I rarely dislike a show. Even the teen romance shows that follow the same tired plot and murder mysteries that repeat the same murder scheme still hold a place in my heart. Even if I find a show unoriginal or cliche, I’ll almost always find something redeemable in it. Unfortunately, my forgiving nature doesn’t extend to “Spellbound.”
Cece Parker Jones (Hailey Romain, debut), an aspiring ballerina, travels to Paris to begin her dance career at a prestigious ballet school. Cece is overwhelmed with anxiety at the start of the school year, as her whole class has to re-audition for their placements at the school. With this devastating news, her Aunt Ginger (Raven Dauda, “Stay the Night”) tries to find a solution to make her niece a better dancer. Ginger, an apothecary entrepreneur, tries to find a potion that will help Cece succeed. But as Cece rummages through her aunt’s spells and whimsical potions, she accidentally has Ginger consume a truth serum (cue daunting haunted house music). Ginger reveals the huge secret that her family has been keeping from Cece: They are all wizards, or what they call “wizens” (an odd term that I slightly enjoy, just because it’s fun to say). Cece learns that she’s the most powerful wizen of all, who has the ability to summon very evil, cloud-like beings that will serve as the series’ principal villains. When she learns of her power, she begins to use it to her own advantage to become a better dancer in school and beat out her competition.
“Spellbound” is similar to other Gen Z-targeted shows. Like “That 90s Show,” the dialogue is awkward and misplaced, leaving the viewer with very little respect for the show’s sincerity. Cringey dialogue makes me hesitant to watch a show in its entirety, and the dialogue in “Spellbound” is awkward. This is somewhat a product of society’s acceptance of a higher standard of political correctness, and my discomfort with it might be tied to the fact that the show is directed at teenagers, and I mostly watch shows with predominantly adult-facing casts and more colorful language. The show’s use of “PC” language is admirable to a degree, but the dialogue sounds better matched a children’s show, making it difficult to digest.
Not only that, but the plot itself was, frankly, boring. “Spellbound” felt like an unmatched version of shows like “Doctor Who” or “Umbrella Academy.” It appears that modern film and television visionaries are consumed by science fiction and are running out of ways to differentiate between series. While “Spellbound” may not involve time travelers or have character archetypes identical to its contemporaries, there are common themes between most sci-fi shows. In “Doctor Who,” the Doctor often fights higher beings that no human could beat, similar to Cece’s job defeating the evil cloud that is chasing her and other wizens. The difference is that this evil is an alien villain that producers couldn’t bother to make creepy or frightening — unlike many of the thoroughly disturbing Doctor Who villains that haunted my childhood. Predictable plot points like this are unoriginal and repetitive, making the series less enticing.
After watching three episodes of “Spellbound,” I have decided that I strongly dislike insincere, teeny-bopper science fiction. I do, however, respect the show and its creators for certain decisions: “Spellbound” was one of the first series I’ve seen in which the majority of the main characters were people of Color, giving some actors space to begin their careers and others room to grow. The show is an interesting concept on paper that just did not come to fruition. If you’re a science fiction lover who won’t tire of the classic tropes, maybe it’s a series you would adore. Unfortunately, that’s just not me.
Daily Arts Writer Eliza Shearing can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.