'Witches of East End' review: Shifting tone

Julia Ormond stars in the new Lifetime drama

Julia Ormond stars in the new Lifetime drama "Witches of East End." (Credit: Lifetime)

THE SHOW "Witches of East End"

WHEN | WHERE Premieres Sunday night at 10 on Lifetime

WHY TO WATCH "Charmed" in the Hamptons.


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WHAT IT'S ABOUT Novelist Melissa de la Cruz set her "Witches" original on Long Island. Lifetime series developer Maggie Friedman ("Eastwick") and premiere director Mark Waters ("Mean Girls") are more vague on location. (The pilot was filmed in North Carolina; the series shoots in Vancouver; license plates say New York.)

But the game is (pretty much) the same. Artist mom Joanna Beauchamp (Julia Ormond) celebrates the engagement of her bubbly bartender daughter, Freya (Jenna Dewan Tatum, Channing's wife), to storied-family heir and do-good doctor Dash Gardiner (Eric Winter, "The Mentalist"). Her librarian daughter, Ingrid (Rachel Boston, "In Plain Sight"), is a history buff with interests in the occult and the local police detective (Jason George).

Then Dash's mysterious brother (model Daniel DiTomasso) arrives, instantly mesmerizing a baffled Freya. And Joanna's spirited sister

(M├Ądchen Amick) drops in -- "I know you've been angry at me these past hundred years" -- to remind Joanna of the witchly powers she's passed on to her unaware girls. And all hell breaks loose, perhaps literally, but certainly figuratively, in the form of local murders, resurrections and more.

MY SAY So what's the tone of this show? Soap? Thriller? Sci-fi/ fantasy? Tongue-in-cheek? The pilot keeps changing its mind. Ingrid teases Freya early with "You only have one superpower, and it is your breasts." People analyze life events in the context of movies/genres they've seen. And then there's mom's climactic crisis-time daughter-warning, "But first there's something I need to tell you."

Yes, "Witches" wants to be all jauntily self-aware, but can't quite conjure this cleverness consistently. Sunday's pilot has to cram in lots of coming-up clues about tunnels under the Gardiner mansion, and pastcentury revenge-seekers trapped in painted portraits, and eternal-life exceptions that allow these witches to die, except when they don't.

What's utterly clear is that the starter hour picks up steam whenever loose-cannon Amick bops around -- although Ormond does a nice job of grounding its shenanigans in a semblance of reality.

BOTTOM LINE If it sounds like I'm bewitched and between, so's the show. Makes sense that the pilot wraps with a cliffhanger.

GRADE B

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