YMMV / Sabrina the Teenage Witch

Comics

  • Adaptation Displacement: Just look at this Wiki and how it favors the show. Not only do many people not know the show was based on a comic, or even that Sabrina is from the same comic family as the main Archie Comics, many elements and characters from the show were used in later versions of the comics (such as Salem originally being human.) There was also a 70s Saturday morning cartoon (Sabrina and The Groovie Goolies) that older audiences may recall, and a TV-movie before the show that no one remembers. This has been slowly changing with Sabrina's appearances in popular Archie spinoffs and her appearances in the main Archie comics themselves. This may change with the announcement of a Truer to the Text adaptation of Sabrina starring Kiernan Shipka.
  • Dork Age: The era from the early 90s to late 2000s. The first noticeable thing was Sabrina temporarily being changed from being a witch amongst humans to a witch living amongst supernatural creatures. They also changed her hair from having white bobbed hair to it being long and blond. Next were the changes made due to the popularity of the TV series: Sabrina got a last name, her aunts look more normal, and Salem got a complete overhaul (he could talk, his fur changed from red to black, and he Was Once a Man). Not soon after that the comic was given an ugly, "manga" redesign that turned off fans, even though the storyline is arguably one of the best the comic has had and they returned Sabrina to having short hair. After its cancellation Sabrina has only appeared in Archie Comics cameos within the last few years. With Afterlife with Archie and Chilling Adventures of Sabrina it seems this age has completely passed.

TV Show

  • Adaptation Displacement: Salem was not originally a human in the comics, and the aunts' personalities were reversed (Hilda as the responsible one, Zelda as the ditzy one). These details were also used in the Animated Adaptation, making some newer fans convinced they are comic canon.
  • Anvilicious:
    • Many of the magical illnesses or other Plot Coupons in the TV series were based around obvious Aesops. (Too vain, turn your boyfriend into wolf-boy. Try to use magic to get your rival out of your hair, nope, now you're tied to her.) Lampshaded by Sabrina. (See Freudian Excuse on the main page.) The show did avoid using a Very Special Episode, which was deliberate according to Word of God, so it's not too glaring.
    • The novelizations often had a lot more moralizing from Sabrina - which is due to Executive Meddling wanting her to be a good role model for kids. One book in particular 'Witch Way Did She Go?' has rather a lot of passages where Sabrina considers everyone's feelings before doing something that might be wrong - that seems slightly at odds with her impulsive character on the show.
  • Author's Saving Throw:
    • Harvey was axed after Season 4 because producers felt Sabrina needed to leave "that high school baggage behind". After numerous fan protests, he was made a regular again in Season 6.
    • Sabrina ends up with Harvey in the finale after three seasons of Character Shilling other guys like Josh and Aaron.
    • Word of God confirms that Zelda's sacrifice in the series finale restores her adult years and removes the curse on Diana.
  • Cliff Hanger Copout:
    • Season 4 ends with Harvey now knowing Sabrina's secret after becoming immune to her magic. However Season 5 doesn't pick this up until months later saying that Sabrina and Harvey just split up. Many fans thought there was a Missing Episode as a result.
    • Season 6 likewise ends with Sabrina turning to stone and shattering because her soulmates have broken it off with her. She's suddenly fixed by Zelda apparently giving up her adult years in an Ass Pull of a way to write Beth Broderick out.
  • Catharsis Factor: Valerie's spy alter ego beating the tar out of Libby is very cathartic for those who hate how mean she is to the poor girl. This also allows Libby to get her comeuppance while Valerie still retains her morals.
  • Crazy Awesome: Mrs Quick is rather Cute and Psycho, with many episodes showing that she has some Hidden Depths - where she's able to argue with Mr Kraft to get his pet Libby to do cafeteria duty, her competitive nature gets amped Up to Eleven by a medal, she has an addiction to game shows and she is rather easily convinced that she's dreaming whenever something magic happens.
  • Ear Worm:
    • The instrumental theme from the intro of the first three seasons. Other seasons' themes might also count for viewers with a particular fondness for those episodes.
    • "Funky Song". It is also an in-universe example of this trope.
    • Harmony, Harmony, gosh we're feelin' swell
  • Ensemble Darkhorse:
    • Salem is easily the most popular character on the show, providing most of the best lines and plots.
    • Libby was also Love to Hate. She was the former trope namer for Alpha Bitch because she was such a shining example of it.
