I love watching the holiday episodes of sitcoms and cartoons from the 90’s. It’s something I look forward to every year. One year, I watched all of The Family Matters, Golden Girls, and Full House Christmas episodes. Two years ago, I decided to tackle Sabrina The Teenage Witch.
I stumbled upon this review on my hard drive and figured it should see the light of day here. Is it horror? Ugh… no. But I think it has a place under my Spooky, Not Scary tag and it’s something fun and different for the holiday season.
Sabrina The Teenage Witch, not to be confused with the reboot/reimaging that is currently on Netflix, premiered on September 27th, 1996 on ABC. I was twelve years old, and I had my butt firmly planted in front of the TV, because my pre-teen crush Melissa Joan Hart, had moved on from Clarissa Explains It All to a new show.
I’ll be honest, my first impressions weren’t overly positive. It wasn’t that show was bad; it just didn’t really pull me in. I wasn’t wise enough to know that most pilot episodes are rough around the edges, so I watched the pilot and that was basically it. Every once in a while I’d catch an episode here or there, but Sabrina didn’t make it into my regular rotation of TV shows.
Three years ago, I found myself looking for something old but new to watch. I love going back and checking out TV shows I missed out in the 80’s and 90’s, because they still give me that twinge of nostalgia and I’m simultaneously introduced to new fandom in the process. While browsing through Amazon or Hulu, I ran across Sabrina’s smiling face, and I realized that some wholesome, goofy humor might do me well. So, I sat down, a little over twenty years later, and decided to revisit the pilot. It was still rough and wow was the Salem puppet bad, but the show had charm, thanks mostly to the excellent casting of Sabrina and her two aunts (Caroline Rhea and Beth Broderick).
Sabrina became the ultimate popcorn/stress-relief show for me. It’s easy to watch and usually provides a couple of chuckles. There are some fantastic cameos and the show just feels like the 90’s to me, and that makes me happy.
When I binge watch old TV shows, I usually skip out on the holiday episodes that way I can go back and revisit them when it’s closer to the holidays. I was hit and miss with Sabrina. I definitely saw a few of the Christmas episodes already, but a few of these were new to me.
Overall Sabrina aired six Christmas themed episodes. Here are some quick run downs and a few thoughts on each of them.
Season One, Episode Eleven
A Girl and Her Cat
Original Air Date: December 13th, 1996
It’s Christmas Eve and Salem is not in the holiday spirit. He’s upset about being a cat and he’s taking it out on everyone, especially Sabrina. After destroying her sweater and reading her diary, Salem decides to hide out in her bag so that he can visit the Slicery where Sabrina and Harvey were meeting up to exchange Christmas gifts.
A mouse is seen in the restaurant and Salem goes nuts. This leads to both Salem and Sabrina being kicked out of the Slicery, and since this happened right as Harvey was about to kiss Sabrina, she’s super mad. Salem’s bad attitude causes Sabrina to leave him in the dumpster behind the restaurant, where he’s eventually taken home by a kid who accidently hits Salem with a bike.
This episode is not overly sappy but it definitely feels like a Christmas special. We got snow, Sabrina as Santa Claus, a touching moral, a dinner scene, mistletoe, and gift exchanges. Coolio shows up in a neat cameo where he jumps out of a poster. In two less obvious cameos you’ll see Joe O’Connor who portrayed Clarrisa’s dad in Clarissa Explains It All and Nick Bakay, the actor who does Salem’s voice, portrayed one of the people in the homes that tried to kiss Zelda. Over all, I got the vibes that this was a Christmas episode and that’s what I look for.
Christmas Theme: A
Season Two, Episode Twelve
Original Air Date: December 19th, 1997
Sabrina is obsessed with gifts and Harvey and her aunts are starting to notice. She doesn’t seem like she’s really it giving, but is 100% committed to receiving. This begins to affect Sabrina’s magic and whenever she conjures something up, she actually takes it away from someone else.
Sabrina is diagnosed with egoitsis. She is so obsessed with recapturing the magic of Christmas of her youth, that she has become fully self-centered and everything revolves around getting something. Zelda and Hilda decided to bring someone from the other realm to help and his name is Bob (portrayed by the always wonderful John Ratzenberger). Hijinks ensue and Sabrina is forced to act as Santa for the night and in return, will hopefully be reminded what Christmas is all about.
