Friday, October 31, 2014

Halloween 2014

Happy Halloween everybody! Although it wasn't for me so much, as I had three wisdom teeth removed the other day. Thankfully the pain had subsided by today, but the swollen chipmunk cheeks, and my inability to open my mouth more than half an inch stayed. Still, I resolved to go through with my Halloween plans of marathoning Dead Gorgeous, and I was actually able to eat the junky stuff that I had been planning on preparing for the better part of a month.

Now, onto a question you've probably been wondering. Why are the last several posts I've published either unfinished or blank? Well, it's for the exact same reason as stated above. The *horrifying pain and suffering* had me REALLY not in the mood, nor capability to write and screenshot a damn thing. As for why I posted them early, that's so these posts would still be in October as they should once they're finished. I'll get to them in the following week or so, when I have the time, and when I can bear to tear myself away from recent webcomic discovery Questionable Content.

One last thing. This year, the theme was Doctor Mabuse and inspirations, and nostalgic paranormal shows either from my youth, or more recent years. Next year, I plan on doing either a Paul Naschy marathon, or a Bill Oberst one. Maybe a bit of both. It really depends on how much of either I'm able to get my hands on come October.

So, that's enough out of me. Happy Halloween to all of you. I hope you all had a much better time than I on this special and spooky time of year!...

Off in the distance there lies a cruel Doctor,
Crime and anarchy are everything he desires,
Throughout the world, he perpetrates elaborate horror,
And sets economies ablaze with brimstone fires,
All the while, he drives his enemies insane,
And manipulates others with his malevolent hypnotism
Never do his powers wane,
While he traps the innocent in his prism,
The facade however soon starts to drop,
As the reality of his self abuse kicks in,
And in spurning every emotion as a prop,
Without knowing it, the Doctor has caused his own ruin,
His once great mind begins to rot under the weight of meticulous calculation upon calculation until it is a burden he can no longer outrun,
And just as soon as he had begun,
Doctor Mabuse's cruel work lies forever undone

Attributed to Little Old Me

Dead Gorgeous (2010)

Dead Gorgeous is an Australian genre show from 2010, and another sadly short-lived one. It seems like the best shows always get axed off, and it's frustrating! Well enough of the bad, let's focus on the good!...

Rebecca, Sophie, and Hazel Ainsworth are three sisters from 1860 who tragically died in a coach accident. The sisters are stuck in limbo for 150 years until Rebecca's appeal to the 'Council of ghosts' comes through-A reprieve from death, as they were torn from the world too young, and had never truly lived. Now in the modern day, the sisters are brought back as living ghosts, and enrolled in the school that's situated in the old Ainsworth family estate. They quickly make a friend in schoolmate Johnathan, and Rebecca develops a crush for jock David. Johnathan, however, finds out their secret one day, which breaches the Ghost Council's terms of condition, and the girls are faced with expulsion both from school, and from life itself...

Dead Gorgeous only ran for thirteen episodes, but it certainly makes the most of them! The plots are always well-written, very funny, have some great dialogue in places, and the cast always have character arcs in every episode, and get developed all the time!

The plots in Dead Gorgeous range from all sorts of things. You have one about solving a gold theft case from the 1800's so the ghosts its keeping stuck in limbo can have peace, another about a disgruntled gardener/architect who possesses Sophie in order to sabotage the school's new media centre, and one about an entity that drives people to do things contrary to their nature, leading to some of the series' funniest moments!

The three Ainsworth sisters are very different characters. Rebecca is outgoing and eager, while Sophie is more demure and reserved, and the bubbly and friendly Hazel is the most easily adaptable of them all. Overall, they're great leads!

The supporting cast are very good. We've got Johnathan, the Ainsworth sisters' closest friend, David, Rebecca's friend and crush, and then there's the bitchy 'popular girl' Christine. Principal Griffith is very likeable, while Haiwyn Sinclair makes for for an amusing semi-antagonist. The Ainsworth sisters' ghost guardians are amusing too, though when it comes to the character of Grendel, there might be some might find her annoying. I don't though, and maybe you won't either.

When it comes to the potential romance between Rebecca, and Johnathan and David, it's simultaneously the best, and worst kind of love triangle, as both male parties are likeable, and worthy of being with Rebecca! Nothing ever comes from it though, given the show's cancellation.

The acting in Dead Gorgeous is great! There's never a bad performance (unlike the terrible original 2003 pilot for the show, which barely had any good performances). The three leads perform wonderfully, and are all great young actresses! The carry each episode with lots of energy and personality! Surprisingly enough, only Poppy Lee Friar is British. Melissa Howard and Alexandra Coppinger are Australian! I had no idea until I watched the show's bonus feature, as this was an Australian/British co-production, and because their English accents are really good! They're perfect!

The effects in Dead Gorgeous are very good! We get a nice mix of practical and CGI, and the computer effects there are are quite decent, and never fake. The green screens, while sometimes noticeably there (that is to say, the backgrounds are sometimes sliiightly unconvincing-There aren't any visible flashes of green, or any other glitches), are never really obvious, and occasions when you do notice it aren't particularly often.

The score here is nice, and the main theme is a fine one! My favourite bit of music comes in my favourite scene of the show, when Rebecca and a ghostly old flame have said their goodbyes on the dance floor. It's a really well-directed and scored scene!

One final thing to discuss-The show's bonus features. The 'Complete Series' DVD has short 'Making of' featurettes for every episode! This is a fantastic addition! It's rare enough that shows like this (especially ones that only lasted a single season) have special features of any kind, yet Dead Gorgeous' DVD has incredibly rewarding ones! You couldn't ask for more!

It's a shame that Dead Gorgeous is gone, but it'll live in every Halloween for me, as now that I've finally run out of other genres shows to watch for the 31st, it'll be Dead Gorgeous every time!...

Weirdsister College (2001)

Once the makers of TV show The Worst Witch realized their actresses were visibly aging, they decided to change things up a bit. Rather than a Series 4 of Worst Witch, we instead got a sequel, Weirdsister College...

Young witch Mildred Hubble has finished school and is due for Weirdsister College. While she makes good friends, the school is tough, and wears down on Millie, especially with the duplicitous and conniving student Nick Hobbs, a power hungry wizard. Still, she strives forward and overcomes any problems that come by her way, although she'll need all the help she can get when Nick Hobbs enacts his masterplan and 'resurrects' an immortal wizard of great power and great darkness...

Weirdsister College is a great continuation to The Worst Witch! Rather than just being either a carbon copy, or rehashing the same stories, not only is it suitably different, but the tone and atmosphere really come together, and in the end, this feels like a true extension and evolution to The Worst Witch.

This is more adult than The Worst Witch, but never darker, for the most part. But then there's the final two episodes, which make up the finale. The story is borderline a supernatural horror! It makes for a great finale, with a legitimate threat, and intriguing magical ideas and goings-on's!...Unfortunately the ending is really abrupt, and Millie didn't really contribute anything. The End. No more episodes after that! Weirdsister College unfortunately ends on rather a sour note.

The thirteen episodes of Weirdsister College are all very good! Well-written with fun adventures, neat climaxes, and more downbeat moments. My favourite episode is probably Good Friends. It has great themes of nostalgia and friendship, and is nicely melancholy, with a perfectly fitting score!

Mildred Hubble continues to be a great lead character. Her character has since evolved from being a clumsy young witch, and is more advanced in her magical skills.

