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It's a Magic Sister Act for Harts : Television * Melissa will be an older, more mature 'Sabrina, the Teenage Witch,' while younger sibling Emily is the voice on the animated series.

September 24, 1999|MICHAEL P. LUCAS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Still the prime-time version of "Sabrina" is still the key piece of the bewitching equation, a show with a lot of kids' stuff that about 12.2 million viewers tune in to watch each week.

"Men come up to me all the time and say, 'I don't usually tell people this, but I watch "Sabrina," too,' " laughs tall, lithe Beth Gordon, who plays witch Zelda--the adult authority figure in the wacky Spellman household.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday September 28, 1999 Home Edition Calendar Part F Page 5 Entertainment Desk 1 inches; 20 words Type of Material: Correction
Misidentification--Beth Broderick, who stars as Zelda on ABC's "Sabrina, the Teenage Witch," was misidentified in a Friday Calendar story.

Many credit Melissa's uncanny acting skills for creating a quite unpretentious, sympathetic and--and completely plausible--character.

"I don't think anybody else could do this role," writer Berendsen says.

Kids like the message that "you can be whatever you want to be, you can do whatever you want to do and it's OK to be different," Berendsen adds. "Sabrina's not the most popular girl, so girls will watch and learn that everything is OK if you don't get it right or you screw up, there's a way to fix it. . . ."

Others around the show have another catch phrase for the show's popularity: "It's all about the cat."

"Puppets and animatronic cats can get away with murder," says writer and voice of Salem, Backay. "The talking cat is definitely popular with the kids, but what he says is one of the biggest adult hooks. He couldn't be more craven . . . and couldn't be more fun to write."

No doubt, youngsters relate to a likable girl from a weird household who's struggling for normalcy while facing the most incredible problems--and all the while she has this mysterious power.

"It's all about wish-fulfillment," Rhea says. "There's a girl in high school who bugs you and you want to turn her into a pineapple--it's something you've wished you could do your whole life."

* "Sabrina, the Teenage Witch" airs at 9 p.m. Fridays on ABC. The network has rated it TV-G (suitable for all ages).

* "Sabrina, the Animated Series" airs at 9:30 a.m. Saturdays on ABC. It is also syndicated in the Sunday through Friday "Disney 1 Too," airing locally on KCOP-TV. The network has rated it TV-Y (suitable for children of all age).

* "Sabrina Down Under" airs at 7 p.m. Sunday on ABC. The network has rated it TV-G (suitable for all ages).

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