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Pure Magic 🔮: 'Sabrina' Is Coming to Netflix, So Catch Up on the History of the Teenage Witch

CBS

Despite expectations that it would become a CW spin-off of Riverdale, Netflix is actually the one that has picked up the new Sabrina the Teenage Witch series for two seasons, consisting of 10 episodes each.

When the show was first being talked about, there were rumblings that Sabrina could be played by Dove Cameron. Additionally, it's very likely that this Sabrina is going to be different from any other version of the character that’s ever appeared before. Where the Melissa Joan Hart series from the 1990s was light and fluffy, this one is going to be dark and gritty.

As to the rumors, Dove, according to Refinery29, responded, “I love Riverdale. I know the cast. They were shooting that actually as we were shooting Descendants 2...I love the character of Sabrina, obviously. I was a huge fan of the original Archie Comics; that was like all I read when I was little, so, yeah, I’d be open to it. I don’t want to let down any fans or anything like that, but if they wanted me, I would go.”

The character of Sabrina first appeared in a 1962 issue of Archie’s Madhouse as an elementary school child. The idea is that she’s a half-witch, born to a human mother and a father who was a witch. The set-up is that she lives with two witch aunts, Hilda and Zelda, and another witch turned into a cat, Salem. All of them live in Greendale, a town located by Riverdale.

In an interview with the Oddball Comics column, her co-creator George Gladir commented, “We envisioned it as a one-shot and were surprised when fans asked for more. We continued to do Sabrina stories off and on in Madhouse until 1969, when we were flabbergasted to hear it was to become an animated TV series.”

But that’s exactly what did happen. Sabrina got her non-comic book start by appearing on episodes of the animated The Archie Show and proved so popular that she was spun off into her own show. What follows is a look at the character’s history on film over the years.

Sabrina the Teenage Witch (1970-72)

This show ran for two seasons from 1970-72, beginning year one as The Sabrina Comedy Hour. It consisted of reruns from The Archie Show, new episodes, and others featuring the characters the Groovie Goolies (featuring wacky takes on Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster and the Wolfman —referred to respectively as Drac, Frankie and Wolfie). The Sabrina episodes had her using her powers to fight bad guys in between hanging out with her friends without letting them know what she really was. In the first season the show ran a hour, but after that it was reduced to half an hour when the Groovie Goulies got spun off into their own show.

Sabrina the Teenage Witch (1996 — TV Movie Pilot)

Actress Melissa Joan Hart, who starred in the Sabrina live-action TV series, made her debut in the role in this 1996 TV movie that ended up serving as a pilot for the show. In it, she’s Sabrina Sawyer who has come to live with her aunts Hilda and Zelda (Sherry Miller and Charlene Fernetz). Turning 16, she discovers that she’s a witch, which comes in handy as she tries to use that magic to get fellow student Seth (played by Ryan Reynolds!) to notice her. What she doesn’t realize at first is how shallow Seth is, and how she has much more in common with her friend Harvey (Tobias Mehler). Amongst the magic Sabrina performs is turning Seth’s ex-girlfriend, who discovers her secret, into a poodle.

Sabrina the Teenage Witch (1996-2003)

Melissa Joan Hart continues the role of Sabrina (new last name of Spellman) from the TV movie, who, in this version, discovers her powers at 16 as well. She lives with her 600-year-old aunts, Hilda (Caroline Rhea) and Zelda (Beth Broderick), as well as Salem, a magical cat who happens to speak in the voice of actor Nick Bakey. They all live in the fictional Westbridge, Massachusetts. While in high school, the show is focused on Sabrina’s interactions with her friends and the sometimes careless way she uses magic, though when she reaches college, she starts taking things more seriously. Throughout the show’s run it also dealt with Sabrina’s on and off love life, though, as was the case in the TV movie that preceded this show, she ends up with Harvey in the end.

Sabrina: The Animated Series (1999-2000)

It’s been referred to as a spin-off to the live action series, but there are few connections. Melissa Joan Hart serves as producer, with her younger sister, Emily, providing the voice for Sabrina. In this show, which ran for 65 episodes, Sabrina is a 12-year-old who’s attending middle school and walking that line between being a witch and an ordinary girl. Think of it as middle school with the chaos that results from Sabrina not having full control of her power.

Sabrina: Friends Forever (2002)

TV animated film from the series which sees Sabrina (voiced by Britt McKillip) turning 13, getting her first wand and heading off Witch Academy to learn the rules of being a witch. Embarrassed about her background, Sabrina hides the fact that she’s half-human from the other students.

Sabrina’s Secret Life (2003-04)

A continuation animated series with Britt McKillip back to voice the lead character, who is now 14. The 26 episodes of this show are set in high school and it’s obvious that Sabrina’s powers are weaker than they were in the animated series. One significant change, she has to use her wand to conduct magic as opposed to just waving her hand, which is the way it had been on the other show. Maybe a Harry Potter influence?

Sabrina: Secrets of a Teenage Witch (2013-14)

High School Musical’s Ashley Tisdale provides her voice for the character of Sabrina Spellman, who, in a variation of what we’ve seen before, has to balance her high school life with the fact that she’s a witch princess destined to rule the magical world. Salem the Cat is along for the ride, but this time he’s no friend to Sabrina, sent there by the character Enchantra to make life among humans so unbearable that she’ll retreat to the magic world. There, Enchantra would be able to absorb Sabrina’s powers, making her the most powerful witch ever. The animation in this show, which lasted 26 episodes, was created in CG.

The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina

This is the one that Riverdale fans are waiting for. Back in July, K.J. Apa (Archie Andrews on Riverdale — in case you didn't know) noted at San Diego Comic-Con that Sabrina would be appearing on the show late in the second season. Instead, the decision has been made to give the character her own show. But this take on Sabrina, as noted above, is going to be extremely different from any that came before. It’s based on the comic of the same name and is described as being a reimagination of the origin and adventures of Sabrina “as a dark coming-of-age story that traffics in horror, the occult, and witchcraft. The series is described as being totally in the vein of horror classics like Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist, and will see Sabrina wrestling to reconcile her dual nature as a half-witch, half-mortal while standing against the evil forces that threaten her, her family, and the daylight world humans inhabit.” Riverdale’s Robert Aguirre-Sacasa will write the pilot and serve as executive producer.

This story was originally published on October 1, 2017 and has since been updated with new information.

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