Charmed is the story of three San Franciscan sisters who discover they are part of a long line of witches, with actual supernatural powers, when they find their ancestral spell book, a Book of Shadows, hidden away in the attic. Phoebe (Alyssa Milano), Piper (Holly Marie Combs), Prue (Shannen Doherty) and later, half-sister Paige Halliwell (Rose McGowan in Doherty’s place) are the foretold “Charmed Ones,” using the magical power of three to dispel demons and protect the innocent. Charmed never become the ratings and critical success it perhaps should have been. However, it did have a devoted fan following that not only collected its spin-off novels, official magazine issues and other merchandise, but helped the show to become the longest running series with females in the lead roles by the time it ended its eight-year run in 2006. Now, two years after these witches cast their final spell, Paramount resurrects them in a most magnificent fashion.
Gorgeously bound and illustrated with some of the stunning artwork seen in the Halliwell Book of Shadows throughout the show, the DVD set Charmed: The Complete Series is sure to be coveted almost as much for its powerful presentation as for the enchanting episodes inside. While it looks nothing like any other books of shadows, it is beautifully rendered and suitably impressive. A limited-edition deluxe version of this set can be had, packaged similarly, but nearer in size to — in fact, it is almost an exact replica of — the massive Book of Shadows used during production of Charmed. It apparently has further illustrations and spells alongside episode information and uses plastic casings rather than the regular version’s cardboard sleeves to hold the discs. However, with the deluxe edition at more than twice the height of a standard DVD box and weighing nearly 10 pounds, the regular set (which is still much too big to sit beside other DVDs on a shelf, but at least it can be lifted easily) might prove the better choice.
All 173 episodes of the series on 49 discs allow acolytes and neophytes alike to watch enthralled as the Halliwells navigate through the perils of powers and attempt to manage their magical missions without neglecting their mundane mortal lives (and sometimes not-so-mortal loves). This struggle for stability and a sense of self is one of the reasons Charmed strikes such a chord with its viewers. Everyone can relate to the stories. Episodes go beyond the demon-of-the-week formula to tap into the relationships of the characters and their faults, fears, foibles and flaws. Charmed found the balance between family and fiends; it succeeded by combining sisterhood with the supernatural.
The series also created a wholly inclusive mythology for its characters, and that may be why it continues to attract new and loyal fans even now. The world of Charmed and its inhabitants remain bound to its rules through cast, crew and creative changes. Unwavering belief in this universe meant the show could withstand changes, such as Doherty leaving after season three. It meant that each episode, each storyline, each season, could stand on its own because it existed within this world and needed no radical, ratings-grabbing, shark-jumping departures to make its magic. But it also means it didn’t necessarily need extras.
Just as with the previously released individual season Charmed DVD sets, seasons one through seven have no bonus features, so there is no episode-specific commentary. Season eight still holds all the bonus material, including the alternate theme song. Because of the many changes in both main and supporting-character cast, and the revolving line-up of writers, directors and producers involved with such a long-running show, commentary from various viewpoints would have been a welcome addition. But it’s really just a minor omission given all of the bonus material included in The Complete Series. Along with the extras featured in season 8, which include a “making of” feature and a “story of” documentary, Charmed fans will be delighted to discover an entire bonus disc filled with all new featurettes.
The best reason to own Charmed: The Complete Series (other than that it’s perfect for curling up with a cat and a cup of tea on a stormy Sunday afternoon for a mystical-marathon viewing session) is the bonus disc. Even those who already own individual seasons of Charmed might find this disc worth the price of the set. It includes the original unaired pilot with actress Lori Rom in the role of Phoebe, as well as seven rather substantial features, clocking from nine to nearly 20 minutes each: The Demons of Charmed, Charmed Effects, The Men of Charmed, The Book of Shadows, The Power of Three, Directing Charmed and The Making of a Monster . All of these features include interviews with cast and crew and secrets behind some of the shows most beloved moments, and they are a treat to watch, even if they fail to address some obvious questions. Of course, Charmed is a show about witches, so they have to leave a little mystery, right?