Switch episode 1 review
Caroline checks out the first episode of ITV2's supernatural comedy-drama, Switch. Here's her review...
This review contains spoilers.
It’s safe to say that ITV2 doesn’t have the best track record, or any track record, when it comes to creating brilliant genre TV, but they’re certainly making an effort with new Wiccan dramedy Switch, produced by Being Human’s Philip Trethowan and Rob Persey and starring Bedlam’s Lacey Turner. Obviously inspired by the BBC3 show, there’s also a dash of Girls and big dollop of Charmed influencing the thoroughly light-hearted story of four female flatmates, all of who just happen to be practicing witches in their spare time.
At least they used to be, before flighty traveller Hannah (Hannah Tointon) went on yet another exciting world adventure. Leaving in the first scene of the premiere, she and the other two girls are soon called back together by Stella (Lacey Turner), upon discovering that she accidently microwaved her boss’ cat. This incident will give you a good idea of Switch’s tone, as the show primarily aims for silliness with a side of drama rather than the other way around. What it establishes in the first five minutes, however, is an easy chemistry between the four leads, which is no small thing when pitching a show about a close-knit group of friends.
Stella is the career-driven member of the group, and the first episode largely centres on her troubles at work. With the boss from hell, even after she saves her cat from an early grave with a bit of hocus pocus, Stella quickly snaps and tells the woman to "f*** off" during a particularly bad start to the day. This is actually the moment I eased up on the show, to be honest, because who hasn’t wanted to tell their ungrateful superior to stick it from time to time? Of course, she’s promptly sacked, and employs the rest of the girls to erase Janet’s memory by a couple of hours.
The trouble is, the memory erasure goes too far and Janet is left believing she’s a seventeen-year-old living in 1990 (proven by a fairly amusing pop culture slide show). Lifting the spell, or ‘switch’ as the show opts to call it, becomes the dilemma with which the episode is concerned from here onwards. But, rest assured, nothing in Switch seems very urgent, and the situation is handled with a feather-light touch. There’s no peril here, nor are there many consequences for the girls using magic to fix every problem in their lives, and that’s what sets it apart from more openly moralistic shows like Charmed or last year’s The Secret Circle.
The rest of the coven is made up of leader Grace (Phoebe Fox) and trendy Jude (Nina Toussaint-White), with the latter not making much of an impact so far. Her storyline was actually the only one that really bothered me, since the charming of men to fall in love with you has some pretty icky implications. This actually happened in Charmed, and the guy turned into a violent stalker once she lost interest, but the only issue Switch seems to have with the situation is the fact that the guy’s actually gay. Jude’s solution to this is to transfer affection to her gay co-worker, still against the original victim's will.
Grace is as close to a protagonist as the ensemble set-up allows, since she’s the leader of the coven and the one who set the girls up at the age of fourteen. Her overbearing mother, Gloria (Caroline Quentin), comes to the Camden flat to offer some helpful exposition and scold her daughter for missing Solstice over the past couple of years. This is where Switch heads in the right direction, with everyday problems experienced by twenty-somethings adapted to suit the lives of four young witches. It’s been proven time and time again that fantasy television works really well with thinly-veiled metaphors, and it looks as if the show is taking those ideas to heart.
Watching the magic itself is an adjustment for anyone used to more ‘realistic’ fantasy television, since it’s not afraid of chanting or random Potter-esque ingredients like feathers and virgin water. The incantations are a little annoying when they don’t quite rhyme but, as a former Charmed fan, I’m willing to overlook a lot of daftness in the search for something fun to watch. And that’s what Switch is. It doesn't aim to be great art, and it might not win any industry awards, but it’s an entertaining throwback to the whimsical TV of the eighties and nineties, with an eye on portraying the lives of realistic young women living in London.
Read our introduction to the show, What is ITV2's Switch?, here.
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