I get it, Lifetime. Clearly, the network directive is to go less chick-centric. You cancel “Army Wives” (and try to bump off “Drop Dead Diva” until fan protest forced you to reconsider) and hop on the supernatural train everyone else is riding. That’s fine. It’s a shame, though, that you decided to rip a page from The CW in adapting “Witches of East End.” So far, this show mostly serves to make me marvel at the fact Madchen Amick still looks this amazingly good naked at age 42, and sigh deeply that Julia Ormond and Virginia Madsen can’t get better gigs.
This isn’t to say “Witches of East End” (inspired by the Melissa de la Cruz novel) is awful, by the way. But it’s clearly not focused on material (or at least isn’t at this point) for the seasoned actresses on the show to rip into. No, the real drama gets handed to the far less interesting Jenna Dewan-Tatum (Freya) and Rachel Boston (Ingrid). Ingrid and Freya are the unlucky children of Joanna (Ormond), who must have done something to really piss off someone with mad supernatural skills. The immortal witch must give birth to her two daughters over and over again, as they keep getting themselves bumped off shortly after discovering their witchy powers.
Hoping to break her running streak of dead teens, this time Joanna has decided to put a smell on the girls so that they don’t get in touch with their witchy powers. This has made Freya confused and lustful and Ingrid an uptight nerd. Guess how long that spell sticks? While both actresses do what they can with cheesy stereotypes (and Dewan-Tatum gets to make out with hot guys with some frequency in the pilot), the results still reek of the worst YA-centric programming. Freya’s torn between two hot brothers! What to do, what to do? Oh, poo, I saw in a dream I was going to make out with you, so let’s do it! Ingrid fairs marginally better, struggling to accept her witchiness after a lifetime of healthy skepticism. Still, she’s the dorky girl who doesn’t know she has the magic within her (although that does become a self-aware and funny recurring punchline) and doesn’t even realize when a hot guy (in this case, a policeman played by Jason George) is asking her out.
Given that so much of the show is given over to this romcom fluff, it’s almost jarring when the bodies start showing up. Though the gore is (so far) taking place off screen, it’s still not a smooth transition into the supernatural; it’s as if Freddy Krueger popped up on “Sex and the City.”
Still, there’s some fun in watching Julia Ormond in green contact lenses and creepy gargoyle make-up, and already it seems that Madchen Amick (who may or may not be coming back as Joanna’s crazy cat lady sister) got all the best lines in the pilot. Though Madsen is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it appearance as the mom of Freya’s fiance (and his hot brother), I’m sure she’ll be on hand to chew some scenery later.
Some of the dialogue (though hardly all) sparkles, suggesting there’s potential for the show to be more than another dim supernatural story heavy on the vapid romance and light on the more compelling story lines. Joanna’s curse, as a parallel for the change in a mother-daughter relationship after puberty scorches the earth, could catch fire. But so far, all I can see is smoke.
Will you watch “The Witches of East End”?