Pilot Perception: Witches of East End

Welcome to Pilot Perception, our feature in which we break down the first episode of each new show in order to help you decide whether it’s worth your time.

The Show: Witches of East End, Lifetime in the U.S. and Canada, Sundays at 10/9c

The Pedigree: The show is based on the novel of the same name by Melissa de la Cruz. The pilot was written by Maggie Friedman (Eastwick), who executive produces with Jonathan Kaplan (Without a Trace, ER), Erwin Stoff (Kings, The Matrix), and Josh Reims (Brothers and Sisters). Mark Waters (Mean Girls) directed the pilot.

The Cast & How You Know Them: Witches of East End stars Julia Ormond (My Week with Marilyn), Madchen Amick (Damages, Twin Peaks), Jenna Dewan Tatum (American Horror Story), and Rachel Boston (In Plain Sight).

The Premise: The show is about the lives and loves of the Beauchamp women, a family of secret witches in the seaside town of East Haven. Secrets begin coming to light when the Beauchamp matriarch’s estranged sister comes to town and the younger generation finds out about their magical heritage.

A Taste:

What Works: The “young adults suddenly find out that they’re witches” concept has been done before, but it’s a concept I like, and it’s used to pretty good effect here. (In the book, the sisters know all along and have just been barred from practicing magic, and I think the TV version actually makes for the more compelling starting point.) Several of the characters were intriguing, and Rachel Boston and Madchen Amick were particularly good. I like the way magic seems to work in the world so far, though I definitely need some of it explained better. I found the tone to be amusingly melodramatic, but that really just comes down to a question of taste.

What Doesn’t: As I said, they’re doing a pretty good job setting up the magic system, but there were parts of both it and the backstory that were just confusing. Some of this could be deliberately mysterious, but some seemed just muddled. The writing wasn’t anything special, and the melodramatic, campy tone will probably turn some viewers off. The production values, special effects, etc. aren’t great. The pilot was right on the edge between “fun” and “just silly” for me, so it will take a few weeks to tell whether the show lands on “ridiculous but enjoyable” or just ridiculous.

Our Favorite Line: “I’m pretty sure there’s no way that could be a coincidence.” “Then you don’t understand statistics and probability.”

You Might Like This if you like traditional magic or witch stories with a sort of retro, melodramatic tone. It reminded me of The Secret Circle or The Gates.

If You’re Interested: Witches of East End premieres tonight, Sunday, October 6th, on Lifetime at 10/9c.

(Photo courtesy of Lifetime.)

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