Charmed is a cheery, hot pink daisy of a show – inherently cute and incredibly simple. As other girl-powered series have dropped away, the WB staple is sitting pretty in its sixth season, providing a nifty option to those who miss ”Buffy the Vampire Slayer”’s mythology (get your fill of witch-guardian Whitelighters and scab demons here) and the cheeky sorority of ”Sex and the City” (just don’t hold out for phrases like ”funky spunk” – this is a preteen-friendly program).
The charm of ”Charmed” is that it knows what it is: a guilty-pleasure fantasy about three witch sisters, Phoebe (Alyssa Milano), Piper (Holly Marie Combs), and Paige (Rose McGowan), who live in a really great San Francisco house and fight evil in supercool outfits. Theirs is a practical magic: They call otherworldly beings ”dude” and get peeved over wondrous inconveniences (Piper’s response to learning she’s heir to King Arthur’s throne: ”Oh, crap”). Even the endless, outlandish costuming – a kindergartner’s dream – gets teased. After Phoebe shape-shifts into a genie, with the full blond-braided, Barbara Eden treatment, her first instinct is to trot to the mirror and whine, ”Why do I always get stuck with the wig?” (Perhaps because Milano chopped off her locks before this season’s start.)
Selling this kind of comedy takes a certain gameness, and the actresses have got it. Milano has turned exasperation into an art form, as she’s morphed into everything from Mata Hari to her combat-booted former teen self this season. McGowan, who in 2001 replaced Shannen Doherty as a long-lost sister, has shed her indie-chick-slumming-on-TV ‘tude (that noise you heard in her first season was, like, her soul dying) and is all the zippier for it. Best of all is Combs, who, as pert little mother Piper, is a purse-lipped precision underplayer. When the Headless Horseman relieved her of her body, she seemed more annoyed than scared that her noggin was stuck on a mantel next to a houseplant.
Sadly, ”Charmed” has yet to fill the void left by the charismatic Cole (Julian McMahon, now of ”Nip/Tuck”), Phoebe’s half-demon former hubby, whose rakishness is much missed this season. Fortunately, the show’s held on to its other great guy, Piper’s amiable Whitelighter ex, Leo (Brian Krause), and introduced a nicely hellish story line in which their son might be, oh, the future of all evil. Witches, Whitelighters, bad-seed babies, and girl talk about the trouble with demon lovers – what series could possibly pull off all this silly fun? ”Charmed,” I’m sure.