‘Sabrina the Teenage Witch’: Why Pat Robertson Called the Show ‘Insidious’

Even the most popular TV shows often receive complaints from critics. One 90s series that faced criticism due to its introduction to using magic was Sabrina the Teenage Witch.

Although everyone did not approve of the show’s premise, its large fan base spoke volumes for its success. Airing from 1996 to 2003 on ABC and later The WB, Sabrina fans loved the magical elements and the snarky talking black cat named Salem. Despite the series huge success, fundamentalist Pat Robertson called the show to be “insidious.”

Who is Pat Robertson? 

Pat Robertson
Pat Robertson | Wally McNamee/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

Pat Robertson is a media mogul best known as a fundamentalist and being a political commentator. He is also the host of The 700 Club, best-selling author, and became an ordained Southern Baptist minister in 1961.

Born into a prominent political family, he became involved in politics and unsuccessfully ran for President in 1988. While seeking political office, he left all official roles for any church. However, his influence and controversial public voice for conservative Christian views in the United States does not go unrecognized.

Robertson has founded many organizations and corporations throughout his long-standing career. Some of these include The Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), the International Family Entertainment Inc. (ABC Family Channel), and Operation Blessing International Relief and Development Corporation. His career has gained him both national and international attention with his controversial viewpoints. 

The success of ‘Sabrina the Teenage Witch’

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Appearing on ABC’s Friday night TGIF lineup, Sabrina, the Teenage Witch quickly saw high ratings. The series follows the life of a sixteen-year-old girl who recently discovered her family’s magical history and her own misadventures while dealing with high school drama and wanting to be a regular teenager.

From juggling school, traveling between witchy realms, and learning to use her magical powers, Sabrina Spellman always had something to keep fans hooked. The show was more than just another 1990s teenage drama, it helped skyrocket Melissa Joan Hart’s career. Hart played Sabrina and worked with her mom, Paula Hart, who produced  the witchy series. 

While there were shows with similar storylines Sabrina, the Teenage Witch was competing against, Sabrina is the most notable. The series is still streamed by fans today to feel gain a sense of nostalgia or introduce the millennial favorite to new viewers. The show ran for four seasons on ABC and then finished their final three seasons on The WB. The success of the live-action show also inspired the short-lived animated series, Sabrina

Why Robertson didn’t approve of ‘Sabrina the Teenage Witch’

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While Sabrina, the Teenage Witch was a fan favorite in the early 1990s and early 2000s, there was some controversy around the show. Paula Hart, the show’s executive producer even had some skepticism in the beginning.

She said during an interview with Entertainment Weekly, “religion has been a base in our lives. We’re churchgoing people. Magic kind of scares her.” However, Mental Floss listed how Pat Robertson was the most vocal about his disapproval of the show. He chastised the series as an example of “insidious New Age thinking.” 

Melissa Joan Hart, who played lead character Sabrina on the popular series, felt an instant connection with the role after reading Archie’s comics. She felt like she not only looked like Sabrina but could imagine playing her. Luckily for the Hart family, the show’s black magic did not go much further than mysterious pranks happening to Sabrina’s arch-nemesis.

The teenage drama’s magical element may have caused controversy, but turned out to be the factor that made the show shoot to the top of ABC’s rankings.