Full disclosure: I was gung ho to watch this when it premiered and then just couldn’t get sat down in front of it in real-time. So I banked them on the DVR and then marathoned the first six episodes last weekend and finally got caught up to watch them same day. Now I’m properly hooked.
I’m a longtime fan of Madchen Amick–I’ll watch her in anything. And I like Julia Ormond–she’s an actress who was huge on the radar in the years following Legends of the Fall and then she just quietly went about the business of having a life, which I love. She’s bounced around television for the last few years and this is the first episodic series she’s anchored, so that was a draw.
The lovely Jenna Dewan-Tatum is the petite half of a Hollywood super-couple and I’m thrilled she’s getting to do her own thing–and that Lifetime snapped her up. She was very good in She Made Them Do It, a ripped-from-the-headlines movie earlier this year where she played a criminal sociopath.
And finally, they shot this in Vancouver. So I was set to be all over it, and I got there. It just took me a couple of months. My timing rocks, though, because we just found out the show will be back for a second season next year.
The show is based on a series of books by Melissa de la Cruz, which I haven’t read, so I can’t tell you whether they’re hewing close to the source material or not, but here’s the story in a nutshell: The Beauchamp family of mom Joanna (Ormond) and daughters Freya (Dewan- Tatum) and Ingrid (Rachel Boston) live a quiet life in a fabulous rambling house in East End. Joanna is an art teacher, Ingrid is a librarian working on her Masters, and Freya is a free spirited bartender set to marry a very wealthy doctor.
When a neighbor is killed and his widow accuses Joanna of the crime, her sister, Wendy (Amick), comes calling and blows the lid off the family secret that they are a very old family of witches. Joanna is immortal, Wendy has nine lives–her alter is a black cat–and she and Joanna have been estranged for a century. Freya and Ingrid have been reborn several times over the past few hundred years but they never make it out of their 20s. And they’re all cursed. All of this is news to the girls, who been happily oblivious to their origin story.
Freya’s intended, Dash (Eric Winter), has a brooding handsome black sheep brother named Killian (Daniel DiTamasso) who comes home and sparks with Freya despite her best intentions to tuns that off. The boys’ mother, Penelope (Virginia Madsen), has her own secrets, too.
The pilot had a sort of manic vibe to it but the successive episodes have settled down into a straight drama with a supernatural element. The revelation in the cast is Amick, who is having a ball, and going balls out, as Wendy. I think it’s safe to say this is probably the most fun she’s ever had onscreen. I got a giggle that she borrowed the real-life husband of her co-star from her last series gig, Ringer, when Freddie Prinze Jr. turned up for a couple of episodes.
We’ve also had Matt Frewer and Lost Girl‘s Anthony Lemke, and next week we get Joel Gretsch, who I love. Amick’s not the only one having a ball. I’d bet Madsen cackled every time she got pages for Penelope.
That’s not to say the show’s not hitting the dramatic notes. Boston had a lovely arc when Ingrid was terrified that a spell she’d cast would bounce back on her and take out some she loved, and then it did.Â And the episode that aired last night was absolutely brutal as Wendy was infected by a venom that had her unleashing a stream of vitriol and grievances at Joanna as the sisters literally tore the house apart. Amick’s “tick tock, tick tock” line was just chilling.
The show strikes a solid balance of supernatural, drama, and humor and it’s hugely entertaining. I love that at its core it’s about a matriarchal family of ladies who kick ass (sometimes each other’s) but always pull each other out of the fire (sometimes literally).
Witches of East End airs Sundays at 10/9c on Lifetime. There are two episodes left this season — one on December 1st and then the season finale on the 15th. Unfortunately, Lifetime only posts the most recentÂ episodes, but you can buy the whole season om Amazon and iTunes. There will also be a marathon the day of the season finale, starting at 2 pm/1 c.
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