    • Out of Sabrina's rotating circle of best friends, Valerie seems to be the favourite.
  • Fan Fic Fuel: Due to the decree that the mortal parent of half-witch children get turned into wax, this does leave options open as to what may happen to Sabrina and Harvey if they ever have kids.
  • "Funny Aneurysm" Moment:
    • Any episode that features Sabrina trying and failing to do something rebellious - like sneaking into a club. Melissa Joan Hart admitted in her autobiography that when the show was airing, she was going through a drug-taking phase and her infamous Maxim photoshoot happened while she was on drugs.
    • Season 4's "Spoiled Rotten" has a gag about Mr Kraft hoarding a gold brick because he expects a recession coming soon. This episode aired in 2001 - seven years before one of the worst recessions the world would see.
  • Girl-Show Ghetto: Inverted. To cash in on Sabrina's popularity, ABC produced two Urban Fantasy series, Teen Angel and You Wish, though with male protagonists. Both shows ended after a season, while Sabrina lasted for years and even had a few spin-offs. There in fact seem to be more male fans than female of the sitcom. Unsurprising, since Melissa Joan Hart's previous sitcom Clarissa Explains It All had broken out of the ghetto and gotten her a big male fanbase.
  • Growing the Beard: Seasons 1 is a perfectly fine season, with some fun episodes. But Season 2 irons out any flaws; notably Harvey's Dumb Jock tendencies were a little annoying rather than endearing - and he gets a little smarter to become a more lovable doofus. Zelda likewise was very stern, strict and humorless - but Season 2 started playing her status as the responsible one for laughs, giving her many Not So Above It All moments and establishing the dynamic between her and Hilda. Sabrina also became the more confident friend, as Melissa Joan Hart was best suited to playing a Plucky Girl than a Shrinking Violet - and Valerie made for a much more fun best friend than Jenny (who was fast becoming redundant towards the end of Season 1). The puppet used for Salem also looked much better.
  • Harsher in Hindsight:
    • Season 3's Valentine's Day Episode has Cousin Marigold trying to bond with her new boyfriend's kids. In Season 5's "Witchright Hall", we learn that Marigold has divorced again - and given how bratty Amanda still is at that age, it's almost certain she had her part to play in the relationship failing. There's also some inherent Fridge Horror in if she did something else to Emile or his boys once she got powers of her own.
    • In the Friday the 13th episode, Valerie outs Sabrina's secret to Harvey. This eerily parallels the fourth season finale where Harvey finds out Sabrina's a witch on his own again, and this time dumps her for it.
    • The episode where Sabrina tries to convince Harvey to go to college by slipping him an ambition potion, only to realize she accidentally gave him a "Blind Ambition" potion that makes him a ruthless corporate tycoon who scales back environmental protections and turns America into a polluted Industrial wasteland; and the stinger involves Salem accidentally drinking the same potion and making the call, "Remember: Greed is Good! Get Trump on the phone!" Given how much the cost of college and student loan debt has skyrocketed since the episode's premiere, and Trump has since become president with a platform of rolling back environmental protections and giving huge Big Corporate and Big Oil tax handouts... the episode has become a lot less harmlessly funny to watch, to say the least.
  • Heartwarming in Hindsight:
    • In Season 1's Valentine's Day episode, Sabrina goes through a series of tests to prove that it's true love with Harvey. Zelda says at the end "at sixteen, it's always true love". As of the finale, it turns out it is indeed true love.
    • Libby showing legitimate talent at singing in Season 2 becomes this when Jenna Leigh Green carved out a successful Broadway career after the show.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • In "Troll Bride", the Spellmans' lawyer gets too hot and takes off his pants. According to Zelda he has "great legs". Guess who played the lawyer?
    • In "Sabrina and the Beanstalk", Salem laments that he needs to stop "melting cheese and drinking it as a beverage." In Dreamfall Chapters, an early quest requires you to bring Cheese Soup to your boyfriend.
    • When Zelda uses magic, the magic produced is pink. While whenever Hilda uses magic it produces smoke, one episode where their magic is stolen shows that it's green. Zelda is the responsible one. Hilda is the more easy-going and "fun" one. A few years later, a responsible magic user's represented by pink, and the easy-going one with green.
    • In season three, to stop Valerie from becoming a cheerleader, Sabrina tells her that no cheerleader ever went on to become president. Two years later, George W. Bush was elected - and he had been a cheerleader.
