“The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” is a reboot that calls to mind “Battlestar Galactica."
I know, that sounds a little nuts. “Battlestar Galactica” is an outer-space drama; Sabrina is a teenage witch. But stick with me just a minute and I’ll explain.
The original “Battlestar Galactica” took an extraordinarily dark premise and made it goofy. The series began with the evil Cylons nearly wiping out the human race — killing untold billions — with just thousands escaping.
The three-hour premiere of the 1978-79 original featured a robot dog (a chimp in a robot dog suit, actually) and a visit to what amounted to a dopey Las Vegas planet, complete with survivors getting excited about their casino winnings. Really.
The 2003-09 reboot took the same premise and used it to build disappointment, depravity and disaster, from one crescendo to the next. In the process, it became one of the best TV series ever.
Whether you were a fan of the 1996-2003 sitcom “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” or not, it was definitely goofy. It was light and frothy and largely intended for children. The only thing scary about it was her wisecracking, animatronic cat — which looked like a dead cat.
The new, 10-part Netflix series “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” (which starts streaming on Friday) starts from the same premise — a teenage girl who’s about to come into her powers as a witch — and takes it seriously. These witches are in league with Satan.
Sabrina (Kiernan Shipka, “Mad Men”) is about to turn 16 and undergo her “dark baptism,” when she’ll sign herself over to the Dark Lord and receive her full powers. And, yes, Satan shows up in later episodes.
If she goes through with it, she has to leave her mortal friends — including boyfriend Harvey (Ross Lynch) — behind and head off to witch boarding school.
There are certainly similarities to the sitcom. Sabrina lives her Aunt Hilda (Lucy Davis) and her Aunt Zelda (Miranda Otto), and her parents aren’t around. (In the original, they were alive; in “Chilling Adventures,” they’re dead.) And there’s a cat named Salem, but it’s a real cat.
It’s sort of gothic and feels a lot like a 1950s or ’60s horror film — only more violent. And it’s genuinely scary in spots. This is definitely not a show for children.
It’s also hugely reminiscent of the “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” series — teenagers fighting a battle of good vs. evil. There are even monster-of-the-week episodes that don’t much advance the seasonlong story arc.
“The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” comes to us from executive producer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, the man who took the Archie Comics and turned them into The CW’s “Riverdale” — so dark is nothing new to him. Season 1 of “Riverdale” involved the murder of a teenager; Season 2 featured a vengeful serial killer; and Season 3 seems to be centering on a cultlike murder/suicide game. It’s bonkers.
“Chilling Adventures” was originally developed for The CW before moving to Netflix — a switch that put the kibosh on Archie-Sabrina crossovers anytime soon. (Darn it!)
But if you’re looking for something to binge for Halloween, consider “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.” Just don’t let the kids — even, perhaps, younger teens — start streaming it.