Ethel Hallow is the only other returning character from The Worst Witch, as we have Felicity Jones (who played Ethel in WW Series 1) playing her rather than Katy Allen (Ethel from WW Series' 2 and 3). She too has evolved, and is one of this show's best main characters. As for her relationship with Mildred, the two are no longer mortal enemies, but they're certainly not good friends like Wikipedia would have you believe!

Cas Crowfeather is a decent supporting lead. She doesn't have a lot of personality, but she's likeable. The same goes for Azmat, Tim, and Millie's boyfriend Ben, while Jessica Fox is delightful as Worst Witch character Enid Nightshade in a one-off guest appearance.

Nick Hobbs is your typical brooding goth type, but thankfully he's meant to be an unlikeable dick, rather than a protagonist, which makes the character a lot more bearable. Especially amusing is his name! If you're familiar with British folklore or the occult, you should recognize it as a nickname for The Devil, which makes lines in the series like "Everywhere I go, I see Nick Hobbs", or "I don't remember making any deals with you, Hobbs" hilarious! Surprisingly enough, despite how unlikeable Hobbs is, the final episode does succesfully make him somewhat sympathetic! All in all, he's a nicely rounded 'antagonist'.

While the college principal Professor Thunderblast might have a similar character template as Worst Witch's Miss Cackle, she's definitely a different character, which is greatly appreciated. 'Beetle' Dewdrop is a delightfully mean character, and in a very different way from the likes of Miss Hardbroom. There isn't much to Jenny Wendell, but she's a likeable character nonetheless.

Professor Shakeshaft is merely ok in the majority of episodes, but in the final leg of the series, he really shines as his character is expanded upon! Professor Starfinder starts off as a likeable character, although with some negative qualities, and when he shows a nastier side in The Seventh Sense, it doesn't come out of left field, and makes sense, given his character.

Dierdre 'D' Swoop is a great addition to this series. She doesn't show up a whole lot, but when she does, she's usually in at least a semi-major role. Her personality is very distinct and entertaining! On that note, it must be really nifty for fans of The New Worst Witch to go back and watch all the prior shows and see what this character was up to before that series! It's a fantastic bit of continuity within the franchise!

The acting in Weirdsister College is very good for the most part, but there are a couple of weak deliveries here and there. Abeille Gelinas is a fine lead for the most part, but her line reading is painfully bad in a couple of instances, one being in the first episode.

One episode has a painfully presented Australian character. Her accents sounds embarrassingly fake, which is a pretty impressive feat considering the actress is Australian! It's like the director told her her Australian accent wasn't quite Australian enough, and she needed to play it up, and she does so, to extremely detrimental effect! Still, she's not bad otherwise, despite the annoying overuse of Aussie 'slang', and the character is likeable.

Onto some specific positive acting, Georgina Sherrington is fantastic, and can carry a show in her sleep! Felicity Jones is great at being icy and mean as Ethel, and it's like she never even left the role, while Stephanie Lane is very funny, and certainly a fine actress!

The music in Weirdsister College is very good! The main theme (and opening credits while we're at it) is great, and the various different arrangements it gets over the series equally so! As for the effects, they're quite good, and only subpar CGI in a couple of small circumstances.

Weirdsister College may as well have been cursed given its cancellation. It wasn't just one thing that caused it, but several. Worst of all was the death of lead supporting actress Charmian May in 2002, then there were the very high expenses of filming at Cambridge. And knowing fandom, I can't help but think there were a whole bunch of people still sore that this wasn't The Worst Witch.

Weirdsister College is a great supernatural series, and I highly recommend it! Whether seen as a sequel to The Worst Witch, or on its own, this series certainly stands tall, even if it didn't last long...

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Fantomas (1913-1915)

In turn-of-the-century France, writers Marcel Allain  and Pierre Souvestre co-wrote the Fantomas book series. It was about the titular criminal mastermind, a sociopathic borderline-anarchist who took pleasure from committing a whole variety of crimes, whether it be robbing banks, murdering people, engineering train wrecks, skinning people's hands to use as gloves, etc. Opposing him is the upright Inspector Juve, and his journalist confidant Jerome Fandor...

An adaptation of the first book in the series, Fantomas is technically a serial. That is to say, it's made up of five 'episodes', but they're moreso separate stories that tie in as a whole, rather than being just one five-part story. These movies range from 50 to 90 minutes, and are mostly a total bore!

The first two 'episodes' of Fantomas are great fun! They're not especially good stories, as they're really only segments of a bigger narrative, but for what they are, they're certainly watchable, especially Juve vs. Fantomas, which is full of fun action!

And now we get into the bad-The next three episodes! They suck! A lot! They're interminably boring, and have idiotic writing, full of plot holes.

The Murderous Corpse is extremely padded, and it bored me to tears, especially thanks to its longer running time at 90 minutes, rather than 50 or 60! It's also stupidly written in places too. Throughout nearly the whole episode, we're led to believe that Juve is dead, but it's obvious that he's the new henchmen in Fantomas' gang, in disguise. This is also dumb, as in the time he was a part of said gang, many people die horribly! 'Great' work you're doing Juve!

The story has an incredibly abrupt ending! Especially infuriating is that due to this, the nicely ghoulish reveal is very rushed.

In The False Magistrate, Fantomas in in a Belgian prison, and is therefore not being extradited to France for execution. The Belgians are simply content with letting him rot in prison, but Juve is sure that he'll find a way to escape, so he decides to speed up the process and get Fantomas back to France for recapturing by breaking him free! Nevermind how stupid it is that Juve does this despite it being a huge crime. Nevermind that he fails completely and utterly. Nevermind that for some baffling reason, the Belgian prison staff never notice that Fantomas is now an overweight man with a beard. What's really an insane problem is that Fantomas kills at least three people after being set free by Juve, so our hero is directly responsible for multiple murders! What's worse is that after a while, the Belgians agree to extradite Fantomas (really Juve in his place) after a short while, making this plan even more pointless! All this story accomplishes is pushing Juve out of the story again, and making him come across as a goddamn idiot!

The ending to this series is frustrating, as Fantomas escapes justice again! NO! Him escaping the law means the story isn't over, and I want the fucking story to be resolved at least temporarily permanently, because I wasted five-and-a-half hours of my life on this series, and I don't want it to go right back to square friggin' one!!

Even worse is that, while the first four parts of Fantomas are complete, a few minutes of the fifth part has been lost, so the ending with Fantomas' final escape? It's offscreen!

Overall, this series is too empty for me. There's not enough plot, crimes, intrigue, or anything of the sort. And the constant absence of main characters for long stretches of time, whether it be Juve, Fandor, or Fantomas himself, is just plain annoying!

The acting here is ok, I guess. Rene Navarre looks nifty and shiftily evil as Fantomas, but as the series gets progressively worse, you're likely to care less and less about him. He's also not a very good master of disguise, as he always looks the same, more or less! He'-and by 'He' I really mean the screenwriter-also can't think of convincing American names for crap! Tom Bob?! Really?!

One neat aspect regarding the disguises of this series are the vignettes at the start of each movie, which show a progression of the disguises Fantomas will use in the story. There's also a moment where, in a film made in 1913-4, Fantomas breaks the fourth wall! Deliberately and intentionally! Granted, this is deep into the series, so it's likely this factoid will only amuse you if you're reading about it, rather than actually watching the series.

The locales of the movie are decent, but certain touches, such as a constantly re-used prison set, lessen the enjoyment.