    • Also Valerie's desire to join the cheerleading squad becomes absolutely hilarious - bordering on Casting Gag - if one watches Bring It On where Valerie's actress Lindsay Sloane plays head cheerleader and Alpha Bitch Big Red.
    • Hallie Todd's episode as Cousin Marigold ends with her attempting to bond with her new boyfriend's kids. Hallie Todd guest starred in an episode of Two of a Kind where she tried to do the same thing - and failed miserably.
    • In Season 2's "Quiz Show", Sabrina says to the Head Quizmaster "you must have been confusing me with my evil twin". One season later it's revealed Sabrina does have an Evil Twin.
    • "Oh, don't you remember two years ago when you "loved" orange? It was the new black or something.
    • In Season 4 Zelda finds a genie's bottle and conjures up an outfit clearly inspired by I Dream of Jeannie. Two seasons later Barbara Eden herself guest stars as Zelda's Aunt Irma.
    • According to Melissa Joan Hart, ABC didn't have any faith in the show early on and were constantly pushing Clueless to be the popular program on the network. Clueless actress Elisa Donovan later joined Sabrina as Morgan, but only after it had moved networks to UPN.
    • In Season 3, Sabrina panics when Harvey decides he won't go to college and instead go for a steady job as a mechanic. Melissa Joan Hart dropped out of college specifically to work on Sabrina.
    • Tara Strong's voice role as Molly Dolly is very amusing when compared with her other role as Gwen in the TV movies. As Molly Dolly, she's powerful enough to seal the Spellman house and match Sabrina's magic. As Gwen, she's so incompetent she showers people with water when she tries to freeze time.
    • Jenna Leigh Green playing the rival to a witch is quite amusing when one discovers that after she left Sabrina, she played the role of Nessarose in Wicked. For those unfamiliar with Wicked, that is The Wicked Witch of the East.
  • Ho Yay:
    • Harvey's friendship with Brad borders in this.
    • Miles has a short moment with a vampire.
    • Hilda and Zelda get mistaken for a lesbian couple more than once.
  • Hollywood Homely:
    • Valerie acts as if she's an ugly, repulsive girl who will never be able to get a date. Lindsay Sloane is just as gorgeous as Sabrina, Libby and the other female characters - and she plays an Alpha Bitch in Bring It On. Emphasis is placed on her neediness and low self-esteem, but that's more directed towards sucking up to Libby. Season 3 seemed to remedy this by ignoring any comments about Valerie being undesirable - even getting an episode where she wears a sexy Spy Catsuit.
    • Miles too is a nerd but not exactly repulsive. Like Valerie, his hobbies and quirks are what makes him unattractive. It is hinted in the Valentine's Day episode that Roxie does fancy him, but just needs the spell to help her realise it.
  • Jerkass Woobie:
    • Try to resist the impulse to hug Amanda at the of the Season 7 episode "Bada-Ping", when she realizes she's the cause of Sabrina's predicted death. (A prediction that, thankfully, never comes to pass.)
    • Aaron when he finds out someone invited Sabrina's ex to their engagement party. We also learn that he's been engaged several times, and his mother doesn't think any woman's good enough for her son; Sabrina completely misses the implication that Aaron's mother may have inadvertently ended those relationships. While he comes off as mean despite Sabrina looking frantic and stressed on meeting Aaron's mother, and hearing how many exes he's had, he's understandably annoyed that Harvey arrives and more annoyed that no one can give a good reason why. To make matters worse in a later episode, Aunt Irma turns him into a fish merely because Irma doesn't want Sabrina marrying a mortal. And after he had made a good first impression on her!
  • Memetic Mutation: "I grew up to be Aunt Hilda" became a Twitter meme in 2018. Caroline Rhea even acknowledged it.
  • Mis-blamed: The show was constantly accused of being a rip-off of many similar shows during its run, most notably Out of This World and Bewitched. Despite popular belief, Sabrina was originally a comic book character in the 1960s, and predates Bewitched. To its credit, Sabrina was inspired by Bell, Book and Candle, which was also the inspiration for Bewitched. The idea that a witch would become mortal if she fell in love with a human, which was mentioned in the first comic, and later dropped entirely, was directly taken from the movie. According to Word of God, part of the show's Multiple Demographic Appeal was for older fans nostalgic for the likes of Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie.
  • Narm Charm: Salem's animatronic puppet becomes more and more endearing as time passes.
  • Older than You Think:
    • Sabrina started out as a comic in the 1960's. She is older than Bewitched.
