On October 7, 1998, the WB introduced “Charmed,” a supernatural series about sibling witches who fight evil.
In “Something Wicca This Way Comes,” the first episode, the three Halliwell sisters – who live in modern-day San Francisco – discover they are actually powerful witches, each with a special gift: Prudence (Shannen Doherty), the oldest, is telekinetic; Piper (Holly Marie Combs), the middle sister, can freeze time; and Phoebe (Alyssa Milano) is psychic.
The sisters also learn they are the target of witch-hunting warlocks, murderous demons and other evil-doers.
Aaron Spelling produced “Charmed,” selling the series with a 28-minute pilot, which was never broadcast and featured Lori Rom as Phoebe.
“Charmed” represented a comeback for Doherty, who – four years earlier – had walked away from Spelling’s “Beverly Hills, 90210” amid tabloid reports of on-set tantrums, off-screen partying and other bad behavior.
Critics couldn’t resist commenting on Doherty’s new role – USA Today’s Robert Bianco wrote that “the idea of Shannen Doherty as a witch does have a certain intuitive appeal” – but most reviewers welcomed the actress back to prime time. One exception: the Washington Post’s Tom Shales, who described her as being destined to “play fat-faced Monica Lewinsky somewhere down the road.”
“Charmed” itself received mixed reviews: Cox News Service’s Kevin D. Thompson compared the series to Spelling’s earlier hit “Charlie’s Angels,” calling the new show “funny, spooky and entertaining,” while Bianco concluded “‘Charmed’ has witchcraft but precious little magic.”
The “Charmed” debut was seen in 7.7 million homes, tying with its Wednesday night lead-in – “Dawson’s Creek” – for 78th in the weekly ratings, making it the most-watched series premiere in the WB’s history.
Doherty departed the show at the end of “Charmed’s” third season – this time amid rumors of backstage tension with Milano. Prudence was killed off and replaced by Rose McGowan as Paige – the Halliwell siblings’ long-lost half-sister – who remained with the series through the end of its eighth and final season.
“Something Wicca This Way Comes” is part of the “Charmed: The Complete Series” DVD set.
Also on TV
On October 7, 1998, the WB also aired the season premiere of “Dawson’s Creek;” ABC broadcast “Dharma & Greg,” “Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place,” “The Drew Carey Show,” and “The Secret Lives of Men,” a sitcom starring Peter Gallagher and Bradley Whitford, as well as “20/20;” CBS showed “The Nanny,” the Faith Ford sitcom “Maggie Winters,” the romantic comedy “To Have and to Hold” and “Chicago Hope;” on Fox, the New York Yankees beat the Cleveland Indians, 4 to 2, in a National League baseball playoff; NBC’s lineup consisted of “Dateline NBC,” “3rd Rock From the Sun,” “NewsRadio” (featuring Jon Lovitz’s first appearance as the late Phil Hartman’s replacement) and “Law & Order;” and UPN introduced the action show “7 Days” with a two-hour premiere.
During the week of October 4, 1998, the number ones were Tom Clancy’ “Rainbow Six” (novel), Monica’s “The First Night” (song) and “Antz” (movie). In Washington, Democrats rallied around President Clinton as Republicans moved closer to impeaching him.
Captions: “Charmed” cast members, from left, Shannen Doherty, Alyssa Milano and Holly Marie Combs in a photograph from TV Guide’s September 12, 1998, fall preview issue (top; Doherty and Combs by Fergus Greer, Milano by Kate Garner); the WB’s advertisement for the series premiere, from the October 3, 1998, edition (bottom).