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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Sabrina, The Teenage Witch - The Third Season
Sabrina, The Teenage Witch - The Third Season
Paramount // Unrated // January 15, 2008
List Price: $38.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Paul Mavis | posted January 15, 2008 | E-mail the Author
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CBS DVD and Paramount has released the four-disc set, Sabrina, The Teenage Witch: The Third Season, another delightful collection of 25 episodes from the charming tween fantasy that ruled ABC's well-remembered "TGIF" line-up back in the mid-to-late 90s. Starring perky, lovely Melissa Joan Hart, Sabrina, The Teenage Witch gave kids and their parents a jokey, special-effects-laden update of Bewitched that was as light and effervescent and fun as anything on network TV at the time. Dismissed as mere kiddie fare (except by the advertising execs who made big sales on the demo-heavy hit), Sabrina, The Teenage Witch looks better and better after ten years, particularly in comparison to current tween and family fare.

Based on the Archie Comics character, Sabrina Spellman (Melissa Joan Hart) was an average high school teenager who also just happened to be a witch. Juggling not only the pitfalls and disappointments of normal adolescence (which, if you remember, seemed certainly insurmountable), Sabrina also had to learn how to harness and control her witchcraft, a process that frequently backfires with comical results. Luckily, she has the wise counsel of her wacky aunts, Hilda (Caroline Rhea) and Zelda (Beth Broderick), with whom she lives, as well as sidekick/pain in the ass prankster Salem (voice of Nick Bakay), a warlock who has been transformed into a house cat as punishment for trying to take over the world. Sabrina's cute, good-natured but slightly dumb boyfriend Harvey Kinkle (Nate Richert) is frequently the butt of Sabrina's miscast spells. Sabrina's best friend (in this season) is the lovely underachiever Valerie Birckhead (Lindsay Sloane), while her nemeses at school are evil cheerleader Libby Chessler (Jenna Leigh Green) and dorky Vice Principal Willard Kraft (Martin Mull).

In the previous second season, the main story arc was Sabrina's quest to get her witches' license, as well as her indecision in whether or not to date Harvey exclusively. In this third season (1998-1999), Sabrina quickly picks Harvey as her steady (in the season opener), and begins a new central story arc where she must, as every witch must, solve her family secret before she can actually use her newly acquired license. Throughout the season, Sabrina is routinely visited by various far-out relatives who bring her clues to help her solve the puzzle, but it's a race against time, because if Sabrina fails to guess the secret by her appointed time, she loses her powers forever.

This third season of the popular Sabrina, The Teenage Witch seems like a retrench of the series after the divergent second season. I remember my eldest daughter being a huge fan of the show (we never missed it on Friday nights), but her interest began to wane towards the end of the second season, perhaps because the producers decided to turn the show more towards teen soap, rather than special effects fantasy fluff. A critical mistake was initially breaking up Sabrina and Harvey; Hart and Richert had particularly good chemistry, making for a sweet, fun couple that kids loved to see together. Season three largely abandons Sabrina's back-and-forth feelings for Harvey (they both declare their love for each other by season's end), as well as toning down the heavier angst moments that popped up in season two. Season three is much lighter, much crazier in spirit by comparison, with Sabrina's central trouble - finding out the Spellman family secret - not nearly as direly put-forth (the final revelation, quite honestly, wasn't worth the season-long build-up, and may have contributed to the series' falling ratings for its final fourth season on ABC).

A lot of mileage is found in the subplot that has Willard Kraft switching his romantic pinings from Hilda to Zelda. Martin Mull, so close at one time to breaking out from Steve Martin's shadow, is a perfect comedic foil for these kinds of shenanigans, and his mean-spirited ineffectualness fits in nicely with the witchy goings-on at school and at Sabrina's home. Rhea and Broderick have their duo act down pat, with Broderick's cool, breathy straight-man setups bouncing off the Borscht Belt-blowsy Rhea (in one episode, Rhea literally dons a "borscht belt" that turns her into a female Henny Youngman). Green as the evil Libby seems distracted and frankly shunted to the side (this would be her final year with the series), while the increasingly gorgeous Sloane was having an increasingly difficult time making her character seem so awkward and undesirable. Richert is letter-perfect as the sweet, dim-bulb Harvey (it's a shame we don't see more of Richert; I would think he'd be a perfect light comedy/romantic leading man), and of course, Hart is deft and funny as the slightly scattered Sabrina. I understand that Hart had a substantial cable hit with a holiday-themed TV movie this past December; hopefully, that will keep her profile high. She's a charmer, with a naturally open, sweet demeanor that really connects with audiences (which you don't find too often in today's young female "stars").

But naturally, as with each season of Sabrina, The Teenage Witch, the real star - or at least the one who consistently gets the biggest laughs - is Nick Bakay who voices Salem the cat. Laugh for laugh, few characters from any TV show - and I've seen thousands - have consistently cracked me up as much as Bakay's Salem. I don't know if it's the whining, or the evil cackle, or the crest-fallen sobbing when no one bothers to listen to his hilarious rejoinders (Bakay was also a writer and producer on the show), but Salem's shtick never fails to get a big laugh. It's hard to pick a single, representative example from this season (he knocks them out of the park in each and every episode), but a particular scene favorite is from the Pancake Madness episode, where Sabrina, jonesing out because she's addicted to pancakes, frantically tries to choke Salem, who barely manages a strangulated wheeze, "You're pressing on my Adam's apple!" Absolute heaven. Flat out, he's one of the top ten funniest TV characters ever - from any show and any decade. And that's saying something for a silly, funny little tween special effects comedy.