I loved this episode. It was so frigging magical and Christmasy. It took the classic Christmas story of someone who forgot the true meaning of Christmas and gave it a fun Sabrina twist and it worked all around for me. This episode featured the before mentioned John Ratzenberger as well as Johnny Mathis in a cameo role.
Christmas Theme: A+
Season Three, Episode Eleven
Original Air Date: December 11th, 1998
Sabrina is not happy about spending all the time with her family this Christmas. She seems to be going through the typical teenage “I hate everything” type of phase. This bums out Hilda and Zelda, who double down on finding a way to get Sabrina into the holiday spirit, which they fail at miserably.
On Christmas Eve, Sabrina goes to a “I Hate Christmas” party in the other realm and discovers that she doesn’t exactly fit in with all the Christmas haters. In a huff, she accidentally erases Christmas and returns back to the mortal realm completely unaware. Once she realizes her mistake, Sabrina has twenty-four hours to find a way to reverse her mistake or it’ll become permanent.
This was another great episode. Salem is by far the star, constantly babbling on about Bobunk, the holiday he once erased. It’s a very traditional Christmas type story, with our protagonist needing to rediscover the true meaning of Christmas, amongst all the chaos they have created and I love it. Most shows take the lazy way out and do a version of The Christmas Carol, so kudos to the writers for taking the themes and working them out in a fun way that fits the tone of Sabrina.
Christmas Theme: A
Season Four, Episode Twelve
Sabrina Nipping at Your Nose
Original Air Date: December 17th, 1999
Sabrina’s in a bad mood going into Christmas. It’s been snowing non-stop and all she wants a warm holiday. Lucky for her, the radio is running a trivia contest that will send the winner to Jamaica for a week. Aunt Zelda is able to win the tickets, but the snow storm isn’t letting up, so the Spellmans can’t fly out anyway.
Sabrina decides to consult Salem to help her change the weather, which irritates Mother Nature and Sabrina is turned into a snow woman. Mother Nature agrees to turn Sabrina back to human, but only if she is able to cheer up Mr. Kraft who is depressed.
This is another good Christmas episode that has plenty of Christmas decorations and even a slight nod to a Christmas story in it. There is a lesson to be learned here and you’d think by now Sabrina would just enjoy the holidays instead of getting so moody. Then again, that’s teenagers for you.
Christmas Theme: B
Season Five, Episode Ten
Sabrina’s Perfect Christmas
Original Air Date: December 15th, 2000
Sabrina dreams of a perfect Christmas with a loving family in a log cabin, roasting chestnuts, and the like. It turns out that her roommate Morgan have this exact Christmas every year, so Sabrina decides to skip out on her aunts and go enjoy a traditional Christmas with her friend’s family. But soon after arriving, she discovers that the picture perfect Christmas is not so perfect and Morgan’s family is insane.
I really liked this episode. For years, like Sabrina, I wanted one of those picture perfect Christmases; the ones with a large family around a table, lots of holiday cheer, and fun Christmas traditions. It took me a while to realize that hardly anyone has this and each family celebrates in their own unique way. It’s a lesson Sabrina learned over this episode and it reminded me of that time in my life.
Christmas Theme: A
Season Seven, Episode Nine
It’s a Hot, Hot, Hot, Hot Christmas
Original Air Date: December 6th, 2002
Sabrina finally makes it somewhere warm for the holidays (Miami) where they have a unexpected run-in with Roxie’s mom who is fresh out of prison. After the timeshare the girls are staying in gets robbed, everyone looks at Roxie’s mom as the culprit and it’s up to Sabrina to try and clear her name.
I’m not a huge fan of nontraditional Christmases, so setting this in a timeshare in Miami didn’t really convey the whole Christmas theme to me. Then again, this show was quite different from the rest of the Christmas episodes and I gotta give the writer’s credit for that. There were plenty of Christmas references, but this episode could have easily been set at any time of the year and played well.
Christmas Theme: C