Melissa Joan Who? Ok, that was obviously a joke. We'll never forget Hart's performance as Sabrina the Teenage Witch on her long-running magical sitcom (1996-2003). However, the changing of the times has brought us a newer and darker iteration of the character portrayed by Kiernan Shipka in Netflix's Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.
While the series (based on the Archie Comics of the same name) doesn't arrive for another week, the embargo for reviews has lifted. We can tell you now that critics agreed with our assessment of the show when we saw the first episode at New York Comic Con; that it's the perfect sort of show for October and especially for Halloween. Some are even calling it Buffy for a new generation of viewers.
Specifically, the first reviews are praising the "autumnal" setting, homages to classic horror films, and the performance of Shipka, who really does shine in the titular role.
Despite playing a 16-year-old spellcaster, the Mad Men actor brings a quiet wisdom beyond her years, a tender and knowing empathy that extends beyond her own personal issues, which mainly revolve around leaving the mortal world (which includes boyfriend Harvey Kinkle) forever.
Throw some eye of newt into the bubbling cauldron and then read what critics are saying...
"Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is a perfect streaming series for the October season. It gets the horror. It gets the supernatural. It gets the precise lack of subtlety needed to pull off such a series. It gets it all. The show is a solid entry to the genre TV slate and one that could very well go down as the top Archie Comics adaptation to date in years to come." -- Merrill Barr, Forbes
"Tone is also an issue here. Sabrina wants to be unapologetically dark, and that’s great. But it also wants to be a fun, somewhat campy experience. And those two things don’t mesh very well. More often than not, the show comes off seeming like the Kidz Bop version of The Witch ... With Halloween right around the corner, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina’s ghoulish charms will no doubt go over well. The autumnal atmosphere is appealing, and the show’s reverence for horror movies is charming – there are several episodes that pay direct homage to certain horror flicks like The Exorcist and even The Fog." -- Chris Evangelista, /Film
"While it sometimes veers into darker territory than ever Buffy dared to, it explores many of the same themes, including the fight between good and evil and gender power dynamics. Perhaps most importantly, the exceedingly talented Kiernan Shipka has the on-screen presence to become a genuine icon as the righteous and principled half-witch Sabrina Spellman. On this evidence, she more than measures up to Sarah Michelle Gellar’s ass-kicking vampire hunter." -Ben Allen, Radio Times
"This is an expansive, fully developed world and, the viewer is plunged straight into the deep end from the get-go. The first episode hits the ground running and never lets up, as we’re introduced to the key players surrounding Sabrina’s inner struggle between her beloved mortal world and the world of witches she’s been raised under. There’s not a single character in this series without their own character arc, which often proves to be a difficult juggle the further into this world the story goes." -- Meagan Navarro, Bloody Disgusting
"Sabrina is at its best when it’s delving into the purpose and function of magical beings, rival factions and Sabrina’s ancestral mystery—the more fantastical, the more entertaining. Imagine a younger-skewing, slightly hokier, but still enjoyable version of Syfy’s The Magicians—with more guts and jump scares and less sex and maturity. The back half of Season 1, with delusional dream sequences and frights galore, is a devilish delight." -- Brandon Katz, The Observer
"Kiernan Shipka's commanding performance as Sabrina really makes the show spark. Fans of Mad Men may be a tad overly invested in Shipka's career, having watched her grow up and blossom into a talented actress over the show's eight-year run. Shipka plays a determined, headstrong Sabrina who appeals to strong women and doesn't pander to those who would pacify her." -- Rebecca Fleenor, CNET
"A vividly imagined and surprisingly playful blend of Gothic horror and pitch-black comedy, this new Sabrina fully embraces the campy pulpiness of its source material, and might be the most purely fun new series of the fall." -- Dave Nemetz, TVLine
"What’s even more welcome than effective frights is how eager Chilling Adventures is to embrace the genre’s inclusive, progressive spirit. The teens of Greendale High like dissecting the allegories within zombie movies and push back on books banned by their school. Moreover, the main characters are a diverse, open-minded set and their adventures often revolve around rebelling against the oppressive control of others — mainly men. This Sabrina not only feels like it’s made with older audiences in mind, but its characters think like grown-ups, too." -- Ben Travers, IndieWire
"Everything ultimately works in concert, including the series’ excellent pacing. If you dare to look away or glance at your phone, you might miss something pivotal, and yet, the show never feels like it’s burning through plot ... for those worried that the show may be a touch too Satanic, there’s an interesting moral world to Sabrina that’s unexpected for a series that is about praising the Dark Lord. But there are a lot of surprising things about Sabrina, the fall’s first truly binge-worthy new show. It’s a delight and an obsession, and the scariest thing about it is just how good it is." -- Allison Keene, Collider
The first season of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina drops on Netflix Friday, Oct. 26.