Stay Tuned: ‘Good Witch’ plays it safe
I’m not a fan of the whiney, disgruntled teenage character (I blame Dana from “Homeland”). When one appears in a show, I am compelled to loudly complain and threaten never to watch it again. So when the first scene of “Good Witch” featured an angry, spoiled, teenage boy, I was instantly annoyed. This, admittedly, is not the best way to approach a series I’m about to review. But then angry boy’s father, tired of him complaining about how he doesn’t want to live in small-town USA, says this: “Someday I’ll explain the difference between a want and a need and it will blow your mind.” Thank you writers of “Good Witch.” At least one line in this rather dull show is satisfying.
Based on Hallmark Channel’s most popular movie franchise, “Good Witch” is the network’s fourth original series. Catherine Bell reprises her role as Cassie Nightingale, the benevolent witch of the title and a widow with a teenage daughter named Grace (Bailee Madison) and two older step-children. Her new neighbors are the angry teenager of the opening scene, Nick Radford (Rhys Matthew Bond), and his father, Dr. Sam Radford (James Denton), a divorced surgeon who leaves New York City to start a medical practice in the small town of Middleton. Cassie’s proficiency in alternative medicine has made her the town’s go-to healer, which leaves the prickly Sam frustrated. He is all about science. She is all about valerian root and herbal elixirs.
Cassie’s otherworldly qualities (she has magical intuition) are mostly communicated through Bell’s soothing and calm delivery of lines like: “Knowing how to share our gifts with the world is as important as recognizing the gifts we have to share.” When she gently guides a wayward bird out of Sam’s clinic by coaxing it to land on her hand, she responds to his amazement by suggesting that the bird “just needed a little direction” then adds: “We all do at one time or another, don’t you think?” It’s a theme that’s repeated when she counsels her stepdaughter, a reporter who is feeling unfulfilled in her current role: “Sometimes when you can’t find the story, you have to change direction.” Pointing people in the right emotional direction while offering sage advice is Cassie’s main character trait. Her storylines are meant to make you feel good, but they are so predictable, they may also make you a little sleepy.
As for the rest of the “action,” it’s by-the-book family entertainment. The show focuses on life lessons, usually discussed with Cassie over cups of tea. The comic relief is the town’s mayor, a character whose theatricality unfortunately, feels forced rather than funny. As the show progresses, it’s not a stretch to imagine that Nick will straighten up and Cassie and Sam will eventually realize they are meant to be together.
Overall, “Good Witch” does what it sets out to do. It offers family-friendly stories that are free of controversy. But leaving out topics that have the potential to get viewers talking also leaves little to remember.
“Good Witch” is on Saturdays at 8 p.m. EDT on Hallmark Channel.
Melissa Crawley is the author of “Mr. Sorkin Goes to Washington: Shaping the President on Television’s ‘The West Wing.’” She has a Ph.D. in media studies and is a member of the Television Critics Association. To comment on Stay Tuned, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter at @MelissaCrawley.