The Unofficial and Unauthorised Guide to Charmed

Author: Keith Topping
Telos Publishing
RRP: 12.99, US $22.95, Cdn $29.95
ISBN 1 84583 002 4
Available 07 April 2006

Charmed is a surprisingly successful American television series about three sisters (Phoebe, Prue and Piper) who discover that they have magical powers - powers that they use to safeguard mankind.

I say "surprisingly", as the show has been condemned to some of the most unhelpful time slots and marginal channels you could wish to find. You would have thought that its makers were trying to deliberately kill it off. To put this into perspective, even with this handicap the show has run for an impressive eight seasons, so far, slightly shorter than the impressive nine seasons of the X-Files, but still longer than most of the individual Trek franchises - both of which would have been shown in prime time spots with a lot of studio clout behind them. So, there must be something in it. Keith Topping obviously thinks so as he has produced a very authoritative guide to the show. Published by Telos, who have obviously decided to corner the market in 'must have' television reference books, Triquetra covers the first seven seasons of the show.

Like most reference books, it's not the sort of thing that is designed to be read from cover to cover, unless you're the most rabid Charmed fan. The introduction, by the author, is honest in that he admits that for a long while he thought that the programme was an old piece of tosh that didn't hold a candle to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, until he gave it a chance. This was always going to be a problem for Charmed. Buffy was such a successful show that any that came after it with similar elements was going to be thrown to the wolves without anyone actually giving it a chance. To pin my own colours to the mast I have to admit to not being a great fan of the show. Like most, I've seen a couple of dozen episodes whilst flicking though Sky, when there's nothing much else on. I never found it a terrible show, but then I never turned it off either, it obviously had stuff going on that isolated the casual viewer. I guess it would be like watching random episodes of Babylon 5, nice show but I have no idea what is really going on.

Topping obviously had an epiphany at some point as he's produced the ultimate book for Charmed fans. The book runs at an impressive three hundred and fifty-one pages of small type, which means you're getting one hell of a lot of densely packed pages of information and commentary. Even if you hated the show you've gotta to be impressed with the bang per buck value of the book, though at my age I did get the feeling that I was going blind trying to read it. The book contains so much that it could quite easily, with a few pictures and a bigger font, have been turned into one of those massive coffee table books that's actually bigger than your coffee table. Topping breaks down each of the one hundred and fifty-six episodes into a number of categories. There is the factual information about who worked on the show as well as a story synopsis. Where Topping scores high is his encyclopaedic knowledge of both the shows continuity and mythology, though he's not above pointing out some obvious flaws and unintentional comedic logical impossibilities.

For a relative non-fan of the show it was still an interesting and amusing read and a "keeper". As a reviewer you're sent a lot of stuff that would just fill the house up, in my case I give away a lot of stuff to friends, it has to be something pretty special to become a "keeper" and there's no doubt that this book is something special and will nestle nicely with Telos's other must have book on the Survivors. An obvious labour of love and I'm sure a treasure waiting to be found for all Charmed fans, this is the nearest thing to a bible that they are going to find.

Charles Packer

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