Fantomas has a great score that not only sounds lovely (suitably ooky in some places, while bombastic in others) but is utilized very well! Unfortunately, as the series goes on, the score is re-used more and more, and over crap scenes, so you'll likely grow cold to it.

I've mentioned a few times how much tinting in silent films annoys me, but in Fantomas, it's done really well! Rather than acting as random colour changes, the tints kick in at relevant moments. For example, in a dark room, the tint is blue, and it switches to yellow when the light turns on!

To finish, whether you're into crime flicks, foreign movies, or silent films, and are keen to give Fantomas a chance, I recommend you steer clear from it. Watch the first two episodes if you must, but its better to just ignore this series...

The New Worst Witch (2005-2007)

It only took a few years after Weirdsister College's end before The Worst Witch gained a further continuation, this time with a new main character. The New Worst Witch features an entirely new cast, save for a couple of familiar, albeit recast faces...

Henrietta 'Hettie' Hubble is a new pupil at Cackle's Academy for Young Witches. Making just as a disastrous entry as her cousin Mildred did when she arrived at the school, Hettie isn't off to a great start, but She quickly makes friends with fellow students Mona Hallow, and Cressie Winterchild-And an enemy in bitchy Belladonna Bindweed. Over the course of the school years, Hettie is always plotting and scheming, whether it be for selfish purposes, or to help her friends, but unfortunately they often backfire, and she's often in the firing line of the staff...

The New Worst Witch is a highly amusing show. It's often funny, the episodes are all well-written, and none are bad. There aren't even any lesser episodes in its 26-long life span!

This show isn't without problems though. It's annoying the amount of times people say "Hettie Hubble, you are going to be in so much trouble!", or dialogue to that effect! Frankly, I'm not sure what surprises me more-That this show says that so much, or the fact that the original Worst Witch series never took advantage of that rhyme at any point in its 3-season run.

The biggest problem with the show is its continuity with previous entries in the franchise. For example, Mona Hallow really doesn't fit in with previous chronology, not only because she's never been mentioned before, but because of everything to do with Sybil Hallow-She doesn't have a younger sister, and vice versa, The New Worst Witch's continuity doesn't work either if Sybil exists.

Stuff like that, and other moments I'll mention below, make me exclude The New Worst Witch out of the main continuity, and instead lump it in its own bubble universe.

The characters in The New Worst Witch are great! Hettie Hubble isn't at all a carbon copy of Mildred, and is very different. She's not clumsy, and she knows plenty. Her knack for getting into trouble is usually down to her scheming. She's always performing schemes to help out her friends, or other reasons, which tend to backfire more often than not. While she never learns to stop scheming, she does thankfully learn some things from these incidents.

Mona Hallow is likeable and fun to watch, although her being a Hallow is pointless and just muddies up continuity. Crescentmoon 'Cressie' Winterchild is likewise a decent character, and just as with Mona, she's different than the sidekicks of the original series, which is of course much appreciated.

Belladonna Bindweed is a completely insufferable character, but in the good way! Francesca Isherwood does a fine job!  The only problem with the character is that a lot of the time in Season 1, she's always thought of as a golden pupil by the staff of Cackle's Academy, which is pretty dang frustrating!

Like Drusilla Paddock before her, Cynthia Horrocks is a great villainous sidekick, a schemer, and is pretty adorable! She's a likeable character, despite her being a complete bitch. Granted, I still kept accidentally referring to her as Drusilla for a long while. That's not the show's fault, it's just me.

Clare Coulter returns as Miss Cackle, and is of course very good. The casting change of Miss Hardbroom is extremely noticeable if you've just come off of an original series marathon, but even in the event that 'worst case scenario', you'll still get used to Caroline O'Neill very quickly. Her voice is distracting at first, given its stark difference to Kate Duchene's, but she does the character much justice.

Onto the rest of the staff. Miss Nightingale is bland, especially once her replacement Miss Widget is around. Widget is very lively, quirky, and amusing, and gets across more Joie de vivre in a single episode than Miss Nightingale does in all of Season 1. The librarian Caspian Bloom is very funny. Finally, there's Deirdre Swoop, who's now a main character in a Worst Witch show, this time as a teacher. It's a nice character progression, and she's a highly likeable and funny character, especially with her upper-class vocabulary. It's a shame that actress Stephanie Lane was in very little else besides this franchise, as she is hysterical. She really is one of the highlights of this entire franchise!

The acting in The New Worst With is mostly great. Here and there there's a lesser actor, or a lesser line delivery, but for the most part, things are all good. One thing that's pretty neat is that both Alice Connor (Hettie) and Anabel Barnston (Mona) get a chance to play their characters as evil (whether it be under the influence of a spell, or potion).

By the way, a *little* aside. The character of Miss Pentangle (who was in an episode of The Worst Witch Series 3) not only looks nothing like Charmian May, but looks about forty years younger!...However, the director or actress clearly did their homework, as the performer emulates May's mannerisms in the character from her appearance! Isn't that awesome? Well it's less awesome when Pentangle shows up in a later episode, once again recast, this time by someone who does none of those things!

Onto some individual episodes. The first, Give a Witch a Bad Name, sets things up well, although it doesn't do a great job at showing how the main trio become friends. Hettie and Mona just converse a bit, then are suddenly fast pals, while Cressie just starts hanging out with the duo [out of nowhere]. A big problem with this story is that it is absolutely miserable, given what happens to Hettie! Thankfully the episode does end on a happier note though.

The Black Hole Club is a fine episode, but it spits in the face of continuity with its predecessor for a number of reasons. Then there's the Cackle's 1000 year anniversary continuity screwup in The Curse of Cackle's (the school already had its 1000th anniversary in The Worst Witch's Series 2 finale). And finally, The Odd Couple, aside from being a mediocre finale (good episode, but it's just another episode, not anything grand or special, despite its status) is pretty icky when it comes to Hettie and Cressie! I'll spare you the details!

The effects in this show are fine when practical, but there's some bad CGI in places. And I'm not talking small things you can shrug off either. There's one scene where the school is being flooded by glue, which looks embarrassingly unconvincing, and a couple of moments later in the series where characters are flying through a forest, and they're going through a CGI backdrop, which looks like something out of a PS1 game! Thankfully there are only a couple of moments like this, and the broom flying is otherwise decent for what it is.

The setting is still fine though. Its not set at the same castle and (possibly) sets as the original series but I didn't notice much difference. Also, the sets never look unconvincing, and in fact made me think this was actually filmed inside a castle too. Not much of a leap, seeing as how you can trip over a castle any which way you go in Europe, and it's probably cheaper and certainly less time-consuming to film there instead of designing/creating or makeover-ing a set.

In closing, The New Worst Witch is an extremely entertaining show! It's only real faults are when viewed side by side with its predecessor. On its own merits, this is great fun! Granted, if you're not into this kind of show, I don't recommend it. If you are, watch away!...

The Worst Witch: Season 3 (2000-2001)

To copy and paste from my previous Worst Witch review, When it comes to reviewing TV series The Worst Witch, I said most of what I can say about it as a whole in my Series 1 review, so I'll get right into reviewing the individual episodes of Series 3. First though, there are a few bases I'd like to touch upon (and yes, I am writing this post as if you've already read the Series 1 review, as I am FAR too busy to be more accommodating).

