As Motherland's final season debuts, we ranked its predecessors to see which witch shows over the past three decades have cast the strongest spells.
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Is the age of witches on TV coming to an end? With the dawn of Motherland: Fort Salem's third and final season this week, a witchy era that began in the late '90s and exploded after 2013 seems to be winding down (although Motherland creator Eliot Laurence tells EW there might be chance for it to live on). Multiple witch shows were canceled this year: The CW's Charmed reboot and Vampire Diaries spinoff Legacies were both recently nixed after four seasons, and Sky TV's 2018 show A Discovery of Witches ended in April.

There are still plenty of expansive fantasy magic-linked shows firmly in the TV mix, like Netflix's Shadow and Bone and The Witcher, Amazon's The Wheel of Time and HBO's The Nevers. But none explicitly feature witches as their primary magical creatures, so they aren't truly members of sci-fi's witch subgenre. 

Motherland brews together a little of everything from its predecessors — sisterhood, true history, teen romance, and blending the serious with some silly. To honor the witch genre as the end of the Freeform drama approaches, we considered how 11 witch-based shows between 1990 and Motherland's 2020 debut stack up. Rankings are based on IMDB ratings, Rotten Tomatoes audience scores and critics score (the Tomatometer), my own preference, and what EW has written about the shows through the years. Read on to see which shows were most magical.

Charmed -- "The Replacement" -- Image Number: CMD118b_0367.jpg -- Pictured (L-R): Melonie Diaz as Mel, Madeleine Mantock as Macy and Sarah Jeffery as Maggie -- Photo: Colin Bentley/The CW -- © 2019 The CW Network, LLC. All rights reserved.
Credit: Colin Bentley/The CW

Charmed, The CW 2018 – 2022

This well-intentioned reboot began in some ways better than its predecessor. It uniquely offers layered representation, and enhanced context and character-building in the pilot. EW praised it off the bat. However, a feud with the original cast and occasional dips into preachiness lessen its appeal, and it has exceptionally low IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes audience scores — all of which prevented it from landing higher on this list.

SABRINA THE TEENAGE WITCH
Credit: Bob D'Amico/ABC via Getty Images

Sabrina the Teenage Witch, ABC/The WB 1996-2003

A pop culture force starring '90s/early aughts darling Melissa Joan Hart, this show is one of several takes on a character from the 1942-debuted Archie comics. Sabrina blends live-action sitcom and witchcraft with impressive charm, heart, and fun. It would rank higher here if not for low-by-comparison IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes scores and an EW rating of only a B back when it premiered. Perhaps the witch genre is just better with some edge. 

THE SECRET CIRCLE
Credit: Everett Collection

The Secret Circle, The CW 2011 – 2012

This show established the aforementioned edge by immediately murdering the main character's mother. It maintained that edge even while delving into the CW's signature brand of teen drama. Despite its hot start and the support of then-EW writer Mandi Bierly, Secret Circle was swiftly canceled, thus limiting its place on this list. But it's worth a watch, and several of its charming stars found success elsewhere — lead Britt Robertson subsequently starred in a CBS show, romance movies, a George Clooney film, and more, while co-star Phoebe Tonkin joined The Vampire Diaries and then The Originals

SALEM
Credit: Everett Collection

Salem, WGN America 2014 – 2017

As the first scripted series for a little-known network, this show was an underdog entry into TV's witch genre. It seemed to want to be the most sophisticated, too, focusing more than most on history. That historical aspect and its sexy, talented leads Shane West (A Walk to Remember) and Janet Montgomery (New Amsterdam) make it worthy. However, Salem falls low on this list partly because EW gave it only a B- upon its premiere, lambasting it for unclear/unfulfilled tone, messaging, and emotion. Plus, it only lasted three seasons.

CAS_114_Unit_01087RC3
Credit: Diyah Pera/Netflix

The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Netflix 2018 – 2020

When Netflix introduced this, it garnered significant social media chatter regarding both its predecessor Sabrina the Teenage Witch and the currently-running Archie comics-based show Riverdale. Though Chilling had little to do with Teenage Witch, it did interact with the Riverdale universe. Throughout its own run, Chilling had audiences and critics divided. Overall, it earned a respectable 81 percent Tomatometer score, but only a 70 percent audience score and a 7.4/10 IMDB rating. Break Rotten Tomatoes ratings down by season, and scores are even more inconsistent and disparate. EW rated the show a B- after its premiere, but praised the series' final chapter. It's hard to know what to make of Chilling – thus its middling place on this list – but it certainly cast at least a minor spell on pop culture for a while. 

THE GOOD WITCH
Credit: Everett Collection

Good Witch, Hallmark Channel 2015 – 2001

This show was a spinoff of a six-movie franchise that Hallmark unleashed from 2008 through 2014. I wouldn't consider it part of mainstream pop culture, and critical reviews are scarce, but it holds an 82 percent Rotten Tomatoes audience score and garnered enough success to last seven seasons and spawn several show-based films. Moreover, the show's place in entertainment history was cemented with the series finale inclusion of a same-sex kiss – the first such kiss in a series by the famously conservative Hallmark network. The kiss, which occurred between the characters Zoey (Kyana Teresa) and Joy (Kat Barrell, of Wynonna Earp) – resounded around the country. Between that and the show's long lifetime, Good Witch is one to be remembered.

