Charmed - The Complete First Season Studio: Paramount Year: 1998, 1999 Rated: NR Length: 16 Hours, 12 Minutes Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 Audio: English Dolby Digital 2.0 (stereo) Subtitles: None Closed Captioned Special Features: None Estimated Street Price: Under $40, USD Release Date: February 1, 2005 It is difficult not to compare Charmed with that other empowered female, good versus evil, hellmouthy show that began a season and a half earlier... a little show called Buffy: The Vampire Slayer. After all, both shows feature eye candy as one of the primary lures, empowered female heroes, and the whole ultimate good versus ultimate evil vibe. In Buffy, the doorway through which evil enters our world is the Hellmouth, located in the basement of Sunnydale High. In Charmed, evil passes through the Nexus, a mystical portal in the basement of the Halliwell Mansion in San Francisco. Both shows prominently feature the occult, witchcraft and demons. To be fair, though, witchcraft was not a dominant feature of Buffy until later seasons, after Charmed took to the airwaves. Charmed features three sisters, who when reunited, find themselves imbued with the power of magic. They are, in fact, witches. Prue, the tough eldest sister (played by Shannen Doherty), has the power of telekinesis. She can move things with her mind. Piper, the reserved middle sister (Holly Marie Combs), can freeze time - although, she has trouble controlling the “unfreezing,” sometimes to comedic effect. Come to think of it, she sometimes accidentally freezes time, too - which can be a hoot. Phoebe is the flighty youngest sister (Alyssa Milano). She can see the future and the past, and is perpetually disappointed that her older sisters got the “cool” powers. To make up for it, she takes up kickboxing. Sounds reasonable to me. The three witches need to keep their identities secret, because evil beings (warlocks and darklighters, among other things) seek to rob them of their powers - and their lives. All the while these good witches seek to do good deeds with their magic, making secrecy a bit more difficult. Charmed is somewhat successful in its genre, even if overshadowed by that other show. In the interest of full disclosure, I should say that I’m very much a fan of Buffy, which I think enjoyed some of the smartest plotting and wittiest dialog on television. While Charmed is somewhat weaker in those areas, it is an engaging show. Its strength lies primarily in Holly Marie Combs’ and Alyssa Milano’s portrayals of Piper and Phoebe. It employs humor to good effect, but with less intrepidity than is found in Buffy. Then there’s the whole eye-candy thing. That’s got to count for something. The Transfers Displayed in its native aspect ratio of 1.33:1, Charmed delivers a nice, if only slightly imperfect presentation on DVD. The show is offered up with excellent contrast. Black levels are very good, while maintaining good detail in the shadows. Whites are bright, clean and neutral - and never bloom. Colors are beautifully rendered, with accurate values and saturation. The episodes could be a bit sharper, but they have an acceptable level of detail for television product. Occasional shots exhibit some grain and / or digital noise, but the vast majority of them are very clean. There are occasional moire and aliasing artifacts, which are mild and seem to be noticeable only in outdoor scenes and some stock shots. Overall the episodes enjoy decent transfers that could have been made better with a touch more detail and a few less artifacts (mild, though, they are). The Dolby Digital Stereo soundtrack offers up excellent frequency response and good channel separation across the front soundstage. The Pro-Logic mode on your Dolby amplifier will produce some ambient sounds in the rear channels, but mostly music reverb. Bass response in the music is exceptional. For a two channel track, this is nice. Special Features None. There are previews for other Paramount Television DVDs on disc one. As seems to be Paramount’s practice of late, these are semi-forced, and can be accessed via the menu, as well. There is no “Play All” feature on the discs. Final Thoughts I had never seen more than an occasional episode of this show. I enjoyed watching (most of) season one in its entirety and in order (I still have five episodes to go, and I’m looking forward to them). Charmed is a pretty good show. I look forward to another season of character and back-story development. It looks like this show could continue to be interesting. I’m sure there are plenty of people reading this review who could confirm that. Video and audio are above average for TV product. Nicely done, and at a nice price... though it would be nice to have one or two little extras.