7 Things We’d Like to See in Any Prestige Cable Show About Witches


Per the Hollywood Reporter, HBO and Jenji Kohan are developing a show related to the Salem witch trials. The creator of Weeds and Orange Is the New Black, Kohan cut her teeth in comedy, so it seems likely this would fall into that category too. Also, it remains to be seen if there will be actual witches in it or if it will be a Crucible-inflected interpretation of the genre.

But I have to tell you that I am LONGING for a serious show about witches. I mean, a show that goes deep on witches. Takes them seriously, makes them pretty, isn’t afraid to be dark and twisted in the less jokey sort of way that shows like True Blood are. Approaches the level of seriousness, I’m saying, of a Game of Thrones, which is to say being quite solemn about the matter of witchcraft without jumping off the too-serious ledge. And I would like that show to contain the following elements:

1. Cats.

I have been wondering this for awhile now, but: where are the cats on American Horror Story? Cats and witches are two great tastes that go great together. Doing a show about witches without a significant cat component is a totally ridiculous and unjustifiable deprivation.

2. Runes.

Every time I think about witches on television I think about this scene from the Season 4 finale of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and wait for runes to pop up. But they seem to have fallen out of fashion since we all wore them as chokers in the mid-1990s. More runes please.

3. Any form of not-white-lady witchcraft other than Hollywood “voodoo.”

Voodoo always pops up in these shows, in no small part due to the well-known story of Tituba, the slave woman who was at the center of the Salem witch trials. We don’t actually know for sure where Tituba was “from,” though often people assume she was from a Caribbean country, usually Barbados. Hence the voodoo connection. And not only is that association a casual one, the treatment of non-Western forms of witchcraft is usually crappy and trashy. I would really love to see a show with a serious understanding and address of magic. Seriously.

4. No sparkles.

Nothing annoys me more than having sparkles shoot from the fingers of witches. Not everything associated with women needs to have sequins, and I count the dark arts as items whose existence is not improved by twinkling.

5. Sex. Like, real sex.

Charmed was weirdly cute and prudish about the conduct of magic, and that aesthetic has been dominating witches in pop culture for quite a while now. The witches are always nice girls, and nice girls somehow don’t actually do the sex a lot, in the WB aesthetic. One of the stronger parts of American Horror Story is that it’s less afraid to touch on the eroticism, although this season has been a bit more reticent than those past to get explicit about it, by my gauge. I want a show that keeps the sex and tangles it with the magic. This is the joy of cable.

6. No “goody” this and “goody” that.

Of course it’s quite possible that this hypothetical witch show will not be set in colonial Salem and that the whole “Goody” form of address, imposed on us by Arthur Miller, will be dropped anyway. But I guess what I want is less gobbledygook jargon as a whole.

7. Actual psychological depth.

Witches, as a whole, are usually given surface treatment. They are usually Good or Evil, and might as well be residing in the cardinal directions for all the depth they’re given beyond that. I long for someone who has a subtler understanding of psychology dealing with this particular subject. The dark arts are sometimes just another defense mechanism, a mode of conflict avoidance that involves, I don’t know, simply sending your enemy up in magical flames. Some of the 1990s witch stuff approached this, particularly the Willow/Tara arc on Buffy and the underrated The Craft.