ABC’s Sabrina the Teenage Witch, starring Melissa Joan Hart, premiered 22 years ago today.
As a young, pimple-faced wannabe high school theater club president, I never felt like I fit in. I never said the right thing to the boys I liked. I wore skirts over jeans (I leaned into ’90s fashion just a little too late for it to be hip, and a little too early for it to be Juno). I couldn’t play any sports. To sum it up, I wasn’t cool. While my peers may have tried to improve their popularity by crashing senior parties and sipping on a sad PBR, I spent my Friday nights with my best friend who was, coincidentally, a character on a TV show.
Reruns of Sabrina the Teenage Witch got me through the worst years of my life.
They came on right before Full House, which I obviously stuck around to watch, but it was Sabrina, her insane aunts, and her weird, over-educated talking cat that made me feel less alone. I sat in front of the TV and watched a girl struggle through high school, as I did the same. Long before cool girls wore black crop tops and called their friend group a “coven,” Sabrina was a witch and a weirdo. She pretended to be a normal mortal, and I was an artsy dork who pretended to go to parties even though I’d rather eat spaghetti at home with my parents (still true).
The show itself created an entire world—one that I knew the rules to, one where the Sabrina writers provided me with a necessary kind of friendship. Maybe I was an outsider in my real life, but here, I felt like an insider, recognizing callbacks from earlier plot lines in each episode, laughing at Sabrina’s antics, and wondering what was in my upstairs linen closet (lightbulbs, mostly). I taped episodes to watch over and over again; they were my security blanket, and when I’ve had a bad day, they still are. I can sit down and watch an episode (I especially love the ones before Sabrina figures out the family secret), recite every word, and know exactly what is going to happen. It’s comforting, giving me a space to let my brain settle into something that feels familiar.
Last year, I had the opportunity to hear Nell Scovell, the show’s creator, speak at an event. As a burgeoning comedy writer myself, I got to listen to the woman who helped get me through high school talk me through the career I’m now breaking into. Scovell paved the way for women comedy writers, getting into some of the toughest places and doing the legwork to help other women get to where we are today. It wasn’t easy to always deviate from the norms of typical high school stereotypes, but that’s who I was. Sabrina the Teenage Witch and its creator (though she doesn’t know it) made me feel seen.
The show made the world around me feel magical when I was a kid figuring myself out, and as I continue to understand myself, it still does.
P.S. If I ever meet Paul Feig in real life, I will totally fuck up and call him Mr. Pool. That’s a promise.