in a novel twist they fought against the good guys to get permission to get married and stay together. The problem ‘the elders’ had with their love was never really explained. They were relatable because they fought about normal things, like chores rather than demon hunting. All-in-all Leo and Piper’s romance was more relatable than Phoebe and Cole’s because they fought about regular things rather than being the heads of the forces for all good and the demonic underworld respectively.

Rose McGowan as Paige in Charmed -
Rose McGowan as Paige in Charmed

Of course while the romances gave the show serious fans, the major scandal was the departure of Prue and her replacement in the fourth season with a new sister Paige, played by Rose McGowan. Shannen Doherty who played Prue was a well known bad girl when she became the oldest of the original three Charmed sisters because of her role in Beverley Hills 90210. By the third series she was dissatisfied and insisted on leaving the show in a storm of rumours about her off-screen disagreements with Alyssa Milano and alleged drug habit. Prue’s death should have been the death of the charmed power of three but show creator Constance M. Burge in a brave move introduced a new illegitimate half sister and the show continued for another 4 seasons. I’m not really a fan of replacing major central characters in the middle of TV shows, but Rose McGowan playing Paige was a much better fit and brought back excitement. There were more episodes with Paige than without her. Piper and Phoebe had lost some of their youthful playfulness that made the show glamorous in the early series but Paige brought it back. Her half-whitelighter blood allowed her to orb herself anywhere in the world. Her power was easily the most covetable power of all because, let’s face it, holidays would be so much easier without Ryanair’s involvement.

As any 8 season show, Charmed had its ups and downs. Seasons 1-3 with Shannen Doherty are fresh and snappy in a 1990s way. Once Rose McGowan enters in season 4 however, there is more character developments and depth to the sisters. Season 5 wanes a little but keep on watching or skip until the last two episodes when Chris (eye candy Drew Fuller) drops in from the future changing the dynamics and making season 6 definitely one of the best in the show. By then end of season 6 why not just binge watch right through to the end. Billy Zane is in three episodes of season 7 as Drake and it’s worth watching the final season when a younger Kaley Cuoco- Sweeting (of now Big Bang Theory fame) plays a young witch who helps take the heat off the sisters inevitably leading to a final epic battle between good and evil.

So back to the quiz –
You answered 1: – It’s Leo & Piper fandom for you – there are entire Reddit feeds on this.
You answered 2. – Yes? Of course you are, who could resist Phoebe and Cole’s eternal fiery forbidden love?
Answer no. 3: – Yup, well, she’s pretty hot, we can’t really blame you.


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