    • In Japan, the show was often mistaken as a rip-off/remake of I Dream of Jeannie, due to the shows being dubbed "Cute Witch Sabrina" and "Cute Witch Jinny" respectively. Funnily enough, Sabrina in the Filmation cartoon was dubbed by Akiko Nakamura, who was also Jeannie's dub voice.
  • One-Scene Wonder:
    • Aunt Vesta only appeared in one episode, but Raquel Welch was extremely memorable, and the character was referenced unseen in later seasons. She appeared in the novelizations due to her popularity.
    • Barbara Eden as Aunt Irma, who only appeared in the last two seasons. Supposedly, she would have become a recurring character if the show had lasted.
  • One True Pairing: Sabrina and Harvey are the only ones for each other. Even though Libby occasionally tries to court him and the show spends a few seasons shilling Josh and Aaron, Sabrina and Harvey are proved to be soulmates in the finale.
  • Replacement Scrappy:
    • Josh for Harvey. Whereas Harvey and Sabrina had a fairly healthy relationship, Josh's relationship with Sabrina was all about her giving and him just taking. He was going to move to Prague without considering her feelings, is obsessively jealous, chews Sabrina out for embarrassing him at work and never supports her plans or wishes. This is hilarious considering Sabrina actually ends up with the fan-favorite, Harvey, in the series finale.
    • In season 4, Dreama for Valerie. Dreama's status as an Inept Mage makes her an even more incompetent version of Gwen from the TV movies - and without Tara Strong's Adorkable charm. Rather a lot of Season 4 episodes involve Dreama screwing things up for Sabrina, and never improving her magic. Her arc as Sabrina's student abruptly ends, making her a rather pointless character.
    • Season 4 also has Brad for Libby. Libby was very much Love to Hate and had enough Hidden Depths to be endearing. Brad meanwhile just hates Sabrina on principle because of his witch hunter gene and is merely mean - as opposed to hilariously mean like Libby. He also appears as Harvey's never-before-mentioned childhood best friend, meaning that Sabrina is made to look bad for disliking Brad - even though she has good reason to.
    • Inverted with Valerie herself, despite being a Suspiciously Similar Substitute, she's far more popular and remembered than Jenny, her predecessor.
    • Likewise inverted with Mrs Quick, who seems to be at least as popular if not more than her Cool Teacher predecessor Mr Pool.
  • Rescued from the Scrappy Heap:
    • Downplayed but Zelda's characterisation is almost universally preferred from Season 2 onwards. She began as a much sterner and stricter character. In Season 2 she was greatly softened and got a lot of Not So Above It All moments. The dynamic between her and Hilda was much improved as a result.
    • Roxie gets much better after she defrosts, and is shown in a far more sympathetic light. It's safe to say that she ends the series as one of the closest friends Sabrina has ever had.
  • Retroactive Recognition:
    • A young Ryan Reynolds plays a bleach-blonde bad boy in the original movie/unaired pilot.
    • Javier Esposito is one of Sabrina's classmates in Season 4.
    • A lot of fans who went back to watch the episodes on YouTube were surprised to see Angela Petrelli playing Libby's domineering mother.
    • David Sinclair is Sabrina's Quizmaster.
    • Also, who knew Captain Cragen was a cat show judge in a former life?
  • The Scrappy: Morgan for some, due to how unlikable she started becoming as the show progressed.
  • Seasonal Rot:
    • Season 4 is recognised as the start of the rot, with storylines suddenly becoming a lot less fun. Fan favourite characters Libby and Valerie were Put on a Bus to be replaced with inferior substitutes like Brad and Dreama.
    • Season 5 likewise relocated the show from high school to college, dropped most of the supporting cast and introduced a load of new characters. The storylines also got more 'mature', which clashed with the earlier fun feeling of Seasons 1-3. Dropping Harvey resulted in fan outrage too. Seasons 6 and 7 were noted to be a little better than 5, though not as close to the quality of earlier seasons.
  • Shocking Swerve: The first couple of minutes of the first episode of Season 7, which very clumsily explained the resolution to the cliff hanger ending of Season 6.
  • Strangled by the Red String: A straight example in the final season that ultimately evolves into a Deconstruction. Sabrina falls for Aaron in his debut episode so much that she uses magic to find out what his flaws are. They hook up at the end of the episode and for the rest of the season simply act as a couple that's been together for years, rather than developing slowly. It's never explained why Sabrina literally makes room for him in her heart. However cracks start to appear as Sabrina initially thinks his proposal is a trick caused by the Monster of the Week and accepts reluctantly. The rest of her actions during their engagement come across as straight-up denial more than anything else. Finally when her wedding day comes, she gets cold feet and dithers between that and denial. She and Aaron ultimately agree to call off the wedding.
