Saturday, October 25, 2014
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This witch's brew is fairly weak tea

Julia Ormond plays a witch with daughters unaware of their heritage in "The Witches of East End."
Julia Ormond plays a witch with daughters unaware of their heritage in "The Witches of East End."
Julia Ormond plays a witch with daughters unaware of their heritage in "The Witches of East End." Gallery: This witch's brew is fairly weak tea

Zombies may come and go on TV, but witches will always be with us. Young or old, hideous or sexy, benevolent or malevolent, these supernatural femmes are prime-time pillars, from Samantha Stephens on Bewitched to the Evil Queen on Once Upon a Time.

These days, you can't swing a black cat without hitting a witch. They conjure prominently in what is thus far the season's only certifiable hit, Sleepy Hollow on Fox, and in the latest iteration of American Horror Story (Coven), which begins Wednesday on FX.

And the fabled enchantresses are presented in a flatteringly old-school light in Lifetime's new series Witches of East End (Sunday, 10 p.m.)

Joanna Beauchamp (Julia Ormond) is the small-town matriarch trying to keep her two daughters, Freya (Jenna Dewan Tatum) and Ingrid (Rachel Boston), from discovering their true natures.

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  • Yeah, good luck with that. Especially after their prodigal aunt (Madchen Amick) shows up.

    It's been awhile. "That's a fine welcome you give your sister who you haven't seen in 100 years," she chides Ormond. You know what that means: There will be costume flashbacks.

    The series comes from TV veteran (and Montco native) Maggie Friedman, who also created ABC's short-lived witchy saga Eastwick.

    Witches of East End is "inspired by" the novel of the same name by prolific young-adult writer Melissa de la Cruz. That means Friedman has maintained little more than some of the character names and the spell-casting premise.

    With a pilot artfully shot by Mark Waters, the series is good-looking, atmospheric, and jaunty.

    But it's also a little incohesive and hard to follow. And neither the special effects nor the attempts at humor are all that successful.

    The cast includes Virginia Madsen, but it also has some weak links, most notably Tatum, who does most of her acting with her cleavage. And as you might surmise from their wooden performances, the male leads, Daniel DiTomasso and Eric Winter, have backgrounds in modeling.

    But they sure are easy on the eyes, which is essential because the tone of the show is rooted in bodice-ripping romance novels. That should make it popular with female viewers.

    Take away the gender bait and Witches of East End is still an entertaining series. It's just not magical.

    Television

    Witches of East End

    10 p.m. Sunday on Lifetime


    dhiltbrand@phillynews.com

    215-854-4552 @daveondemand_tv

     

    David Hiltbrand Inquirer TV Critic
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