This season has quite a few cast change-ups. Una Stubbs is gone, and in her place is = as Miss Crotchet, Fenella Feverfew is now played by Emily Stride rather than Julia Malewski], and Mr. Blossom has left, replaced by his brother. The latter change is actually not entirely out-of-nowhere, because given Charlie is Mr. Blossom's nephew, it makes sense for this new character to exist, so they're not as forced as the Miss Tapioca replacement from last season. Granted, the reason given for Mr. Blossom's absence is pretty poor. It says that he went to horticultural college, which is pretty nonsensical given that he's already an expert gardener, and he's already middle-aged. Not that that's an unbelievable concept, but I can't see a middle-aged gardener bothering to go to college over it.

Ok, let's dig in...

Secret Society

Miss Drill is getting angrier and angrier at Miss Hardbroom's dismissive attitude of her, and snaps, deciding to resign.

This is a very nice episode! It has good conflict on many fields, from a fed-up Miss Drill wanting to resign, to the girls in their forming their own secret club. I especially like how the episode nicely comes full circle in the end.

The effects are decent. We get some really nifty ones at the start!

An Unforgettable Experience

It's work-experience time for the girls of Cackles  Mildred, Maud, Ethel, and Drusilla are assigned to the bakery Cosie's. Practically as soon as they arrive, Mrs. Cosie has to go to the hospital, and leaves the store in the hands of the girls. Ethel immediately and forcibly takes charge, using magic to completely alter Cosie's, from the decor, to the menu. Unfortunately, before Millie and co. can get Ethel to reverse her changes, some customers come in, including the Grand Wizard Hellibore...

At first I was worried that the Japanese characters would be made to talk like caricatures, but thankfully they just come across as not very bilingual tourists.

Which Witch is Which?

The plot to Which Witch is Which is pretty ridiculous fare, but not negatively so. It's entertaining, and while something as extravagant] as time travel hasn't been seen or mentioned the show before this point, it's not an unbelievable concept

The Witchy Hour

It's in this episode where the character of Dierdre Swoop first appears. Here, she's a stuck-up snobby bitch, but her character actually kinda grows in the sequel shows (Weirdsister College, and The New Worst Witch). I say kinda because it's entirely likely it was unintentional, but regardless, I still really like the character change.

The guest stars all do fine acting jobs,

My only problem with this episode is that it doesn't really make any sense why Miss Hardbroom reacts to Icy Stevens the way she does at the end.

Learning the Hard Way

A new teacher is temporarily at Cackle's-Gabby Gribble-and due to misunderstandings on both ends, Gabby tries to evoke = Miss Hardbroom

The first time I saw this episode, I remember the misunderstandings being cringeworthy (not in a bad way, just in that 'Ooohhh, no! I can't watch!' kind of way), but on my recent second viewing, the [impact] was lessened, so this is an episode that definittely = from a second viewing.

The Hair Witch Project

Not only is this a fun romp of an episode, it also focuses on an interesting subject-Which activities are unsuitable for school, and which are merely creative? There's a very fine line as far as teachers are concerned, as this episode shows.

It's in this episode where Miss Crotchet really comes into her own. Up until now, she was utilized very little, and The Hair Witch Project is her first big role in an episode.

And finally, the climax resolution and ending are hilarious, and I won't dare spoil them

Just Like Clockwork

Miss Cackle has to leave Cackle's for a few weeks to take care of a sick relative, and chair of governors Mr. Hallow appoints Mistress Hecate Broomhead (old enemy of Cackle's) as the school's new headmistress, with plans of letting her take the position permanently...

The returning character Hecate Broomhead is just as delightfully evil as she was last appearance, with Janet Henfrey doing a great job again! I also like that her motivations are different. Rather than just wanting to take Cackle's down again, like Sideshow Bob or something, everything she does in this episode is for a different and believable (and still of course nefarious) motivation.

The only issue is is a possible plot hole. In the Series 2 finale The Millennium Bug, Mr. Hallow and the rest of the school board of governors sold Cackle's to pop singer Amanda Honeydew, and she resold it to Miss Cackle, giving her complete control. Wouldn't that mean that Mr. Hallow no longer has a say in anything? But then again *several dozen redacted lines regarding bureaucratic red tape* I know nothing about this kind of stuff, so for all I know, the board would still stay on, regardless of what Amanda Honeydew did.

Cinderella in Boots

It's Christmas time at Cackle's Academy, and some girls are performing a panto of Cinderella, with Mildred performing the lead role, unless a scheming Ethel has her way...

A Christmas special, Cinderella in Boots is a fantastic and different episode than usual. Rather than having a more complex plot, it's instead an 'all-in-one-night' panto[ tale. It's highly amusing in many respects, from the frantic backstage nature of the production, to the performances of the characters. Especially hilarious is Miss Hardbroom having to perform as the fairy godmother to, most hilariously, and Maud as the wicked stepmother. She emulates Miss Harbroom herself for the role, and the result is one of the funniest parts of the entire show!

Art Wars

It's Art Week at Cackle's Academy, and Lynn Lamplighter, a famous artist, is over, helping the girls (and teachers) find their artistic sides. Mildred, despite her low expectations, manages to create a gorgeous painting, earning the ire of Maud...

Art Wars is my second favourite episode from this season. It's funny, has an air of creativity about it (a must for a story about art like this), and there's very well-done drama between Mildred and Maud, which doesn't play out in a cliched way, nor does it stretch on interminably! I also like poor Drusilla' constantly ruined attempts at clay modelling.

The only problem this episode has is that it furthers the confusion of whether magic is known to the outside world.

Power Drill

Miss Drill is feeling undervalued in Cackle's, especially amongst the staff, given she's not a witch, so Mildred and co. brew up a potion to temporarily give her instant magical powers, keeping it a secret. Miss Cackle, believing that Miss Drill has simply miraculously gained magical powers, decides to induct her as a witch. However, more than just Miss Drill's body has changed, and she grows harsher as her personality warps...

Power Drill is an entertaining episode, and shows once again that this show still isn't running out of ideas. Its plot is well-written, interesting,] and Claire Porter gets to play sort-of evil, which is nifty!

Another good aspect of this episode is that it elaborates more on the rules of who can use magic in the world of The Worst Witch (it comes to those from witch families easier, but anyone can learn it, providing they have years of training).

Better Dead Than Co-Ed

The third-years of Cackle's head to Camelot College, the nearby wizard school, as part of a field trip (and covertly to test out how well a co-ed system would work for a potential school merger). Mildred and co. find out about the idea and set out to sink it...

This is an entertaining episode, with some amusing battle of the sexes bureaucracy between the staff, while the students go about their own schemes of ruing the merger.

Charlie once again shows up, with his presence here furthering his character development. I'm definitely glad his aspirations to witch-hood weren't just a one-off plot point. As I said in my Series  review, I really appreciate the continuity to this show, as most kid shows only ever have self-contained stories with not much in the way of character development for anyone.

The Lost Chord

While the third-years are away at Camelot College, Cackle's is visited by Michael von Raffenburg, a supposedly world-renowned composer who seems to have taken a fancy to Miss Crotchet. However, his intentions turn out to be less than pure, and prior to his plans of performing a musical lecture to the school, the duplicitous conman plots to create an ancient magical relic known as the Lost Chord, which is only possible to make using a spell from a book found in the academy. Meanwhile, Sybil isn't fooled by Raffenburg's act, and sets out to stop him...

The Lost Chord is my favourite episode for this season! It's another secondary character spotlight episode, starring Sybil Hallow, with an entertaining story.

