Sometimes a show getting a reboot is the perfect time to go back and appreciate what we loved about the original version. Revivals are a lot of fun, but watching old episodes from the ’90s and 2000s can be just as entertaining. Netflix is reviving Sabrina, the Teenage Witch later this year with a “dark” twist, so this seemed like the perfect time to dive into the original show that we love so much. We’re looking forward to the reboot, but the original is definitely one of our favorite throwback TV shows, and it doesn’t always get the love it deserves.
There are lots we don’t know about the Sabrina reboot yet, but there are also lots of things you might not know (or remember) about the original. The show had seven seasons and ran from 1996-2003, so there’s a lot of ground to cover. From casting switch-ups to making the actual magic happen, here are some crazy behind-the-scenes fun facts about Sabrina the Teenage Witch.
16. Sabrina’s cousin Amanda was played by Melissa Joan Hart’s real sister
Sabrina’s cousin Amanda Wiccan was constantly causing trouble when she appeared on the show, but little did you know that she was actually Melissa Joan Hart‘s sister IRL. Emily Hart was inspired to go into acting by her older sister, but she wasn’t quite as successful. She also voiced Sabrina in the animated series that aired in 1999. One episode in season seven was meant to serve as a potential pilot of a spinoff that she would star in, but it wasn’t picked up by the network. Amanda did, however, manage to shrink lots of her enemies into little jars.
15. The Sabrina on the show was way different than the original comic book character
On the TV show, Sabrina was an easy-going girl who loved cracking one-liners. This was a major departure from the original character in Archie Comics, who was much more serious. In the comics, she used her magic to do cruel things to her rivals, and to lure men to her. She was also a pretty selfish character, and she was very sexy. Melissa Joan Hart’s take on the character was much more wholesome, and the cruel things she did to her rivals were usually pretty minor and short-lived. It’s expected that the reboot will stay more closely with the comic books than this version did.
14. Three different live cats played Salem the talking black cat
Salem, the Spellman family’s talking black cat, was definitely one of the best parts of the show. Salem was never afraid to give Sabrina the honest advice she needed to hear, and his sarcastic sense of humor brought the laughs every single episode. Getting Salem on the screen was definitely a production, and he was played by three different cats during the run of the show. The duties were originally split among three different cats named Elvis, Witch, and Warlock. At some point, the first two passed away, so Warlock had to pull the weight until his retirement at the end of the show. It’s a tough world out there for cat performers.
13. They also used a stuffed cat and an animatronic cat
As cute as live cats are, they, unfortunately, can’t actually talk (as far as we know). To get around this problem, they mainly used a puppet version of Salem that would be controlled by a puppeteer on set. Nick Bakay, who voiced Salem, would sit off camera and say his lines while the puppeteer watched his mouth and moved the puppet in unison. That sounds like a lot of work, but it clearly paid off. And because you can never have too many black cats, there was also a stuffed animal version of Salem that was used as a stand-in during rehearsals. They really pulled out all the stops for this cat.
12. Drell, the head of the Witches Council, was played by famous magician Penn Jillette
When you do something bad with your magic, you get sent straight to the Witches Council, and it doesn’t look like fun. In the first season, the head of the Council is Drell, an obnoxious man played by world-famous magician Penn Jillette. Jillette is known for his impressive illusions, but his character on the show is not too impressive. He has dated Aunt Hilda on and off, but he’s extremely unreliable and usually leaves her crying. He also has a mole, which you’re not to look at under any circumstances. Fun guy!
11. Melissa Joan Hart’s mom was a producer on the show, and the main reason it got made
This family really knows how to get things done. Melissa Joan Hart says her mom was the only reason the show got made, and it’s a crazy story: she first pitched the comic to Showtime as a TV movie. After that got made, she cut the movie into a trailer for a TV series and used that to pitch all four major networks. It worked. NBC and ABC were soon in a bidding war for the series, and after choosing ABC, the rest is history. Aren’t moms just the best? The show stayed on ABC for four seasons, before moving to The WB for its final three years.
10. Stars like *NSYNC, Britney Spears, and RuPaul all made cameos
Is it really a successful sitcom without some A-list celebrity cameos? Definitely not. Especially in the earlier seasons, Sabrina, the Teenage Witch was a top TV destination for some big names looking to have a little fun. Britney Spears stopped by to hang with Sabrina, which we’re eternally jealous of. There were also appearances by both The Backstreet Boys and *NSYNC, which is seriously goals. Other celeb cameos included legendary drag queen RuPaul and Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston.
