By Kayla Upadhyaya, Managing Arts Editor
Published February 25, 2013
About a week ago, some of my favorite TV critics started tweeting about their firsts: the shows that incited their love for television. In most other situations, I would’ve jumped in, hoping at least one of them would reply and give me the momentary delusion of being a part of the club.
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But this time, I kept my tweets to myself. Because these people had glamorous firsts. They had “Buffy” and “The X-Files” and “NYPD Blue” and “Dawson’s Creek” and “Alias” — all shows I consider to be among the greats for their own reasons, but ones I didn’t discover until late in my TV-lover development.
My first was a little messier. In fact, it was one hot mess of a first. The very first TV show I ever loved was the WB’s supernatural drama, “Charmed.”
The summer before I started seventh grade, my mom hired a girl from our neighborhood named Mallory to watch my sister, Alex, and I during the day. I was 11, Alex was eight, so we didn’t like calling her our babysitter. We thought of her as more of a super-awesome older sister who made the best egg salad sandwiches and told the best stories. Everything Mallory did and said was pretty much instantly deemed the best.
One morning, my sister and I drifted downstairs and found Mallory waiting for us with the television on. We asked her what she was watching.
“You’ve never seen ‘Charmed’?” she asked. “You guys will love this.”
I still remember the episode. It’s the one where the sisters travel 10 years into the future to save Phoebe from being burned at the stake. Alex and I were spellbound.
From then on, we made a daily ritual of watching “Charmed” in the mornings with Mallory. Those were the days when TNT screened the show four times a day — twice in the morning, twice in the afternoon. And the morning installments were on a different timeline from the afternoon ones, which was confusing, especially when mornings were pre-Paige and afternoons were post-Prue. But we religiously watched in this fragmented way for months, even when summer ended and Mallory left.
These were also pre-Tivo days, when it was quite inconvenient to be so dedicated to a television show. Stacks of VHS tapes piled up next to the TV, with episode titles scrawled across labels in my ragged handwriting, along with warnings like “CHARMED: DO NOT TAPE OVER.” Marathons posed a particularly difficult logistical challenge when it came to scheduling tape changes. When a thunderstorm-induced power outage struck right at the end of “A Witch’s Tail: Part 1,” we had to wait a whole year to see chapter two of Phoebe’s bout as a mermaid.
A part of me likes to believe that, deep down, I knew that the show was complete crap, that the burgeoning critic within was wincing at the incontinuity, hilariously overwrought dialogue and transparent acting (though I will defend Holly Marie Combs to my grave).
But I’m fooling myself. I loved that damn show blindly and unconditionally — as first loves tend to go — from the supercharged camp, to the atrocious visual effects, to the smoldering half-demon Cole, to Phoebe’s belly shirts. I plastered my door with pictures of Combs, Alyssa Milano and Shannen Doherty (never, ever Rose McGowan) and experienced online fandom for the first time, joining the WB message boards where I was known as “PiprLorelaiClark” (sic, I know, sic!). I even named my cat Piper and bought a Book of Shadows. My parents really should have seen the early warning signs of my obsessive personality.
Even though I tend to stay quiet about my sordid history with “Charmed,” I still have plenty of residual opinions (Barbas was the best demon, Prue > Paige forever, please don’t ever talk to me about season eight and/or Kaley Cuoco because I’ll become engulfed in rage). By now, I’ve seen every episode four or more times. I can still recite some of the spells. I know it’s a bad show, I promise I do. But it had its moments, and I have a long history of loving anything in which ladies kick serious ass.