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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Sabrina the Teenage Witch - The Second Season
Sabrina the Teenage Witch - The Second Season
Paramount // Unrated // July 31, 2007
List Price: $38.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Paul Mavis | posted July 25, 2007 | E-mail the Author
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As the father of a little girl who grew up on Clarissa Explains It All, Melissa Joan Hart's previous big hit over on Nickelodeon, you can rest assured our family saw all the episodes of Sabrina, The Teenage Witch, Hart's follow-up series on ABC. The lynchpin in ABC's celebrated "TGIF" lineup from the mid-to-late 90's, Sabrina, The Teenage Witch may never have charted in the Nielsen Top Thirty, but it handily won the coveted young demographics that networks crave, and proved to be a four-year moneymaker for ABC, before it moved over to the WB for another three years (by then, our daughter had moved on from Sabrina's more grown-up exploits on the WB). Coming fairly quickly after the first season release back in March, Paramount has released Sabrina, The Teenage Witch: The Second Season, and just to get it out of the way: yes, some of episodes are, as the back of the DVD case says, edited and the music has been changed.

Sabrina, The Teenage Witch: The Second Season's sales figures may be an interesting case in regards to edited DVD sets. While I'm sure the young girls (the series' intended main audience, although young boys no doubt enjoyed it, as well) who watched the series when it first aired may remember the contemporary music used in some of the episodes, I wonder if they're going to be sticklers about it when it comes to buying the DVD sets. Are edited television shows the bane of only male buyers' existence? Certainly, reading the boards of various DVD sites, the vast majority of collectors who voice outrage over edited series appear to be men, but what about women? I asked my daughter, now in college, about it, and she said it wasn't a big deal to her; she loved the show and she'd enjoy revisiting it. But then again, she said she would only buy the set if she had children of her own; a rental would do fine for her if she felt nostalgic one night. After hearing that, I'd be interested to see the demographics of the buyers for Sabrina, The Teenage Witch: The Second Season.

As for the show itself, I always found Sabrina, The Teenage Witch very entertaining, just as Clarissa Explains It All was - and that's saying something when you consider some of the junk parents encounter when tuning in with their kids. With plenty of imaginative, wacky adventures and special effects in each episode, along with some fairly sharp dialogue and one-liners, I never headed for my office when Sabrina, The Teenage Witch's jazzy little theme came on. An updated Bewitched, with a funky, pop-culture sensibility, Sabrina, The Teenage Witch was one of the brightest series I can remember from that time, not only in its outlook, but literally its look - it was shot with a candy-colored, glossy, fresh production design that really popped out at you. The same could be said for the actors' attitudes, as well. Sabrina, The Teenage Witch had "quality" written all over it, despite its "kiddie show" moniker, with ABC obviously putting a lot of care into the production. The performers reflected that attitude, as well, doing very good work in the kind of series that might have faltered into a grind had the actors not been taken care of by the writers and production team.

Hart, already twenty-one when this second season premiered, deftly plays the harried, charming 17-year-old Sabrina as she encounters new challenges this time around, including big changes in her personal and "professional" (i.e. being a witch) life. Hart, perfectly suited for TV acting, does quite well getting across the quicksilver emotional swings that girls that age encounter, and doubly hard, Hart manages to be funny at the same time. This second season has a stronger central internal story arc to the various episodes (although you can pick and choose if you like; they play well on their own), with Sabrina facing the challenge of becoming a full-fledged witch. With Quizmaster Albert (Alimi Ballard) popping into Sabrina's life at the most inopportune moments, ready to quiz her, Sabrina's busy life becomes even more stressful. And this adversely impacts her relationship with steady boyfriend Harvey (Nate Richert). Richert has a tough role (which he pulls off effortlessly), playing Harvey as a cute, acceptable boyfriend who also happens to be kind of dim. Although I imagine the producers of the series felt that having Sabrina and Harvey sort of break-up this season would open up more storyline possibilities, it also started a process of breaking up that cozy, family feeling Sabrina, The Teenage Witch achieved in the first season.

Sabrina's aunts, the leggy Aunt Zelda (Beth Broderick) and the blowsy Aunt Hilda (Caroline Rhea), manage to be both a fine comedy relief duo as well as surrogate parents for Sabrina, with Rhea coming off particularly well as a sort of Ann Southern wisecracker. New additions to the cast this second season include the appropriately nerdy, devious worm of a Vice Principal, Willard Kraft (Martin Mull), who pursues Hilda throughout the season (I love it when Mull says his character's name and someone, usually unseen, cries out, "Loser!" like something out of a Don Knotts movie). Sabrina finds a new friend at school, the charmingly neurotic underachiever with critical low self-esteem Valerie (Lindsay Sloane). But, to fans of the show, the standout cast member remains this season, Salem the cat, voiced by Nick Bakay (who also worked as a producer, writer and story editor on the series). If Sabrina, The Teenage Witch is an updated Bewitched, then Salem the Cat is the equivalent of Paul Lynde's Uncle Arthur: the premiere laugh-getter in the show. With his every line delivery a scream, viewers tend to watch the episodes with one eye waiting for Salem to turn up again. Trotting out his trademark hysterical pleading whine whenever he's been insulted or craves something he can't have because he's a cat, Salem is clearly the standout comedic character in Sabrina, The Teenage Witch.

Here are the 26, one-half hour (prior to editing) episodes of the four-disc set Sabrina, The Teenage Witch: The Second Season, as described on the DVD insert:

DISC ONE

Sabrina Gets Her License (Part 1)
On her 17th birthday, Sabrina finds herself overwhelmed with school, her boyfriend Harvey, and having to study for her witch's license.

