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TV Series Review

Hogwarts’ School of Witchcraft and Wizardry isn’t the only place a magically inclined kid can get a solid education. For girls who’d rather not deal with the occasional Whomping Willow, who care not a whit about Quidditch or who simply can’t afford Hogwarts’ tuition, they may apply to Miss Cackle’s Academy for Witches—another magical, oh-so-British school filled with brooms, potions and pointy hats.

Oh, and students need not worry about being last in their class. That honor seems to belong, perennially, to poor Mildred Hubble. It’s right there in the title: The Worst Witch.

Magical Marks

It’s not that Mildred is literally the “worst witch.” She improved noticeably in her broom-riding skills from her first year at the all-girls’ school, when she was particularly prone to fly into trees. Her cat isn’t black, but rather a colorful tabby, and it’s certainly not Mildred’s fault that the feline can’t cling to a broomstick very well. Sure, Mildred may not come from a magical family, and she does take to the craft a bit slower than some. But she has some talent in those muggle-born bones of hers.

But if she’s not exactly the worst witch, she does seem to have the worst luck. And it doesn’t help that pretty, snooty Ethel Hallow seems to have it out for her.

Luckily, Mildred has some good friends to see her through. Enid Nightshade is something of a practical joker, but she’s as loyal as they come. Sensible Maud Spellbody is always good for a practical word of advice—never mind that her face mysteriously changed (during a magical game of hide-and-seek, she says) between the girls’ first and second years.

The staff members at Miss Cackle’s school are, for the most part, well-meaning sorts, too (if prone to their own little mistakes now and then). All but Miss Hardbroom, that is, who has a yen for dressing in black and doesn’t seem to care much for Mildred.

Revisionist Familiarist!

If all this sounds vaguely reminiscent of another magical institution of higher learning, well, it is. Netflix’s The Worst Witch (which actually premiered on Britain’s CBBC, the BBC’s children’s programming channel, and is a British/German production) bears plenty of similarities to the Harry Potter franchise, and it seems designed to appeal most to those who know what their own patronus is.

As such, let’s note that the original Worst Witch book, written by Jill Murphy, was published in 1974—more than two decades before J.K. Rowling published Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone. (Murphy has written seven other Worst Witch books, and this is actually the fourth Worst Witch television series to air—which means if there’s a plagiarism case to be made, it’s Murphy’s to make.)

Still, given the ubiquity of Rowling’s work, it’s fair to think of Netflix’s The Worst Witch as a light, fluffy version of Harry Potter: Hogwarts without all the Death Eaters and teen angst and constant peril. And while romance was certainly a theme in Harry Potter, The Worst Witch (which caters to a younger audience) seems rather disinterested in such things—a disinterest further dampened by the fact that Miss Cackle’s Academy is an all-girls school. (Given the age in which we live, I suppose, a same-sex relationship in the future isn’t out of the question; but at this point, relationships among the students in Miss Cackle’s school are purely platonic.)

This is, in short, a kids’ show, with few aspirations of growing darker and more complex as the Harry Potter series did. The stakes are low. Violence is played for laughs. The worst oaths you’re likely to hear are things like “foaming frostbottom.”

What to Do With These Witches?

No, the main issue that families must deal with is suggested in the title itself.

The Worst Witch is predicated, of course, on witchcraft. Spells are cast (complete with magical incantations). Potions are quaffed. All the students wear pointy hats, ride brooms and are given traditional familiars. (Cats, of course.) There’s no suggestion that any of these would-be witches (or their teachers) are tapping into dark occult powers to work their magic. But for those familiar with the real-world history of suspected wizardry and witchcraft, the show’s seemingly innocuous spiritual vibe may nevertheless set off alarms.

But for families who do choose to navigate the magic at this new show’s core, The Worst Witch offers a feather-light diversion, with maybe a nice little moral on occasion, too.

Magical? Hardly. But The Worst Witch could certainly be worse.

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Episode Reviews

July 26, 2018: "Tortoise Trouble"



Readability Age Range



Bella Ramsey as Mildred Hubble; Clare Higgins as Miss Cackle; Raquel Cassidy as Miss Hardbroom; Jenny Richardson as Ethel Hallow; Dagny Rollins as Felicity Foxglove; Shauna Shim as Miss Drill; Wendy Craig as Miss Bat; Tamara Smart as Enid Nightshade; Philip Martin Brown as Mr. Rowan Webb; Miriam Petche as Esmerelda Hallow; Nicola Stephenson as Julie Hubble; Meibh Campbell as Maud Spellbody (first season); Tallulah Milligan as Drusilla Paddock; Megan Hughes as Maud Spellbody (second season); Trixie Hyde as Sybil Hallow; Kitty Slack as Clarice Twigg; Ynez Williams as Beatrice Bunch






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On Video

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Paul Asay

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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