Legacies
Credit: Ben Adams/The CW

Legacies, The CW 2018 – 2022

I debated including Legacies, a spinoff of The Originals, on this list, since it's full of vampires and various other supernatural creatures. However, main character Hope Mikaelson (Danielle Rose Russell) mainly uses her witch powers to fight evil, and the two most critical supporting characters are witch twins. Thus, I deem Legacies a witch show. 

With that established… I initially loved Legacies and thought it could take the TVD franchise to new heights. EW staffer Samantha Highfill agreed, writing that it successfully expanded its original world while also establishing its own identity. It has an overall Rotten Tomatoes audience score of 80 percent and numerous People and Teen Choice Awards nominations. However, the show reduced Hope to a lovesick girl pining desperately (and selfishly) for a boy not nearly as impressive as herself. It constantly reversed character development, toed the line of queer-baiting in several instances, and latched onto one villain far too long, falling into a boring plot loop. For those and other offenses, the show lands this low. It beats the rest, though, for its hot start, the charm of the ensemble cast, and its role as the (potential) final chapter of the TVD story. 

WITCHES OF EAST END
Credit: Everett Collection

Witches of East End, Lifetime 2013 – 2014

This was the first witch show I watched in real time, and I was obsessed. Its story is similar to Charmed, with a family of women suddenly discovering their witch lineage and tapping into dormant powers. However, instead of three orphaned sisters, it features two sisters, their mother, and their aunt. The truth of their powers also unravels in a different way, the subsequent adventure is sufficiently unique, and the show reached a new level of sexy-suave at the time. It earned a respectable IMDB score of 7.5/10 and Rotten Tomatoes audience score of 87 percent – second place for this list in both categories. Most importantly, it introduced me to the stunning Mädchen Amick (thank you!). But as much as I enjoyed Witches and was devastated by its cancellation, I opted not to rate it higher given its short run and inability to win over critics – e.g., Highfill didn't love it, and its Tomatometer score is only 65 percent. Still, it's worth a watch for devoted witchcraft fans.

CHARMED
Credit: Everett Collection

Charmed, The WB 1998 – 2006

While Buffy the Vampire Slayer was winning audiences, Charmed cast a similar spell, enchanting viewers with the story of three sisters embracing their magical family destiny. The sisters are loveable, the actors made the era's campiness work – better than most, including Buffy and new-age Charmed – and the villains and love interests are also magnetic. The original Charmed topped all witch shows on this list in Rotten Tomatoes audience score (93 percent), and even in its sixth season, then EW-staffer (turned novelist) Gillian Flynn reported that it remained a solid show for the WB. She rated it a B+, praising it for embracing its guilty-pleasure tone, and EW writer Samantha Highfill showered Charmed with more praise upon reflecting back 15 years after its debut. Charmed might have taken the top spot if not for an unimpressive IMDB score of 7.1/10 and a lack of a Tomatometer score. Still, Charmed is special for setting a high starting bar for the witch genre. 

MERLIN
Credit: Everett Collection

The Adventures of Merlin, Netflix 2008 – 2012

I don't remember hearing much about this show, so perhaps it went under the mainstream radar – after all, it was before Netflix became the TV giant it is today. But I watched the pilot for this piece and I am hooked. It has the same campy low-budget style and tone as Xena: Warrior Princess, which you'd think would be a negative considering Merlin aired a decade later, but it somehow works for the show and helped hook me. I wish the titular hero (played by Colin Morgan) exuded a little more strength and charisma in the pilot, but I'm guessing that's the point. Regardless of how I feel about the show and whether it was firmly in the public dialogue during its run, Merlin clearly found an audience, as it tied for first of the witch shows in IMDB rating, with a 7.9/10, and has a top three Tomatometer score (85 percent) and audience score (86 percent). It also earned solid praise from EW. If you're like me and missed this magical romp, consider a retro binge once Motherland ends.

A Discovery of Witches
Credit: Des Willie/AMCN/SkyUK

A Discovery of Witches, Sky One 2018 – 2022

I'll start by noting that although the show also heavily features vampires, I determined it's primarily a witch show because "witches" is literally in the name, and the action revolves around a witch (Teresa Palmer's Dr. Diana Bishop) and a magical manuscript. Based on the All Souls fantasy book series by Deborah Harkness, the show premiered to some hype. But even with that preexisting following, it's impressive the show overcame an obscure network home (Sky One) to lodge itself firmly in the pop culture conversation. Discovery beat all shows on this list in IMDB rating (7.9/10), and in Tomatometer score (86 percent). It placed only fifth in Rotten Tomatoes audience score, but with a respectable rating of 80 percent, and it drew rave reviews from fans and critics. EW's Maureen Lee Lenker praised its rich immersive blend of history and magic. Though some critics had less pleasant assessments, and viewers may have felt the end came too soon and left too much wanting, the show can largely be considered a success. It well earned its place atop the hierarchy of television's witchy era.

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