Sabrina Gets Her License (Part 2)
Because she hasn't been studying for her license, her new Quizmaster informs Sabrina that she's going to have to go to witch's boot camp.

Dummy for Love
Sabrina uses her magic and plays cupid between new Vice Principal Kraft and her Aunt Hilda, so that Mr. Kraft will be nicer to Harvey.

Dante's Inferno
Hilda and Zelda feel their niece should date other guys. So they set Sabrina up with a cute boy witch named Dante, who has no patience for mortal ways.

A Doll's Story
After she volunteers to babysit here bratty cousin Amanda, Sabrina gets turned into a doll and locked in Amanda's toy box.

Sabrina, The Teenage Boy
Sabrina transforms herself into a boy to see what Harvey is like around other guys. Meanwhile, Aunt Hilda becomes a biker in order to scare off Mr. Kraft.

DISC TWO

A River of Candy Corn Runs Through It
The first mortal Halloween party at the Spellman residence starts out dull...until the furniture starts talking and a river of candy corn appears!

Inna Gadda Sabrina
When her cat Salem swallows a time device and transports everyone back to the 1960s, Sabrina is delighted, until she sees how oppressed women are.

Witch Trash
Harvey and Sabrina's friend Valerie get locked in Sabrina's house by her strange hillbilly relatives, who resent the fact that the teen witch inherited the magic book.

To Tell a Mortal
On Friday the 13th, Sabrina chooses to tell Valerie and Harvey that she is a witch since they will forget by midnight. But then her rival Libby finds out.

Oh What a Tangled Spell She Weaves
The Quizmaster warns Sabrina to clean up her spells and make them more precise. But when she ignores his advice, the results prove disastrous.

Sabrina Clause
While trying to work on her selfish attitude, Sabrina accidentally injures the real Santa Claus, and then must do his job for him on Christmas Eve.

DISC THREE

Little Big Kraft
Sabrina casts a spell that gives Mr. Kraft the attitude of a carefree teenager. But then he starts to act younger, and younger....

Five Easy Pieces of Libby
As a test, the Quizmaster turns Libby into a puzzle, and Sabrina must find her missing pieces in order to make her whole again.

Finger Lickin' Flu
Our teen witch comes down with a case of "finger flu," and accidentally gives magical powers to a teacher suffering from low self-esteem.

Sabrina and The Beanstalk
After Harvey accidentally eats some magic jumping beans, he flies up a giant beanstalk and encounters a wicked witch who plans to eat him.

The Equalizer
Roland the Troll returns on Valentine's Day. And this time, he's gotten Harvey out of the picture and stolen Sabrina's heart.

The Band Episode
Harvey, Valerie, and Sabrina form a rock band so they can enter a contest at school - and with Sabrina's magic they win! But then their friendships suffer.

When Teens Collide
There's been a lot of molecular instability, causing Sabrina and Libby's personalities to switch. Libby is nice, and Sabrina plans to take over the world!

DISC FOUR

My Nightmare, The Car
When sharing a car with Valerie doesn't work out, Sabrina buys a vehicle that ends up having a mind of its own.

Fear Strikes Up a Conversation
After she uses a spell to remove her fear of addressing the school assembly, Sabrina notices that the fear starts preying on everyone else.

Quiz Show
Sabrina complains about the Quizmaster to his boss, who ends up firing him. And when Zelda teaches high school, her best pupil is Libby.

DisneyWorld
A school trip to the Walt Disney World theme park is actually a test for Sabrina, whose experiment causes Libby and Valerie to be turned into zebras.

Sabrina's Choice
After she continuously pits her aunts against each other, Sabrina is told by the Witches' Council that she can only live with one of them.

Rumor Mill
When Sabrina does community service in the Other Realm, she has fun making up gossip about her friends and family. But then it all starts to come true.

Sabrina Vs. Magic
The Witches' Council has ordered Sabrina to choose between her powers and her mortal mother. If she chooses her powers, she'll never see her mother again.

The DVD:

The Video:
The full screen video image for Sabrina, The Teenage Witch: The Second Season looks quite nice, with strong color values, and little or no print damage. I saw no compression issues to speak of here.

The Audio:
The Dolby Digital English Stereo Surround mix is good, with the dialogue clear, and the music - even the stuff that was changed - nicely modulated. Close-captioning is available.

The Extras:
There are no extras for Sabrina, The Teenage Witch: The Second Season

Final Thoughts:
Sabrina, The Teenage Witch: The Second Season isn't necessarily an improvement over the first season, but the inventive fantasy sequences and the witty one-liners (particularly from Salem the Cat) keep you laughing. Unfortunately, CBS Paramount has delivered up another season of edited shows. The back of the DVD box indicates a running time of 6 hours and 15 minutes. That would suggest an average run time per episode of 14 minutes or so. That's incorrect, and obviously a misprint. Going back and timing the episodes, they come out to an average of 21 minutes, but that still indicates that these are the syndicated versions of the original network runs, and hence CBS/Paramount's warning, also on the back of the box, about edited episodes and changed music cues. I can understand older shows running into trouble with licensing issues, but Sabrina was on only ten years ago, so I can't see recommending such a DVD set; there's really no excuse for running syndicated versions or for not securing the original music cues. If you absolutely must have this second season, by all means, buy it. It's a fun, frothy series, and you'll be happy you did. But beware those edits. Everyone else: rent first to see if you can take that tampering.


Paul Mavis is an internationally published film and television historian, a member of the Online Film Critics Society, and the author of The Espionage Filmography.

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