Praise Satan! Chilling Adventures of Sabrina made waves when it was first released on Netflix in October 2018, and the Archie Horror hit has been taking W's ever since. The Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa series was born of Riverdale's triumphant run on the CW, but its sister series isn't the only show that paved the way for Chilling Adventures' development. There over seventy years of supernatural TV shows and teen soap successes that led us to this, the peak of teen horror content, and every single series is worth a binge-watch. This is one history lesson we'll gladly sink our teeth into.
Bewitched hopped on the supernatural TV show train way before casting spells was cool. The OG witch TV series ran from 1964 to 1972 and is regarded as one of the greatest television shows of all time by TV Guide. The show followed Samantha Stephens, a witch who chooses to marry a mortal man and decides to lead the life of a typical '60s suburban housewife. Bewitched was inspired by the 1942 film I Married a Witch and 1958's Bell, Book and Candle, but there weren't many coven-centric television series around before Sam and her famous nose found universal acclaim.
There weren't any witches in Twin Peaks (although, in true Lynchian fashion, it's not like we would really know if there were), but this cult classic pioneered season-long mysteries and is one of the best-known horror series of all time. You'll find hints of Chilling Adventures in David Lynch's heavy reliance on aesthetic and its small-town USA setting, and the series revealed increasingly occultist leanings throughout its original, brief two-season run. Chilling Adventures is all about Satan, and Twin Peaks wouldn't have a story without demon BOB and his evil pals. Plus, there's a whole thing about doppelgangers that makes Sabrina's mandrake look like a cuddly pet.
Every supernatural teen series owes its existence to Joss Whedon's '90s masterpiece. Like Chilling Adventures, Buffy the Vampire Slayer balanced its dark tone with the insistent positivity of a gifted teen just trying to live a normal life. Sabrina's monsters of the week, like Batibat or the Yule Lads, are almost carbon copies of Buffy's first season exploits, and these landmark teen series share a first act storyline where their heroine is the only person who can prevent an impending apocalypse. We'd be penitent to ignore Buffy's trailblazing witch, Willow, whose LGBTQ storyline paved the way for stories like Suze's to be told.
We're not talking about the revival. The WB's 1998 to 2006 series Charmed is likely the best-known witchy supernatural TV show of all time. Aaron Spelling's series about three sisters whose combined Power of Three made them the most powerful spellcasters in history was the longest-running hour-long TV show featuring exclusively female leads from 2006 until 2012, before it was surpassed by Desparate Housewives, which was a major W not just for supernatural television, but also for strong female characters. Chilling Adventures has no shortage of bad*ss women, and Sabrina's thwarted attempts to keep her supernatural and human lives separate is something Charmed fans will find comfortingly familiar.
As you probably know, Chilling Adventures was originally conceived as a pilot for The CW after Riverdale became a massive hit for the network. That makes the teen-centric channel's history an integral part of how Chilling Adventures came to be, and it would be impossible to discuss The CW's success without Supernatural. Coming to an end after 15 seasons, the Jared Padalecki, Jensen Ackles-led show is older than most of The CW's viewers as the longest-running American live-action fantasy television show, proving that supernatural shows could do very well for the underdog primetime network.
We first tuned into Chilling Adventures because of our love for spells, potions, and '90s television revivals, but Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa's series is first-and-foremost a comic book adaptation. RAS got his start writing for Marvel comics long before creating the Afterlife with Archie series that started it all, but The CW first found super success with a famous DC Comics franchise. Smallville's heroic origin story has glimmers of Chilling Adventures' coming-of-age, but its biggest connection to the Archie series is the show's status as The CW's first hugely popular comic book adaptation (acquired, of course, from The WB).
Our generations' witch obsession began on Disney Channel. Halloweentown introduced us to the side of witches that weren't poisoning apples or turning into dragons, but Selena Gomez's star-making supernatural TV show Wizards of Waverly Place made witchcraft a tween dream. Its series finale averaged ten million same-day viewers according to The Hollywood Reporter, and the show's popularity spawned a DCOM later that year and an hour-long television special in 2013. With this witchy series as a foundational part of our childhoods, it's no question why we still seek out similar series in our pseudo-adult lives.
The CW had a leg-up during its early days by acquiring tons of long-running television series from its predecessor, The WB, but the reigning television teen queen defined its brand with Gossip Girl, which began a year after The CW was founded in 2006. We don't need to tell you that Gossip Girl became a worldwide tastemaker and the cornerstone of scandalous American teen television, and today's youth-oriented TV landscape would be a lot more vanilla without Blair Waldorf, Chuck Bass, and their impulsive, gorgeous friends' years of corrupting the huddled masses. Sabrina Spellman might not be dancing on top of bars or specializing in Nair-tinis, but the girl's got some edge. Plus, without Gossip Girl, who knows what type of bland midwestern dribble The CW would be commissioning today?
Twilight started a vampire mania unlike anything we'd ever seen in the mid-'00s, but HBO's True Blood became one of the only bloodsucking series to outlive Twilight's hype. Released one month before the first Twilight movie in 2008, True Blood was essentially the teen series' foil, replacing conservative Mormon values with the sex and violence HBO viewers have come to expect from their prestige TV. The thirsty Southern vampire drama had its fair share of demonic possession and supernatural political machinations, and its fourth season was almost entirely about witches.
Just like Chilling Adventures probably wouldn't exist without The Vampire Diaries, Julie Plec's obessable drama owes a lot to Supernatural. The dark, demon-hunting series was aimed at a young male demographic, but we'd bet good money that CW execs greenlit The Vampire Diaries after seeing how many hormonal teen girls were tuning in to see the Winchester brothers unravel the show's evangelical mysteries. The Vampire Diaries became The CW's first mega-popular supernatural teen soap, focusing on romance and interpersonal relationships more than its actual mysteries, and made a strong case for any future supernatural soaps' success.