Here are the 25, one-half hour episodes of the four-disc set Sabrina, The Teenage Witch: The Third Season, as described on the DVD insert. And yes, the standard Paramount disclaimer is present on this collection, warning the buyer that episodes may be edited for content and music. I've included run times so you die-hard Sabrina, The Teenage Witch fans can determine for yourself which, if any, episodes have been altered:


It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Season Opener (21:40)
Sabrina finally earns her witch's license, but now must uncover a mysterious family secret. Meanwhile, her romantic dilemma continues....

Boy Was My Face Red (21:28)
In order to help Valerie out of an extremely embarrassing situation, Sabrina concocts a spell that backfires, leaving her own face bright red.

Suspicious Minds (21:44)
Sabrina gets jealous when Harvey is paired with Libby for a school project about marriage. And Aunt Zelda starts dating Mr. Kraft!

The Pom-Pom Incident (21:44)
Valerie decides to try out for the dreaded cheerleading squad, so Sabrina uses a magic coin from the Other Realm in order to change her mind.

Pancake Madness (21:24)
After she makes a fool of herself in front of the entire school by giving in to her pancake addiction, Sabrina must go through intense detoxification.

Good Will Haunting (21:42)
On Halloween, Sabrina is given an evil doll that proceeds to terrorize her friends. And Hilda and Zelda are trapped at a party in an insane asylum.


You Bet Your Family (21:27)
Salem loses a big poker game in the Other Realm, so now Hilda, Zelda, and Sabrina are powerless servants for the next twenty years!

And the Sabrina Goes To... (21:13)
Hungry for praise, Sabrina cooks up a spell in the form of a cake and is showered with compliments for every little thing she does.

Nobody Nose Libby Like Sabrina Knows Libby (21:41)
Salem and Sabrina wind up inside a tiny spaceship that accidentally flies up Libby's nose, eventually getting stuck inside her brain.

Sabrina and the Beast (21:44)
Sabrina's unattractive cousin arrives to discuss the family secret, and turns Harvey into a beast in order to teach Sabrina a lesson about looks.

Christmas Amnesia (21:19)
At a trendy party in the Other Realm, Sabrina accidentally erases Christmas at the Spellman household and must figure out a way to restore the holiday.

Whose So-Called Life is it Anyway? (21:33)
Valerie's mom makes a wish that her daughter be just like Sabrina. But when the wish comes true, Valerie slowly turns into Sabrina's exact double.


What Price Harvey? (21:44)
Concerned about Harvey's decision to become a mechanic, Sabrina douses him with a magic cologne that turns him into an industrial tycoon overnight.

Mrs. Kraft (21:38)
Aunt Zelda finds out Mr. Kraft used to be married to a witch! So the two women fight for his affections on an outrageous talk show.

Sabrina and the Pirates (21:43)
In order to see N'Sync perform, Sabrina obtains a fake ID. But then her magic becomes fake and she can't control some unruly pirates.

Sabrina, The Matchmaker (21:28)
Ordered by Cupid to help two people fall in love, Sabrina gets her cousin and the plumber together. But then her cousin's bratty daughters ruin it.

Salem, The Boy (21:28)
Sabrina allows Salem to inhabit the body of a classmate. But things get out of hand when the feline attempts to use school politics to take over the world.

Sabrina, The Teenage Writer (21:42)
The line between real and imaginary begins to blur when Sabrina types a story on a magic typewriter and the characters come to life.


The Big Sleep (21:40)
After Sabrina disturbs an aunt who sleeps ten years at a time, the vengeful relative puts Hilda and Zelda asleep for eternity.

Sabrina's Pen Pal (21:40)
Sabrina sneaks her timid pen pal over from the Other Realm in the guise of her cat, but then discovers she is actually a dangerous jewel thief.

Sabrina's Real World (21:45)
After Salem signs a contract with a television producer from the Other Realm, cameras are put in the household and Sabrina's life becomes a reality show.

The Long and Winding Shortcut (21:44)
By using Mrs. Quick to help solve the family secret, Sabrina is accused of cheating and is stripped of modern conveniences.

Sabrina, The Sandman (21:44)
Sabrina gets a job as the Sandman, putting people to sleep. But she becomes confused and upset when she starts peeking in on their dreams.

Silent Movie (21:44)
Just as Harvey professes his love to Sabrina, a silent spell kicks in. When the entire household turns into an old silent film, Sabrina can't respond.

The Good, The Bad, and The Luau (21:33)
As Harvey's mom is about to give birth, Sabrina travels to Hawaii with her aunts, where she finally solves the mystery of the family secret.

The DVD:

The Video:
The full screen, 1.33:1 video transfer for Sabrina, The Teenage Witch: The Third Season looks bright and sharp and clear, with little grain or video noise, and no compression issues.

The Audio:
The Dolby Digital English Stereo Surround audio mix is crystal-clear, with all dialogue cleanly heard. Subtitles and close-captions are available.

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

Final Thoughts:
I was a little grumpy with my recommendation for the previous season of Sabrina, The Teenage Witch. Editing in any form bugs me, particularly a relatively new TV series. But I also hate to downgrade a series that you may find a lot of enjoyment in, just because there's a possibility that editing has occurred. A little sillier this season, and delightfully so, Sabrina, The Teenage Witch: The Third Season gets Harvey and Sabrina back together where they belong, accompanied by plenty of hilarious catcalls by Salem. Bright, happy entertainment. I recommend Sabrina, The Teenage Witch: The Third Season.

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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