Sabrina, the Teenage Witch told the story of Sabrina Spellman who, at the beginning of the series, was a teenager tasked with navigating the emotional minefield that is high school while also having to hide the fact she was gradually learning the art of witchcraft, with the help of her 600-year-old aunts Hilda and Zelda. Here are some facts about the long-running sitcom and one of the last cornerstones of ABC's TGIF lineup.
1. IT WAS BASED ON AN ARCHIE COMICS COMIC.
Created by writer George Gladir and artist Dan DeCarlo, Sabrina first appeared in Archie's Madhouse #22 in October 1962. In 2014, a darker version of the comic, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, was released, that documented Sabrina's "troubled origins." "One day, Sabrina's going to be the most powerful sorceress who's ever lived—Archie's equivalent of Doctor Strange—but right now, she's a 16-year-old girl who's figuring out who she wants to be and if she's going to prom or not," Chilling Adventures writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa said.
2. THE UNOFFICIAL PILOT AIRED ON SHOWTIME, AND FEATURED RYAN REYNOLDS.
On April 7, 1996, nearly six months before the TV series premiered, the show's "unofficial pilot" premiered as a TV movie on Showtime. In the movie, Sabrina's last name was Sawyer. Ryan Reynolds portrayed Seth, Sabrina's (short-lived) love interest.
3. MELISSA JOAN HART'S MOTHER WAS RESPONSIBLE FOR GETTING THE COMIC TO THE SCREEN.
Melissa Joan Hart's mom, Paula, was instrumental in turning the comic into a TV series, as her grateful daughter pointed out to Marie Claire. "My mom doesn't get nearly enough credit for her job as the woman spearheading the show. She is the one who was handed the Archie Comic book on a playground at my sister's school in Manhattan and sold it to Viacom as a Showtime movie. She always knew it would make an incredible series but no one would listen, until she cut together a trailer from the movie and pitched it to all four major networks at the time." With ABC and NBC in a bidding war to snatch the series, Paula and Melissa decided ABC was the right place because they loved the TGIF lineup.
4. ABC "DIDN'T REALLY SUPPORT" THE SHOW IN ITS FIRST SEASON.
"They were counting on Clueless the show to be the big hit; we were just the little show that would follow that," Hart claimed. "But we ended up being the fan favorite and held our spot on that network (even forcing Everybody Loves Raymond to move to a different night of the week) for four years until we moved to WB for the final three seasons."
5. PAT ROBERTSON WAS AGAINST IT.
The former minister and television personality complained about the series. According to Entertainment Weekly, he deemed the series "an example of insidious New Age thinking."
6. ELVIRA ACCUSED THE SHOW OF RIPPING HER OFF.
Though she acknowledged that "Sabrina was a character that existed before," Elvira, Mistress of the Dark (Cassandra Peterson) said her failed 1995 CBS pilot The Elvira Show was plagiarized by Sabrina, the Teenage Witch. "The talking black cat, the two old aunts, the teenage girl—the whole damn thing—and they released it the following year," Elvira said. "It just focused on the teenage lead instead of me—because in my show, I was the aunt of a teenage girl, along with Katherine Helmond. Teenage girl, aunts who are witches, young girl who didn’t want to be a witch because she wanted to fit in, talking black cat, blah blah blah ... It did get made!"
7. THREE LIVE CATS PLAYED SALEM OVER THE YEARS.
After Elvis and Witch passed away, Warlock took over until the end of the show, before going into semi-retirement. Along with those three, there was the puppet Salem, who moved with the aid of three puppeteers. One worked the tail and eyes, one the body, and another the mouth. Nick Bakay, the voice of Salem, sat next to the mouth puppeteer who would match the mouth to what Bakay was saying. Some stuffed animal Salems were used for rehearsals. They were named "Stuffy."
8. SALEM WAS A WRITER.
In addition to voicing Salem, Bakay was credited with penning 12 episodes of the series.
9. WHEN JASON SCHWARTZMAN AND HIS BAND PHANTOM PLANET CAMEOED, THEY MADE SALEM CURSE.
"Yeah, we asked the cat to say dirty words," Schwartzman, the drummer for the band best known for the theme to The O.C., remembered. "The cat was like, 'Fu*k this sh*t.' Yeah, the best part was where the cat came in and swore."
10. CAROLINE RHEA DIDN'T LOVE THE COSTUMES.
“They were the worst costumes in the entire world,” Rhea (who played Aunt Hilda) said. “Really, it was ridiculous. [Sabrina] was dressed like an accountant going to high school." As for herself, Rhea believed she always "going to a coronation for a very senior royal member. I was like, ‘It’s breakfast, my hair is this high.’”
11. MARTIN MULL DID THE SHOW FOR HIS DAUGHTER.
Martin Mull, who played Sabrina's vice principal-turned-principal, got a "few months" of looking cool to his kid by being on the show. "The main reason I was anxious to do that was that my daughter was 10 or 11 at the time, and there was no bigger show with 10- or 11-year-old girls in the world than Sabrina," the veteran comedic actor told The A.V. Club. "So I thought, 'My God, I can also curry favor with my daughter,' who was about to enter into those teenage years where you’re nothing but just a bag of crap if you’re a father."
12. IT WAS ABC'S HIGHEST-RATED TGIF SHOW, BUT THEY LET THE SHOW GO AFTER FOUR SEASONS ANYWAY.
Viacom and Paramount executives rejected ABC's offer of paying a per-episode license fee of $1.3 to $1.5 million. They accepted the WB's offer of approximately $675,000 per episode, because they initially committed to doing so for 44 episodes, or two full seasons, which automatically put the show into lucrative syndication and the riches that come with selling those broadcast rights. "We were both surprised and delighted that this franchise program would become available to us; in fact we were shocked!," WB CEO Jamie Kellner enthused in his network's press release.
13. THERE WAS A FAILED ATTEMPT AT A SPINOFF STARRING MELISSA'S YOUNGER SISTER.
Emily Hart portrayed Sabrina's younger witch cousin, Amanda, for various episodes of Sabrina, the Teenage Witch through the years. The season five installment "Witchright Hall" was a backdoor pilot for Amanda to get her own show, where she would live in a wayward witches and warlocks boarding house, run by a headmaster played by Charles Shaughnessy (Mr. Sheffield on The Nanny). The WB didn't pick it up for series. Emily still starred in Sabrina: The Animated Series (1999-2000), where Melissa played both Hilda and Zelda.
14. THERE WAS A REMAKE IN TURKEY.
Acemi Cadi, or Novice Witch, was about a teenage girl who found out from her aunts Selda and Melda that she was a witch, and discovered her cat Duman could talk. It ran from 2005 to 2007.
15. IT MIGHT COME BACK.
Melissa Joan Hart recently revealed she has been taking meetings on remaking Clarissa Explains It All and Sabrina, The Teenage Witch. "It’s a meeting ... you know they are throwing around Clarissa and Sabrina ideas," Hart said. "But it depends on who’s going to give up rights, who’s gonna do it, how’s it going to be done. It’s a lot of politics."