On my first recent (as opposed to when I was a young kid) watch-through of The Worst Witch, The Lost Chord was where I started to appreciate Miss Crotchet. I can pinpoint the exact scene too-When she goes out into the school courtyard, singing softly to herself. It's a [nice] scene, not meant for laughs or anything, but rather

Sybil is great as usual, and certainly different from her first appearance on the show, both in personality, and in magical skills. You REALLY don't wanna screw with Sybyl Hallow! Unfortunately this is the last we see of her for the rest of the show. While it sucks that Sybil doesn't show up in the finale, at least her final episode is one she stars in.

Clarice-Sybil's 'sidekick'- is still a good character, while Fenny and Griz are, as usual, very cool! They're always nifty and interesting, given their many talents and hobbies.

Unfairgound/The Uninvited

One day, Millie and her friends sneak out of Cackle's to go to a fairground, and are caught red-handed by the staff when re-entering the school. After that, and other circumstances, Miss Cackle really loses her cool, imposing harsh sanctions on the entire school. Mildred and co., feeling the whole situation is extremely unfair, decide to start up a secret newspaper, which is a success until the staff find out. While Miss Crotchet and Drill don't see a problem, Miss Cackle does, and expels Mildred and her friend Jadu...

This is a very well-written two-parter, with many twists and turns, as well as a funny semi-deconstruction of the usual Worst Witch finale story type.

It's here where Miss Cackle finally 'snaps', becoming decidedly harsher (until the end, of course), and thankfully the writing does so in a way that makes sense, rather than feel out of character. I also liked that Jadu gets more screentime alone with Mildred. She's never a character who was underused, but she's usually only been present when everyone else is, never really getting an alone moment]

The story here is not only very good in its own right, but it makes for a great finale, and wrap-up to the show!

While they are a bit of a deus ex machina, I really like Mildred's new talent, and they're genuinely complemented by the decent special effects.


And that's it for The Worst Witch. All three seasons done and dusted! There is more to come with this franchise however, with its sequels Weirdsister College, and The New Worst Witch!

And to any little boys reading this, know that the moral of this story is that you don't ever have to feel ashamed for watching a 'girly' show like The Worst Witch. If any friends try and tell you that it'll make you wimpy and girl, tell them that blogger Chris Hewson watches horrific and disturbing horror movies, and macho action movies all the time, and he thinks The Worst Witch is perfectly acceptable for anyone to watch...

The Worst Witch: Season 2 (1999-2000)

When it comes to reviewing TV series The Worst Witch, I said most of what I can say about it as a whole in my Series 1 review, so I'll get right into reviewing the individual episodes of Series 2. First though, there are a few bases I'd like to touch upon (and yes, I am writing this post as if you've already read the Series 1 review, as I am FAR too busy to be more accommodating).

First things first, the character of Ethel Hallow has been recast, and the show is hilariously self-referential about it in the season's opening episode, addressing the casting change in an amusing way!

Teachers Miss Bat and Miss Drill are oddly at each-other's throats in many episodes in the series' first half, which feels pretty out-of-nowhere, but it's not annoying or poorly written, so I don't mind the sudden shift so much

Series 2 introduces the character of Sybil Hallow, and she's my favourite in the whole series, next to Mildred! She starts off as a seemingly problematic character, and one might think that her always crying could be something serious that the show is just playing for laughs like a jerk, but you'll quickly realize that's not the case. Sybil starts out extremely timid, often prone to bursting into tears at the slightest provocation, but grows as a character, rather than just being the butt of jokes for crying a lot.

Ok, let's dig in...

Old Hats and New Brooms

It's a new school year at Cackle's Academy for Young Witches, and Mildred Hubble is trying to be kind to an impressionable new student, Sybil. Unbeknownst to Millie and friends, Sybil is Ethel Hallow's sister, and has had her head filled with nasty falsehoods of 'Mildred Hubble worst witch of the entire school', leaving her terrified...

This is an entertaining season opener, with great characters, and it's very funny, such as with Miss Bat's belief that there's such a place as 'Inner Mongolia' (as otherwise, why's there an Outer Mongolia, in her words). My only issue with Old Hats and New Brooms is her Mongolian Undertone Chanting, which is kinda grating.

The casting change of Ethel is distracting at first, but only for this episode, I found. Katy Allen quickly moulds into the role and really makes it her own.

Alarms and Diversions

The Cackle's Academy caretaker Mr. Blossom has installed a new security system into the school, and the school is quick to react to training drills, except for Mildred, who sleeps in during a drill, then rushes out to defuse what she thinks is a genuine emergency. Unfortunately, Mildred's efforts to help out land her in hot water...

Alarms and Diversions is a funny-as-usual episode, with quite a few particularly amusing moments in mind. The finale is very loud, thanks to the tornado, and the alarm system, but it's never annyoing, nor is the dialogue ever drowned out.

Especially hilarious is the academy's 'Break glass in case of emergency' container, which doesn't contain a fire axe, or anything of the like, but a broom!

It's A Frog's Life

Ever since Mildred saved Sybil from a magical tornado, the hero-struck Hallow has been following her around. A frustrated Mildred eventually goes off at a vindictive Ethel, angrily insulting the Hallow name. Later, when Mildred's sleeping, a vengeful Ethel turns her into a frog...

It's A Frog's Life is an amusing episode, and nicely creative. I especially like that things come from its events, rather than it simply being a one-off story. The only real problem is that it's meant to be a mystery who turned Millie into a frog, but it's obviously very obvious.

Georgina Sherrington carries the episode for most of the episode's runtime with just her voice, and she does very well. Especially adorable is the distorted frog voice she gets at times.

The effects for the leaping frog (Millie) is pretty bad in places, but it's no big deal for this show

Crumpets for Tea

After the events of last episode, Mildred is determined to restore Algernon the wizard back from a frog to human. She sees an opportunity to restore him when the Grand Wizard Egbert Hellibore is due to visit Cackle's for the Halloween celebrations, but things are complicated when Millie is banned from attending, due to recent events...

Following the previous episode's events nicely, Crumpets for Tea is a fine episode which plainly shows just how determined Mildred can be, and how far she'll go to help out a friend in trouble.

Drusilla is very entertaining here, possibly moreso than any other episode she's in, from her bug-handling ways, to her use of the word suchlike (I love England!), etc.

One aspect of the episode that only just doesn't make sense is Grand Wizard Hellebore's attitude towards Mildred, and Cackles Academy to an extent. He's wary about the academy, and angrily distrustful of Mildred, and both would make sense if this was the character's first appearance since A Mean Hallowe'en in Series 1, but it isn't. He appeared in Sweet Talking Boys, and not only was he completely complementary there to Cackle's, but to Mildred as well. I'm not sure what to take issue with here, Hellibore's possibly too positive attitude in Sweet Talking Boys, or his suddenly hostile one here, so I don't think I'll pick either.

Apparently there's been a casting change here for Hellibore, but I've never noticed. Effective use of make-up/beard-up, I guess.

The Inspector Calls

Cackle's Academy is due for an inspection, and assigned to the case is Mistress Hecate Broomhead, Miss Hardbroom's old tutor. The terrified teacher warns her fellow staff member's about the exceptionally domineering and hostile Broomhead, and they plan on making sure the school is in perfect condition on the inspection, which includes such steps as removing and hiding all the friendly bats, and Mildred herself. Meanwhile, in an effort to get in Millie's good books, Sybil resolves to get her bats back from where Miss Hardbroom hid them with help from Fenny and Griz...

The Inspector Calls is possibly my favourite episode of Worst Witch Series 2! The writing is solid, funny, the ending is hilarious, and we get character development from Sybil! Charlotte Knowles is great here!