  • Strawman Has a Point: It turns out that Dr. Jacobs, Aaron's mother, ends up being Properly Paranoid about Sabrina not being the right fit for her son. We're not supposed to see her as anything but My Beloved Smother, but her skills as a psychologist are on point. It's why Sabrina goes to see her actually, when Sabrina actually blurts out that she loves Harvey and not Aaron. She advises Sabrina to look into her heart to figure out why the Freudian Slip happened and makes no bare bones of her dislike.
  • Take That, Scrappy!: It seems almost too coincidental that Josh is the one who gets murdered in the Season 6 Halloween Episode. Especially when it's revealed that everyone wanted to kill him.
  • Testosterone Brigade: Melissa Joan Hart is gorgeous, as are her two aunts. Starting in Season 2, more attention was paid to their wardrobes and plenty of episodes liked to get them into nice evening wear or sexy costumes. This was more notable in Seasons 5-7, which added more beautiful female supporting characters (Roxie, Morgan) and plenty of guest stars. In her autobiography, Melissa referred to the show as "a geek's wet dream".
  • They Copied It, So It Sucks!: Cassandra Peterson claimed that the show was a rip-off of a failed pilot she had shot the previous year - The Elvira Show, also featuring a teenage witch with a talking black cat and two older aunts.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character:
    • Libby the ultimate Alpha Bitch disappears after Season 3, explained as being sent away to boarding school. It was hinted numerous times that Libby had Hidden Depths, and it could have been interesting to see how that would evolve as she matured. A fan tweeted Jenna Leigh Green saying the same thing, to which she agreed.
    • Jenny also vanishes after Season 1, gradually featuring less and less as the season went on. Of course since the fan-favourite Valerie replaced her, it's not as glaring. Part of the problem seems to be the dynamic that was presented - Sabrina was the shy one, Jenny the confident non conformist. Melissa Joan Hart had better affinity for playing Sabrina as a Plucky Girl than Shrinking Violet, so Jenny became redundant.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot: Zelda deciding to study medicine in Season 4's "Dreama the Mouse" could have lent itself to more plots and hi jinx. Instead it's forgotten about after that one episode.
  • Unnecessary Makeover: Sabrina gives herself some ghastly red hair in Season 5. She's back to blonde by Season 6 though.
  • Values Dissonance: One episode set in high school involves Sabrina learning that Harvey doesn't want to go to college, so she spends the rest of the episode trying to get him to go in order to get a decent job for his future, and ends with him still wanting to be a mechanic but deciding to go to college as a failsafe. While this was directed at kids (thus it would be a Family-Unfriendly Aesop to teach little kids that you don't need college), it was also made back in the 1990's before the rising college tuitions, cost of living, and wage gap became so great that obscenely high student debt and struggling college graduates became the norm by the 2010s. Today, most viewers would probably see Harvey's plan to save money by not going to college and find success through some other means as a smart financial decision.
  • Values Resonance: The episode where Sabrina tries to find a paying journalism job and fails because she doesn't want to accept the entry level positions that later vanish because she didn't accept them soon enough. It's highly relatable to graduates in the 2010s.
  • Why Would Anyone Take Her Back?: The reasons why Harvey broke up with Sabrina were because he caught her kissing another guy, found out she was a witch, and she cast so many spells on him that he would no longer forget them or the effects of her magic. These are all very valid reasons, especially the whole "You've been casting spells on me since high school without my consent?!" issue. Sabrina sadly accepts all these reasons, despite the giant hole in her heart that is still there years after the break-up. Harvey is the one who initiates getting back together with Sabrina, and makes no bones of his feelings when he arrives at her engagement party and openly flirts with her. Sabrina in the meantime wants to move on and be fair to her fiancé Aaron, since she thinks she loves him. It's implied Harvey realizes that the way Sabrina's acting is normal for witches, and now that there are no more secrets between them he can forgive her.
  • WTH, Costuming Department?:
    • Caroline Rhea loves to poke fun at some of the terrible wardrobe choices on the show, saying that Sabrina went to school dressed like an accountant.
    • Season 1 is an especially bad one for costumes and hairstyles, especially on the two aunts.

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