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Why Was the Original Charmed Series Canceled?

It took the merging of two powers to take down the Charmed Ones.

By Cassidy Ward
(L-R) Piper Halliwell (Holly Marie Combs), Prue Halliwell (Shannen Doherty), and Phoebe Halliwell (Alyssa Milano) look shocked in Charmed.

The ‘90s were a good time to be a witch on screen. Movies like Hocus Pocus, Practical Magic, and The Craft along with the TV series Sabrina the Teenage Witch illustrated that audiences were hungry for witches of every variety. So, it’s not all that surprising that then-fledgling network the WB would court witches to lure viewers.

The WB struggled for all of its 13-year existence, but it did have a handful of standout shows including, of course, Charmed (streaming now on Peacock), Constance M. Burge’s story of three magical sisters. For the first three seasons, the Power of Three was embodied by the Halliwell Sisters Prue (Shannen Doherty), Piper (Holly Marie Combs), and Phoebe (Alyssa) Milano). Sadly, Prue was killed off in Season 3 and replaced in the trio by Paige Matthews (Rose McGowan), a previously unknown sister.

Charmed Was a Witchy Story for the Modern Era

(L-R) Paige Matthews (Rose McGowan), Piper Halliwell (Holly Marie Combs), and Phoebe Halliwell (Alyssa Milano) stand illuminated in Charmed Season 8 Episode 2.

Charmed was an immediate hit for the WB, scoring the largest opening audience for any show on the network with the premier episode, “Something Wicca This Way Comes.” The story follows the three sisters as they take up residence in their historic family home. There, they discover a book containing an inscription which, when read, awakens powers in each of them.

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Magical abilities manifest in the three sisters in different ways, allowing them to combine their unique talents to win the day against a wide variety of demons, evil magic users, and other supernatural creatures. Early seasons largely follow a monster of the week format, before shifting toward a larger overstory involving a Big Bad known as the Source of All Evil, ruler of the underworld. It’s during the opening salvos of that war that Prue is killed.

Despite the clear and apparent supernatural themes throughout the series, Burge endeavored to avoid the typical stereotypes and window dressing typically associated with witches. There weren’t any warts or pointy hats, and no one rode a broom. Instead, Charmed mostly told stories about ordinary people with ordinary problems, who also happened to be waging a magical war against the forces of evil. Of course, all things must end, and as Charmed entered into its seventh season, things started to move downhill.

Money and a Merger Make Charmed Magically Disappear

charmed 2

The WB launched in 1995, within a few days of UPN, another small network competitor. The two networks duked it out for more than a decade, losing money every year along the way. By the time the seventh season of Charmed was coming to a close, neither the WB nor UPN were long for this world.

With the future of the WB up in the air, an eighth season of Charmed was approved but with a dramatically slashed budget, according to The Book of Three. Some regular characters were cut while new characters were brought in, most notably Billie, played by Kaley Cuoco. In fact, there were whispers of spinning Billie off into a separate show and expanding the Charmed-verse, though that never materialized.

RELATED: 'Charmed' feud between original and reboot continues, even after series finale

Meanwhile, quietly and mostly in secret, the two networks hatched a plan to bury the hatchet and join forces. On September 18, 2006, they announced a merger. The two networks became one, The CW, an initialism for the two founding companies: CBS Corporation and Warner Bros.

As part of the merger, Dawn Ostroff, previously president of UPN, took charge of the new network. That likely explains at least part of an apparent preference toward UPN programming in the updated lineup. The 2007 season was 50% UPN renewals, and only 38% WB renewals, with the remainder being new content. All told, more than 10 WB shows were canceled and only five survived the transition. Charmed, despite being a relative success for its tiny network, didn’t make the cut. Fortunately, news got to the creators in time and the series had a chance for a satisfying conclusion.

Don’t take our word for it, catch all eight seasons of Charmed streaming now on Peacock.

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