Janet Henfrey is perfectly evil as Hecate Broomhead, and the rest of the acting is great.

Animal Magic

There's a blizzard outside, and the girls of Cackle's are stuck doing exercise until Grand Wizrd Hellibore, Algernon Rowan-Webb, as well as Merlin, Baz, and Gaz come over, to take refuge from the weather. Using his position as Master of the Revels, Rowan-Webb declares the rest of the day a half-holiday, much to the chagrin of Miss Hardbroom, and Hellibore.With the whole school under upside-down day rules, the students have lots of fun games, despite the attempted interference of Baz and Gaz, while the teachers are stuck in class. Soon, a frustrated Hellibore challenges Rowan-Webb to a shapeshifting duel in order to return things to normal...

Animal Magic is another favourite of mine from this season, not because it's the best written, but because it all-round has an atmosphere of fun. The whole episode is of joyful celebrations, and amusing reversals of roles, such as Fenny and Griz acting as teachers, and the staff stuck in menial class (resulting in Miss Hardbroom and Cackle failing their potions test).

The acting here is hilarious, especially the aggravatedly* stoic Miss Hardbroom, courtesy of Kate Duchene, and Richard Durden as Grand Wizard Hellibore.

*Yes, yes, I know that's not technically a real word, but it should be.

Carried Away/The Dragon's Hoard

The second-years of Cackle's Academy are spending their half-term holiday at Algernon Rowan-Webb's new seaside house, but unfortunately for Mildred, she's not allowed to bring Tabby with her, due to his displeasure of flying. She secretly brings him along anyway, instead of the replacement she was meant to bring, and   Meanwhile, Rowan-Webb's new understudy/apprentice Merlin, having heard mysterious whispering in a nearby cave, accidentally releases Lord Dunston, the long-trapped dragon lord...

This is a two-parter that I had conflicting opinions about as I watched. At first I was entertained, but then I started to get impatient with it. It wasn't boring, but I wasn't really enjoying myself a whole lot either. Then the dragon lord plot started, and I felt it was pretty railroaded into the story, pointlessly and unnecessarily extending it to two parts. However, as The Dragon's Hoard went on, I progressively enjoyed it more and more, until come the end, I did enjoy the entire story.

This is a well-written two-parter, which makes good use of recurring characters, and has an interesting 'antagonist'. The effects are pretty bad in one case though-The make-up for the dragon lord is pretty unconvincing, looking like silver greasepaint has been smeared all over the actor.

The Genius of the Lamp

Back at Cackle's Academy, while the second-years are at Rowan-Webb's seaside house, the first years are growing especially displeased at the school's gloomy conditions, specifically Sybil and Clarice. With Miss Drill and Bat's permission, the two look through some magic books, under the pretense of creating a light spell, and soon enough, they have their very own magic lamp. Unfortunately, unbeknownst to Sybil and Clarice, whenever the lamp conjures something up, it destroys something else...

It's with this episode where you'll realize that Sybil is in a way The Worst Witch's other main character, as while she doesn't appear as much as Maud, Enid, and the others, she's the only character besides Mildred to get her own episodes. The Genius of the Lamp is the first of two Sybil-centric eps, where neither Mildred, nor the majority of the cast appears. I really appreciate these episodes, as they show off what Cackle's is like for the show's secondary characters, and it's great to see more of Sybil! She's one of my favourite characters in the show, so I'm glad she gets more than just a few scenes in a few eps here and there.

Sybil's character is developed nicely here, and while her actions leading up to the climax aren't necessarily likeable, they're definitely understandable, given her life, and she's a pretty sympathetic character.

This episode does have one glaring issue, however-Miss Semolina, the new cook for Cackle's. She's an out-of-nowhere new character, and that wouldn't be too bad, if not for the fact that she's a total copy of Miss Tapioca, from the name, down to the Italian accent!

Up in the Air

Once again, Charlie, nephew of the Cackles school caretaker Mr. Blossom, is at Cackle's, this time with aspirations to become a witch. Miss Cackle is intrigued by the idea, and let's Charlie take an exam, which will allow him to become a pupil on a trail basis. Things go awry, however, when Millie and co. see that he's not performing the test all that well, and Enid magically helps him along, inadvertently creating a ruckus, which may mean the end of Charlie's time at Cackle's before it's even started...

Up in the Air is a fun episode, and while you do want to smack Enid upside the head for what her spell does, it's at least nifty in its effects! We get Attack of the Numbers as every digit in the castle leaps of pages/blackboards to fly around.

Recurring character Charlie appears again in this episode, after a lengthy absence (which Series 3 makes up for), and he remains a likeable addition, with a good plot surrounding him.

Fair is Foul and Fouls Are Fair

It's close to the end of term, and in an effort to alleviate the antsy schoolgirls of Cackle's, Miss Drill sets up a basketball match between the second-years and another school, Heversham High. The girls are forbidden by Miss Drill to use any magic, but after the first half, they're losing 0-44, and have to do something, fast...

This is a well-written and funny episode. It's funny seeing the basketball-inexperienced Cackle's girls getting demolished, and equally so seeing  how they set about magically winning the game. Especially funny is Miss Bat, who is feeling particularly hard-done-by by Miss Hardbroom's stern attitude. The episode's guest stars-the Heversham schoolgirls-are also amusing.

Green Fingers and Thumbs

There's a highly important potions test coming up at Cackle's, and Mildred is afraid she won't pass. She tries to gain inspiration by helping out in school caretaker Mr. Blossom's greenhouse. He's growing some prize marrows for an upcoming garden festival, which turns out to have chosen Cackle's Academy as its venue...

This is a fun episode, with an entertaining enough villain, conflict, and some neat singing!

My favourite line is definitely from Miss Hardbroom at the end, when she's talking to Mildred after having caught Ethel and Drusilla sabotaging in the act, while Millie is under the impression everything that went wrong was her fault. "The trouble with you is that you believe you're the only one who ever does anything wrong".

The Millennium Bug

Former Cackle's pupil Amanda Honeydew, now a famous pop singer, has plans to buy the academy ground, and chair of school governors Mr. Hallow will use the money to build a brand new, state of the art Cackle's Academy (an act that leads the traditionalist Miss Hardbroom to tender her resignation). While Mildred the girls do appreciate the idea, they don't think this new school will have any of the history, ookiness, and special witchy atmosphere that Cackle's should have, and set about trying to sabotage the plan...

My other favorite episode of the series, The Millennium Bug perfectly ends Series 2. It's well-written, has numerous great scenes, very nice music, and not only does Mildred shine here, but so does Sybil!

As I said, the great scenes of this episode are many, my favorites being two particular ones. The first is when Clarice convinces Sybil to try out the clarinet again, and to play how she feels, resulting in a nice blues tune, which segues perfectly into the next scene of Mildred and Miss Hardbroom discussing their time together in retrospect, which is my other favourite.

Series 2 of The Worst Witch is my favourite. It has at least three episodes that I consider my favourite of the whole show, and is all-round a fun time! Just like the previous season, this comes highly recommended from me!...

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Worst Witch: Season 1 (1998-1999)

At this point, many people in America are familiar with the Worst Witch TV movie, and some have even taken it to their hearts as a Halloween tradition. As far as I know, quite a few such people (specifically Americans) may be surprised to know that there's a complete Worst Witch TV series, that lasted for 40 episodes! Or 79, depending on your point of view (there were two sequel shows). It holds a special place in my heart, and is extremely nostalgic for me, as I watched it all the time when I was a kid!