9. ABC didn’t really support the show at first, but it succeeded anyway
According to Melissa Joan Hart, ABC wasn’t very invested in the success of Sabrina at first. They expected the TV adaptation of Clueless to be the bigger hit, and Sabrina was scheduled afterward to try and get a bigger lead-in audience. Clueless ended up being a moderate success, but it never approached the popularity of Sabrina, the Teenage Witch. Melissa even says her show forced Everybody Loves Raymond to move to a different night. We’re not sure whether that’s completely true, but it’s no doubt that Sabrina was a big hit.
8. Ryan Reynolds was originally supposed to be Sabrina’s love interest
We all love Harvey and Sabrina, but we need a minute to mourn this loss. When the original pilot aired, Harvey was nowhere to be found. Instead, we were introduced to Seth, a handsome guy played by an actor by the name of Ryan Reynolds. His haircut was very ’90s, but he was cute as ever, and he had great chemistry with Melissa Joan Hart. But as is all too common on TV, changes were made after the pilot, and Ryan was gone forever. It’s okay, Harvey is basically the best replacement possible.
7. You can actually visit Sabrina’s gorgeous house in New Jersey
The show took place in a fictional suburb of Boston, but you won’t find Sabrina’s gorgeous Victorian house in Massachusetts. The house is actually further south in New Jersey, and it’s still there. It looks pretty much exactly like it did on the show, except it probably doesn’t have a closet that leads to the Other Realm. It was a pretty amazing house, especially considering that Hilda and Zelda barely had real jobs. I’m pretty sure working part-time at a clock shop wouldn’t pay that mortgage.
6. Sabrina and her on-screen aunts didn’t always get along on set
It’s important to love your family, but that doesn’t mean you have to get along all the time. In the show’s first few seasons, Sabrina lived with her aunts Hilda and Zelda, and the close quarters they shared could lead to disagreements. Melissa Joan Hart has said there were moments of annoyance on the set, but that everything was good in the end, and she remains good friends with Caroline Rhea and Beth Broderick. After the fourth season, Sabrina moved out of the house and we rarely saw her aunts, which was a big loss for the show. Family: you can’t live with them, but you definitely can’t live without them.
5. The original pilot was a TV movie, but many of the details changed for the actual show
It’s normal for some changes to occur between a show’s pilot episode and the rest of the first season, but Sabrina is an extreme example. Rather than being ordered as the first episode of a new show, the first episode was actually a standalone TV movie. The plan was always to make a TV show, but this bumpy road resulted in some larger changes. We already mentioned the switch-up in Sabrina’s love interest, but that’s not all. In fact, even Sabrina’s name changed between the two versions. It was originally Sabrina Sawyer, but we’re happy they decided to go with the punny Sabrina Spellman instead.
4. A famous pastor claimed the show inspired devil worship
When the show first started, pretty much everyone loved it. Everyone, that is, except Fundamentalist Christian minister Pat Robertson. Robertson, known for hosting The 700 Club, warned that the show was an example of “insidious New Age thinking.” Basically, he was saying that the show was going to preach devil worship and make it cool to practice witchcraft. We’re not sure it’s really that serious, and it would definitely be nice to change your outfit just by pointing your finger. Clearly, these concerns didn’t scare away too many fans.
3. Elvira claimed the show ripped off her famous character
Pat Robertson wasn’t the only person unimpressed with the series. Actress Cassandra Peterson has spent nearly her whole career playing Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, a spooky, hilarious character known for her quirky sense of humor. She claimed that the show was an undeniable ripoff of her 1995 TV pilot for The Elvira Show, which never got picked up by a network. It’s too bad for her, but it’s hard to argue with the popularity of Sabrina. Elvira is a beloved character, but Sabrina Spellman definitely won this round.
2. The guy who voiced Salem also wrote 12 episodes of the show
When Nick Bakay, the voice of Salem, wasn’t sitting on set reading his lines for the puppeteer, he was still busy. In addition to his role on the show, he also tried his hand at writing and was credited with writing 12 whole episodes of Sabrina. Apart from his time with Sabrina the Teenage Witch, he’s also appeared on episodes of The King of Queens, Seinfeld, and That ’70s Show. Nick Bakay might not be the biggest star in the world, but he definitely has some impressive credits under his belt. And of course, we’ll always love his work as Salem.
1. There was even a Turkish version of the show called Novice Witch
Sabrina, the Teenage Witch is set in the US, but people around the world love to think about what could happen if we woke up one day and could suddenly use magic. From 2005-2007, there was a Turkish show called Acemi Cadi, or Novice Witch, which had a very similar premise. In the show, a 16-year-old girl named Ayşegül finds out that she is part of a witch family. She lives with her aunts Selda and Melda, and they also have a talking cat named Duman. It sounds pretty much exactly the same as Sabrina, so I think I’ll stick with the English version.