TV Party: 'The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina' on Netflix

Or, "Did this really need a reboot?"

by Lauren O'Neill
30 October 2018, 9:55am

Screenshots: Netflix 

Welcome to TV Party, VICE's weekly TV column, brought to you by resident sad-act, me, Lauren O’Neill, where I basically just talk for a bit about the best (or worst) thing on telly this week. Best enjoyed with a plate of your favourite breaded item and an open mind. Contains spoilers, obvs. This week: 'The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina'

I don't like reboots. I'd rather things – especially things featuring costumed talking cats – were left alone, for us to revisit at will. However, nobody listens to me because a) I'm a boring idiot who believes that Love Island is the pinnacle of human art, and b) reboots make money, so we find ourselves presented with TV shows like The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, a mostly unnecessary reboot of the almost perfect 1990s high school sitcom Sabrina the Teenage Witch.

*Seinfeld voice* What's the deal with 'The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina'?

I mean, yeah, it's a reboot of Sabrina the Teenage Witch through a specifically 2018 lens. There are touches of modern horror (the blurry camera work when something spo0o0oky is happening), but this is pretty much exactly what you'd imagine a 2018 Sabrina update to be – and I'm not sure that's a good thing. It's been prestige TV-ified, and most of the humour taken away, with bloated episodes and a "dark" plot in place of the sunny mood of the original.


Who's even in it?

As Sally Draper in Mad Men, Kiernan Shipka acted most of the adult cast off the screen, so while reticent about a Sabrina reboot, I was also excited that it would star her. Her quiet abilities are a bit wasted on this flashy script, though, where nuances of performance often give way to dialogue and special effects.

Elsewhere, in potentially the casting curveball of the year, Dawn from The Office (Lucy Davis) plays Aunt Hilda (????), and some fucking pretender who crucially doesn't talk and is just a normal cat is "Salem". What's the point.

OK fine – but is it any good?

"Sinister", "spookier" and "more faithful to the original comic source material" are all descriptions given of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. Which, OK, great: it's good they've gone for total reinvention, but there are some modern teen TV tropes that have snuck in that just don't need to be there – like the insistence on depicting wokeness for its own sake; for example, the Gen Z-ish side-plot in the first episode, which shows Sabrina trying to establish a "women supporting women" society at her school, after a friend is bullied.

Ultimately, I worry it will suffer from the curse of "running out of ideas because the season order is too large" – otherwise known as Pretty Little Liars Syndrome – which afflicts a lot of American teen-angled dramas. Sabrina's sister show, Riverdale, is an extreme example of this (despite a strong initial mystery, it's totally given up the ghost: we're only three seasons in and a teenage cheerleading troupe has shown up outside a prison to perform a rendition of "Jailhouse Rock"), which gives me cause for concern.


From 'Emmerdale' to shagging, how mum-friendly is it?

It's pretty PG-13, but if your particular mum is weird about mentions of the devil she's best to look away. The devil is all over this thing.

Is it likely to cause a Twitter shitstorm?

Unfortunately, The Chilling Adventures might well walk into some of the same criticisms aimed at Riverdale – specifically, the fact that its attempts to appeal to its audience's points of view can feel contrived and secondary to the main plot, rather than weaved into it.


Any last words?

Feel like pure shit just want Salem back x