...Of course, I never, ever admitted to liking it, not even to myself, because I was a stupid kid back then, thinking it would be 'uncool' and 'wimpy' to watch a 'girly' show. Despite vehemently thinking that, I still somehow never missed a single episode of The New Worst Witch.

The Worst Witch centres on Mildred Hubble, a somewhat klutzy and absentminded young girl, in her first year at Cackle's Academy, a school for witches. She quickly makes many friends, but also a bitter enemy-Ethel Hallow. Throughout the year, Mildred gets caught up in numerous fixes, from earning the ire of strict teacher Miss Hardbroom, to turning Ethel into a pig, nearly getting expelled, and saving the school from nefarious witches, proving that "Even the worst witch in the entire school can be the best"...

The Worst Witch is adapted from the first two entries in the book series by Jill Murphy, and it surpasses them amazingly! The Worst Witch books are very compressed, with more being told to us than actually happening, or being said, and it barely reaches 100 pages, even with its huge children's book font size, and multiple large illustrations. The series does a great job at taking this barebones book and filling it out over multiple episodes. It never feels like it's a novel that's been interminably stretched out

This is a frequently hilarious show, and it's always well-written! Even the one episode I didn't like as much as the rest still wasn't bad. The characters are believable, likeable, and always entertaining to watch, even the antagonistic ones such as Miss Hardbroom, and Ethel Hallow.

The acting in The Worst Witch is always great. The star, Georgina Sherrington, is perfect! She's my favourite actress! Sure, she hasn't fought undead Hitler twice like my former No. 1 favourite actress Carla Balenda, but she's a great actress, always a joy to watch, and the works she's appeared in are significantly easier to find than that of Golden Age of Film actress Balenda.

Kate Duchene plays the stern Miss Hardbroom, and she's fantastic, delivering a perfect amount of meanness in the role. Clare Coulter is great as the more jovial and easygoing Miss Cackle, while Una Stubbs is hilariously demented as the kooky Miss Bat. Claire Porter plays Miss Drill, the most normal of the teachers, and she does very well.

The rest of the actresses, from those playing Mildred's friends (such as Emma Brown, Jessica Fox, Joanna Dyce, Harshna Brahmbhatt, Poppy Gaye, and Julia Malewski), to those playing her enemies (Felicity Jones, and Holly Rivers) are always great.

A really neat aspect about this series is simultaneously a pretty small, yet pretty major point-The classes at Cackle's Academy are practical ones as well as magic-based! Too often in fantasy school settings do the kids learn nothing but spells, and never any other subjects that'd get them through life. Thankfully The Worst Witch bucks that annoying trend.

One of my favourite things about the Worst Witch franchise as a whole is its continuity. Each episode nicely follows one another in many ways, rather than being random events in a dateless void, the series remembers names, which comes into good importance for later entries in the franchise's (for example, in Weirdsister College, the titular university didn't come out of nowhere, but was in fact mentioned a few times in the original series), and every entry remembers which spells are which, getting the words right! That last one may sound like small potatoes, but it's a level of detail I really appreciate!

There's only one thing about this franchise that's unclear-Does the outside world know about magic? There are many aspects of the show that suggest that it does (such as non-witch families being able to enroll or work at witch schools, there being witch radio shows, or the fact that witches and wizards have names like Nightshade, Cackle, Hardbroom, Moonshine, Merlin, Grailsquest, Dragonsbane, etc.), but others that do the opposite, especially the first sequel series Weirdsister College, which confirms the latter outright. It gets really frustrating when episodes keep near-contradicting each-other on this point!

Finally, the soundtrack of this show is always great! The main theme is nice, and the rest of the score throughout the series is always highly enjoyable, and never feels repetitive, even if you marathon all three seasons in as many days!

Now, onto reviewing the episodes proper!...

The Battle of the Broomsticks

It's the first day of the school year at Cackle's Academy for Young Witches, and Mildred Hubble hasn't made a good first impression, having crashed into the school dustbins as she arrived. Despite the setback], she quickly makes friends, but that may not matter soon enough, as if Mildred doesn't succeed in the broomstick flying aptitude test, she won't be a part of Cackle's any longer, as failure means instant expulsion...

This is a great opener to The Worst Witch, with many funny moments, and a well-written story. Mildred is a very likeable protagonist, and it's nice seeing her conquer her fears of heights and the dark.

Quite a few of the show's supporting cast (mainly Mildred's friends) don't really have introductions, and moreso just appear. This is pretty noticeable, but it's not too big of a problem, and Millie's friends are still likeable, despite the lack of much character at this point.

Miss Hardbroom is one of the most entertaining characters at this point, thanks to the writing, and Kate Duchene's excellent comedically ruthless performance.

The effects here, mostly broom flying, vary. Sometimes there's obvious green screen use, sometimes it looks decent, and other times it looks really good!

When We Feast At the Midnight Hour

The new pupils of Cackle's Academy are dissatisfied with the constantly bleak meals they're served, and strive to do something about it, to the chagrin of Miss Hardbroom. In an attempt at solidarity, Miss Cackle decides to make an effort to not eat any of her usual diet (mainly comprised of delicious pastries and cakes) for an entire week, and eat only the same dishes as the students...

To me, this is the funniest episodes of Worst Witch's first season, with numerous great moments, from Miss Hardbroom making the students use particular positive keywords in their letters home, to Miss Cackle's craving fantasy during teaching, her quote of "Not many witches believe in ghosts. Mind you, I don't think many ghosts believe in witches", and the hilarious final minutes!

The green screen work here for the enlarged animals is pretty bad, as expected, but it's no huge issue.

A Pig in a Poke

The girls of Cackle's have just gotten their cats, and they're all excited, however, after Ethel insults Mildred and her cat Tabby, Millie impulsively turns her into a pig. Unfortunately Ethel runs off and is found by Miss Hardbroom before Mildred can retrieve her. Hardbroom assumes that Ethel is a pig that's escaped from the nearby farm, and instructs the school caretaker Mr. Blossom to send her back. Now, with the help of Blossom's visiting nephew Charlie, Mildred must save Ethel before she's taken to the pig farm and sold in the upcoming weekend markets...

If you ever wanted to see the mean bully Ethel Hallow get her comeuppance, this is the episode for you! A Pig in a Poke is very funny, and has a well written plot with a hilarious idea behind it!

The usual characters are great, and Charlie is a likeable new character, who never feels forced or railroaded into the plot, and contributes nicely.

Unlike what a show nowadays would probably do (watch Death in Paradise if you don't believe me), this episode actually uses a real pig for the transformed Ethel, rather than CGI, which is much appreciated! Yeah, I'm that jaded to modern TV that the presence of a real animal in a show is worth mentioning!

A Mean Hallowe'en/Double, Double, Toil and Trouble

It's the Halloween season, and Cackle's is being visited by the Grand Wizard Hellibore for the occasion. A tableau is set up for the special night, and Mildred ends up winning the main part. As this will involve serious broomstick skills, the concerned Miss Hardbroom takes special care to try and instill good flying skills onto Millie. Unfortunately, a trick of Ethel's ruins everything-And, as the majority of the academy sleeps through the following night, a trio of evil witches, led by Miss Cackle's mean-spirited twin sister Agatha, secretly break into the school, with intent to take it over...

