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TV Series Review

There's something special about Cassie Nightingale. Magical, you might say.

Admittedly, her enchantments (if that's what we should call them) are fairly subtle. She doesn't wave a magic wand about and fret over He Who Must Not Be Named, à la Harry Potter. She doesn't wiggle her nose, like Samantha did on the 1960s sitcom Bewitched. If she uses newt's eyes and bat wings in her soup, she keeps those ingredients well back in the pantry.

No, Cassandra simply seems to have a certain intuition about her. A knack for saying just the right thing at just the right time. A talent for bringing hurting people together, or solving the low-stakes problems that crop up in the quaint hamlet of Middleton. Sure, she certainly believes in aromatherapy and the healing benefits of ginger. But if Macbeth came to get some advice from this witch, well, she'd likely tell him to spend a weekend at her bed and breakfast (The Grey House), have a nice cuppa tea, spend more quality time with his wife and forget all about killing the King of Scotland.

Still, she and her daughter, Grace, have effectively charmed Middleton and, apparently, much of the audience of the Hallmark channel. Through 11 made-for-TV movies and a show with an ongoing run of several seasons, Cassandra (known to most just as Cassie) has helped turn Middleton into a kinder, gentler, happier place—the sort of hamlet that folks who visit just want to enjoy and stay for a … spell.

Oh, My, Stars

It's not as though Middleton is problem free. Martha Tinsdale is perpetually in a tizzy about the latest fair or festival, insisting that everything go just right. Folks like Stephanie Borden (who runs the local bistro) and Abigail Pershing (Cassie's cousin who seems to share some of Cassie's low-key abilities) have to deal with awkward misunderstandings and unhappy customers, just like the rest of us. Why, Dr. Sam Radford, Middleton's newish physician, couldn't see the town's attraction at first; and the pragmatic, no-nonsense, logical doc had very little time for Cassie's slightly hippie-esque sensibilities.

But since he's now married to Cassie, we can assume he's come around. Either that, or there's an empty love potion vial somewhere in Cassie's closet.

Still, no one in Middleton is trying to take over the Ministry of Magic or conquer Westeros or cause all of its citizens to lose their immortal souls.

Or are they?

Reviewicus Complididius

Much like the town, Good Witch looks pretty bucolic when you first encounter it. In fact, I don't know if I've seen a cleaner show in many a year. Rarely, if ever, does anyone swear. A stern scowl is as close as this show typically gets to outright violence. And if there's any hanky-panky in Middleton, the cameras here aren't focusing on it. On the surface, Good Witch makes Disney's DuckTales look like Breaking Bad.

"Don't get me wrong," star Catherine Bell told Biography some years back, "I love Game of Thrones and all the deep, dark stuff, but sometimes it's nice to just lay in bed, eat popcorn and watch something that makes us feel good about life and the nature of humanity."

This is, unquestionably, a feel-good show. Middleton has its share of characters and disagreements, but everything there just feels nice. And when things aren't nice, Cassie (along with her inter-relational skillsets, magical or no) sidles alongside and helps make everything better. Matches are made. Misunderstandings are resolved. Homework is done, and dinner parties are had.

But all that gentle-goodness and saccharine-sweetness and oh-so-niceness won't alleviate the concern that the title itself will spark.

For lo these many years that Hallmark's been pushing out its Good Witch stories, Cassandra's "powers" have never been explicitly labeled as supernatural, much less diabolical. Do she and Grace have actual magical powers? Or do they simply have a particularly powerful, edifying set of social skills and a rabid sense of what my mom used to call "women's intuition"? Good Witch, despite its name, will never tell.

But let's just say that Cassandra is a witch. While her powers wouldn't impress anyone at Hogwarts, they might feel familiar to a Puritan from the 17th century, perhaps, what with Cassie's devotion to herbal remedies and impressive knack for manipulating social situations. Indeed, her very goodness might alarm some—casting as she does a spell, as it were, on viewers themselves, making witchcraft look not just benign, but positively beneficial.

I hardly think that Hallmark is out to enlist its viewers into an army for Satan. Through its unusual trope, the network likely intends the show to salute traditional-but-powerful femininity in a new, engaging way—and all while staying away from the shock-and-schlock template that so much television seems to gravitate toward these days. Still, some Christians may look at Cassandra and see a power behind her more influential than Voldemort.

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Episode Reviews

June 16, 2019: "The Honeymoon"
May 26, 2018: "Written Like a Merriwick"



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Catherine Bell as Cassie Nightingale; Bailee Madison as Grace Russell; James Denton as Dr. Sam Radford; Catherine Disher as Mayor Martha Tinsdale; Kylee Evans as Stephanie Borden; Rhys Matthew Bond as Nick Radford; Sarah Power as Abigail Pershing; Peter MacNeill as George O'Hanrahan; Dan Jeannotte as Brandon Russell






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We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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