Switch Episode 1 TV REVIEW(opens in new tab)
Writers: Chloe Moss, Tim Price
Director: Dominic LeClerc
THE ONE WHERE The Camden Coven convince flighty Hannah to come home, to help Stella deal with her monstrous boss (and to get all girly and talk about feelings and stuff).
VERDICT Yeah, s’okay. ITV 2’s new witchy soap clearly wants to be Sex In The City meets Charmed , but somehow, once it’s gone through the UK homebrew TV production filter it ends up more like This Life meets Rentaghost . The result, however, has a certain affable, if clumsy, charm (no pun intended), like that picture of you your nephew drew at school where you’ve got wonky eyes and legs that bend backwards. You can see it’s seriously flawed but you still want to pat its artist on the head for trying.
There’s certainly a whiff of CBBC in some of the arm-wavy, eye-rolling, squeaky-voiced performances and the more explosive visual gags. You half expect the witches to emerge from each spell with blacked up faces and windswept hair. At the same time, this tale of four young witches forming a coven in Camden, has moments of wit and tenderness more reminiscent of its stablemate, Being Human (they’re from the same production company). When down-to-Earth Stella gives flighty Hannah an emergency pack to take on her travels, it’s genuinely sweet, and Grace’s reconciliation with her mother neatly sidesteps mawkishness and delivers a scene that’s painfully recognisable.(opens in new tab)
So, it’s fluffy, and lightweight and and about as dramatic as a haircut. That need not be a bad thing. The trouble is, audiences expect something on ITV2 at 10pm to be at least a little edgy; this is about as edgy as Last Of The Summer Wine , bar the odd swear word*. It doesn’t necessarily need to be as sweary and perverse as Misfits or as bloody and twisted as Being Human , but it needs something to give it a distinguishing hook. At the moment it’s all too polite and safe. Sweet, in its own way, but hardly essential viewing, and too ready to default to a cliché.
The four stars all give decent performances, but they have little to work with in this first episode beyond the broadest brush strokes. About the most interesting thing we learn about any of them is that Jude likes Calvin And Hobbes . Poor old Lacey Turner has little to do other than look worried for 45 minutes. In fact, have the writers got Grace and Stella the right way round in terms of powers? Grace feels like the stoical, down-to-earth one, while Stella is wet beyond belief, while their elemental powers are the other way around. Caroline Quentin, though, is great fun as the ultimate Earth mother and gets many of the best lines (“Katherine was there, with her coven, blessing every bloody twig in sight”).
But just as you think this is a show destined to vanish in a puff of its own whimsy, it suddenly, unexpectedly delivers a significantly darker cliffhanger with a threat from the Kensington coven. You know what, it might be worth sticking with this show. For all its faults it’s far from unwatchable, and may just yet discover its own magic.
(* We’ve been “promised” lesbian witchery in the prepublicity, so presumably that’s on the way in upcoming episodes, but let’s hope the writers aren’t banking on that alone to make the show “edgy” – surely we’re beyond the stage now where two girls kissing can be construed as edgy?)(opens in new tab) (opens in new tab) (opens in new tab) (opens in new tab)
PRODUCT “PLACE”-MENT? Is Switch sponsored by the Association of Camden Estate Agents. Whichever editor left a bus in shot with Chalk Farm written on it must was probably fired.(opens in new tab)
WRITTEN IN THE STARS Someone’s done their research. The girl’s elemental powers match their star signs. Grace is a Pisces which is a water sign, Stella is Taurus which is an earth sign, Jude is Leo which is a fire sign and Hannah is a Libra which is an air sign. However, should we read anything into the fact that Stella thinks Hannah needs reminding when her own birthday is?
Louise: “Everyone says you’re this bitch queen from Hell, but they’re wrong.”
Janet: “They say that?”
Louise: “Uh-huh. And when you go to New York there's this special dance we do. Even the IT boys do it, and I’ve never seen anyone talk to them.”
Switch airs on Mondays at 10pm on ITV2