Netflix announced on Friday that it had landed a star for its upcoming untitled Sabrina the Teenage Witch series. Mad Men alum Kiernan Shipka will play the young blonde witch. But if you grew up on the old Archie comics or watching Melissa Joan Hart’s sunny TGIF TV series, then you have no idea what magical horrors are in store with this new show.
The Netflix series will be based on the recent Chilling Adventures of Sabrina comic from Riverdale show-runner and Archie Comics Chief Creative Officer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa. Some of the elements Sabrina fans know and love are there in Aguirre-Sacasa’s horror comic: a talking cat named Salem, a pair of aunts named Hilda and Zelda, a boyfriend named Harvey, etc. But that’s, largely, where the similarities end. Aguirre-Sacasa’s primary influences for the comic and the Netflix show he will also be running were classic horror films like Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist. Other familiar faces from Archie lore, like Betty Cooper and Veronica Lodge, appear in the The Chilling Adventures comic but in a very different form than they do in either the pages of Archie or on CW’s Riverdale.
Aguirre-Sacasa’s adaptation of his own comic was originally conceived as a companion series to Riverdale but it’s easy to see why—even with Riverdale’s darker, gothic tone—the two shows might not be the perfect match. In other words, Riverdale’s Betty and Veronica may engage in some light crime but they’re hardly witches. (We think.) Netflix, which not only successfully marketedRiverdale to a wider audience last spring, but also knows its way around teen horror period pieces thanks to Stranger Things, seems like the ideal home for what they’re describing as “a dark coming-of-age story that traffics in horror, the occult and, of course, witchcraft.”
For those concerned that this new Sabrina series might exhibit some of the same lack of control evident in the wildly enjoyable but uneven Riverdale, there’s some even better news. Aguirre-Sacasa hasn’t been shy in saying that the decision to turn Archie into the soapy murder-mystery world of Riverdale was inspired by feedback from the networks and CW producer extraordinaire Greg Berlanti. “Literally every time you pitch an idea, the network says, ‘We love this. Can there be a mystery?’” Aguirre-Sacasa said last year of the long road getting Riverdale the green light. As a result, Riverdale is not so much an adaptation of (even the modern, updated run of Archie comics), but its own animal put together, in part, to appease the CW demographic.
This Sabrina project, on the other hand, will be adapted from The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina which is a pre-existing, engrossing, stylish story that is very confident in what it is trying to be. It’s a smart, violent, wry, and a sexy little story that might just be the perfect vehicle for Shipka. But feel free to reserve judgment until you see how they handle that damned talking cat.
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