This two-part episode, adapting the final parts to the first Worst Witch book (but is not the series finale, as you might think if you were watching this on TV, like I did once), is very good! It's got great character moments, mainly from poor ostracized Mildred, and is all-round hilarious, from the magically high-pitched Millie (so adorable!), to the tableau, and its rehearsals, and many other scenes. Miss Hardbroom is especially funny here, such as when she gets the students to pull numbered paper sheets from a cauldron to determine who'll fly in the tableau, and Mildred gets the winning one-HB's reaction is "This is what comes of trying to be fair."

Claire Coulter is amusing enough as Miss Cackle, but she really shines with her double role! She's deliciously villainous as Agatha Cackle!

Some effects here are pretty laughable, while others are decent. Overall, this two-parter is great fun, whether it's a season finale or not.

Monkey Business

It's a new term at Cackle's Academy, and there's a new student-Enid Nightshade. In an effort to try and improve Mildred's clumsy attitude, Miss Cackle and Miss Hardbroom decide to have her supervise Enid. Unfortunately for Millie, Enid is a total troublemaker, and is constantly getting her into trouble...

Monkey Business is the first episode to feature new main character Enid Nightshade, and she's definitely a worthwhile addition to the show! She's unique to the rest of the cast-Devious, and a playful troublemaker, but still likeable.

The dialogue is Monkey Business' best aspect! There are quite a few hilarious lines! And finally, the ending is a highly amusing cliffhanger of sorts...

Miss Cackle's Birthday Surprise

When Enid accidentally gets Mildred into serious trouble when trying to magic up a shortcut through an arduous cross country run, Miss Cackle is not impressed. If Mildred steps one more toe out of line in-between now and the half-term holiday trip, she'll be barred from going...

Just as I like The Worst Witch's continuity, I also like how the reset button isn't pulled every episode for Mildred, and her frequent 'troublesome' actions do have consequences over time, even to the usually kind and understanding Miss Cackle. Though of course, things don't go badly for Millie in the end, as you'd expect.

This episode progresses nicely, and culminates in a very good climax, where things fit together perfectly for our loveable heroine.

The Great Outdoors

For the half-term break, the students of Cackle's are going on outdoors expeditions. While some are with Miss Bat on a birdwatching exercise, Mildred and others are with Miss Drill and Miss Hardbroom on a camping trip. Once the girls reach their campsite, the teachers set up a treasure hunt. To try and win, Ethel cheats by magically manipulating the weather, and when Millie and co. react in kind, a magical phenomenon known as the Foster's Effect starts, and will go on doubling up the bad weather forever unless it can be stopped...

The Great Outdoors is an entertaining sojourn episode, and also establishes an interesting aspect about the laws of magic, which comes up a few more times, from episode to episode.

The episode has a bigger-than-normal secondary cast, with the band of boy scouts that the Cackles girls/staff bump into at their camping site. Thankfully, they all do a decent job.

The blizzard effects here are pretty well done, and are created practically, rather than with CGI.

The Heat is On

Back from their half-term break, everyone at Cackle's Academy is enjoying the lovely hot weather. Ethel and Drusilla, however, are very angry with Mildred, to the point where Drusilla attacks Millie. This nearly gets them into trouble, but instead incenses Miss Cackle to try lightening the tension by setting up a competition for the girls to try and recreate a magically created soft drink without the aid of any magic. Mildred and her friends set out upon a lengthy search to find the right ingredients, but all their efforts may be all for naught if the spiteful Ethel succeeds in sabotaging their project...

My second favourite episode of the season, The Heat is On has many great qualities, from the humour, the acting, to the funniest of Ms. Bat in the entire show! It showcases all of her various foibles and eccentricities all so awesomely!

One particular highlight of the episode is an unintentionally funny one at the climax, with some hilariously bad effects!

Sorcery and Chips

Mildred is borrowing a toy robot dog of her friend Ruby's, but accidentally 'kills' it when she forgets to feed it on time, and trips down the staircase in a rush to get to class, spraining her ankle in the process. Mildred tries to fix the battered machine by dipping it in a restoring elixir during potions class, but she fumbles, and her mishap causes the lab to be overrun by the desks turning into rapidly growing trees. For once, Miss Hardbroom doesn't blame Mildred for the disaster, but instead on the class' mini-cauldrons, which she feels are are old and has-been, and would have failed sooner or later no matter how klutzy or careful the user would be. Ethel's father, the new chair of school governors, has the potions lab replaced, filling it with state-of-the-art computers, something that bothers the heavily traditionalist Miss Hardbroom. Unfortunately, the restoration potion worked on the robot dog, and it's brought it back unhinged, and it sees a perfect target for conquest in the potion lab's new computers...

This is my least favourite episode of Series 1 of The Worst Witch. It's still entertaining and humorous, but not as much as the other episodes, I feel. Also, the resolution to the climax is kinda confusing, as well as unfulfilling and abrupt.

The effects here are decent, especially with the 'game' at the end, which looks pretty nifty, but is very underused.

Let Them Eat Cake

Mildred and her friends are out walking, and are tricked into going to nearby bakery Cosie's by Ethel and Drusilla. The bakery is out-of-bounds, and Ethel plans to send Miss Hardbroom there to catch Millie and co. red handed. This  ends up being the least of the girls' worries when they realize a real estate scam going on at Cosie's...

Let Them Eat Cake is another funny sojourn type of episode, with an entertaining plot, and various parties all converging on the same spot in an amusing way.

The supporting cast perform very well too, from Sheena Larkin as the fragile Miss Cosie, to Harry Hill as the hilariously nefarious antagonist.

Sweet Talking Boys

Grand Wizard Hellibore has come to Cackle's Academy to give a lecture, bringing three students along with him, two of them scheming bullies, while the third is a timid kid under their thumb. They play several nasty tricks on the witches of Cackle's, getting away with them scot-free, and it's up to Millie to help save the day before the boys' cheating bests the competition Cackle's is now in against Hellibore's wizarding school...

Sweet Talking Boys sees the return of Grand Wizard Hellibore, and the introduction of some new characters. Bullies Baz and Gaz are entertaining jerks who you love to hate, while Loppy (aka Merlin) is a bit boring here. His character is better in future appearances, thankfully.

The episode is well-written, with a highly amusing conflict! You'll want to beat these sexist wizards upside the head!

By far the best thing about this episode is Georgina Sherrington, who gives her best performance of Series 1 in the climax!

A Bolt from the Blue

It's the final days of Mildred's first year at Cackle's Academy, and she's only barely passed. She may not make it through to next year, however, as Miss Cackle is suddenly displaying an uncharacteristically hostile attitude...

Seeing the return of an old foe, A Bolt from the Blue is a great season finale

The acting's all great, especially from Claire Coulter, and Kate Duchene. It's hilarious seeing the usually toughly composed Miss Hardbroom flustered and at a loss for words in the presence of people equally or more hardass than she is!

There's only one problem I have with this series finale, and that's the contribution of Ethel Hallow. It's not that she willingly helps Mildred and co. out in solving the mystery of Miss Cackle's new attitude, but that there's no transition to her doing so. At first I didn't even notice that it was Ethel, and assumed it was one of Mille's friends.

The Worst Witch is a great show, and I highly recommend you check it out, especially if you're a fan of the '86 movie! Unlike the last British paranormal show I reviewed-Powers-and one yet to come, The Worst Witch actually has a DVD release! I'm not sure if it's still in print though, as the DVD's can go for pretty high prices online. All the episodes are on Youtube, but if you can find the DVD's for a non-ridiculous price, then go for it!...