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Sabrina, the Teenage Witch

Viacom has spun out a series for Nickelodeon's popular Melissa Joan Hart, and the result is more likable than the series' title "Sabrina, The Teenage Witch" or pedigree the Archie Comics character might suggest. Whether Friday-night viewers will go for two way sugary blond chicks in a row ("Clueless" follows) remains to be seen.

With:
Cast: Melissa Joan Hart, Caroline Rhea, Beth Broderick, Nate Richert, Michelle Beaudoin, Jenna Leigh Green, Paul Feig, Nick Backay, Penn Jillette, Teller, Deborah Harry, Robby Benson, Melissa Murray, Bridget Flanery.

Viacom has spun out a series for Nickelodeon’s popular Melissa Joan Hart (“Clarissa Explains It All”), and the result is more likable than the series’ title “Sabrina, The Teenage Witch” or pedigree the Archie Comics character might suggest. Whether Friday-night viewers will go for two way sugary blond chicks in a row (“Clueless” follows) remains to be seen.

For now, think of “Sabrina” as “Bewitched” meets “Carrie.” The heroine lives with a pair of what used to be called maiden aunts (maybe they still are), winningly played by Beth Broderick (Zelda, the acerbic one) and Caroline Rhea (Hilda, the sweet one); the tip-off on what’s in store is the cute little black cauldron they give her on her 16th birthday. They’re witches, as is Sabrina’s absent father. Her powers are revealed to her on her first day at a new school, when she brings a frog on the verge of dissection rather startlingly back to life.

When Sabrina inadvertently turns a nasty classmate into a pineapple, she’s forced to negotiate with a trio of ancient witch bureaucrats played by Penn & Teller and Deborah Harry to set things right. There’s also a guest appearance by former teen idol Robby Benson, who directed the premiere.

None of it is what you’d call inspired, though some of it is amusing. Hart is already quite comfortable on the small screen, and there’s a nice relationship developing with a classmate who goes her own way and who isn’t blond, played by Michelle Beaudoin.

There are also special effects a talking cat, morphing pineapples that aren’t likely to impress a target audience used to more daring visual fare.

Sabrina, the Teenage Witch

Fri. (27), 8:30-9 p.m., ABC

Production: Filmed in Los Angeles by Viacom Prods. Executive producers, Paula Hart, Nell Scovell; co-executive producer, Norma Vela; supervising producers, Carrie Honigblum, Renee Phillips; premiere written by Jonathan Schmock; premiere directed by Robbie Benson; consultant, Jonathan Schmock; producer, Ken Koch; co-producers, Jonathan Sherman, Rachel Lipman; associate producer, Ron Martinez.

Crew: Director of photography, Ron Vargas; sound, John Salcedo; costumes, Dianne Kennedy; production designer, David Sackeroff; art director, Dan Reeverts; set designer, Greg Gneier; casting, Dori Zuckerman, Cathy Henderson; music, Gary Stockdale; music editor, Stan Jones; editors, Stuart Bass, Craig Ridenour; special effects, Art Brewer; animatronics, Jim Boulden; visual effects supervisor, Ann Smeltzer; animal trainers, Mark Watters, Cathy Pittman. 30 MIN.

Cast: Cast: Melissa Joan Hart, Caroline Rhea, Beth Broderick, Nate Richert, Michelle Beaudoin, Jenna Leigh Green, Paul Feig, Nick Backay, Penn Jillette, Teller, Deborah Harry, Robby Benson, Melissa Murray, Bridget Flanery.

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