You can make a case for American Horror Story as a whole being integral to Chilling Adventures' eventual creation as the most popular horror-focused supernatural TV show since The Twilight Zone, but there's no denying that Coven featured the baddest witches on television. The terrifying anthology's third season introduced some of AHS's most beloved characters, and its dark (but weirdly funny) tone closely matches Chilling Adventures' mix of shock and sincerity. Looking even closer, Evan Peters's ill-fated character Kyle has some definite similarities to Ross Lynch's Harvey Kinkle.
Not all supernatural soaps can become long-running network stalwarts. The Secret Circle was taken from us too soon, but Chilling Adventures is its spiritual successor. The CW series followed Britt Robertson's Cassie Blake as she moves to a small harbor town and discovers her latent magical powers. Sabrina Spellmen has always known about her abilities, but as she learns about the dark hereditary origins of her powers, it's hard not to see a connection between Sabrina's bad dad and Cassie Blake's daddy issues. There are also hints of the Weird Sisters in Cassie's coven frenemies, lead by a power-hungry Phoebe Tonkin.
Lifetime's Witches of East End was based on a Melissa de la Cruz novel, not a Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa comic, but true sorceress stans know this underrated series has a lot in common with our new Netflix obsession. Starring Archie Comics fan-favorite Mädchen Amick (who, incidentally, was also a regular on Twin Peaks), Witches of East End followed a mother whose two daughters find their footing within a new era of witches. Sabrina's familial struggles surround a generational divide between devout parental figures and a gen Z-er who's ready to ask questions and stir the pot, so this magical coming-of-age would probably strike a chord with our Archie Horror heroine.
British-American Showtime series Penny Dreadful will be returning to the small screen with a 2020 spin-off series set in 1938 Los Angeles, and its three-season original supernatural TV show certainly left us craving more. Referring to the lurid early 19th-century publications of the same name, Penny Dreadful followed Gothic characters like Dorian Gray, Van Helsing, and Dracula in a fantastical world of murder and supernatural intrigue. Penny Dreadful found its footing during its second season when it began to really focus on witchcraft, the occult, and the dark arts in a stylistic exploration of gothic horror.
The CW first found comic book success with Smallville, but Greg Berlanti's Arrow created a DC dynasty the network could squarely call its own. In addition to being The CW's first exclusive comic book series, Arrow shares a casting director with Chilling Adventures and Riverdale, David Rapaport, who found many of our Archie Horror television stars through Arrow's casting process. Riverdale's Lili Reinhart first auditioned for Arrow's Thea Queen, and Chilling Adventures' Kiernan Shipka was originally brought in for Lili's Riverdale role.
Arrow and The Flash share both their casting director and superstar producer Greg Berlanti with the Archieverse series, but The Flash is an inextricably important part of Chilling Adventures's history because it proved to The CW that comic book-based series could birth franchises. Without The Flash's success, we likely wouldn't have a massive Arrowverse, and there might not have been as much enthusiasm about expanding Riverdale into a multi-series universe with Chilling Adventures. Once The Flash became marketable, a whole world of spin-offs was opened to Greg and his fellow execs.
Obviously, The CW passed on Chilling Adventures and the project moved to Netflix, who had found early success with their supernatural original series Hemlock Grove. One of the streaming giant's first three original series, alongside House of Cards and Orange Is The New Black, Hemlock Grove earned Netflix one of its first Primetime Emmy Award nominations in 2013 despite lowkey terrible reviews. Hemlock Grove ran for three seasons before Netflix switched to more prestigious TV projects, although Venture Beat quoted Netflix's quarterly earnings statement at the time saying Hemlock Grove's supernatural horror was viewed by more members in its first weekend than House of Cards, especially drawing young adult audiences.
Although Netflix has eternally been popular with young adults, the controversial 13 Reasons Why was one of the distributor's first teen-specific shows. Produced by Selena Gomez, the witch formerly known as Alex Russo, 13 Reasons Why was based on a disturbingly dark young adult novel of the same name, revolving around a high school student who is mysteriously given a classmate's aural suicide note. 13 Reasons Why courted controversy for its graphic depiction of suicide and the creeping unease surrounding a story that was basically an idealized suicide revenge fantasy, but teenage viewers made the series a resounding hit.
It's about to get cyclical up in here. Chilling Adventures is based on the 2014 Archie Horror comic of the same name, which was itself based on Archie Comics' original Sabrina the Teenage Witch series from 1962. Less than a decade after Sabrina Spellman was first introduced in the comics, CBS created a 31-episode animated series called The Sabrina the Teenage Witch Show, which really has nothing to do with the beloved '90s sitcom other than sharing source material. The live-action Sabrina the Teenage Witch supernatural TV show we know and love was, however, developed from a 1996 made-for-TV movie of the same name starring Melissa Joan Hart that shared little else with the eventual TV series, which itself was compared heavily to Bewitched. It all comes full circle! Chilling Adventures doesn't share much with the Sabrina we grew up watching, but Sabrina the Teenage Witch popularized the character for our generation, and at least in part led to Chilling Adventures becoming the hit it is today.
This is the big one. Riverdale is a teen sensation in its own right, and Chilling Adventures would literally not exist without The CW series' dedicated fan base and critical acclaim. Showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa had dabbled in television before developing Riverdale, notably on teen supernova Glee and Arrowverse series Supergirl, but Riverdale was the first series RAS could fully sink his teeth into. RAS is Archie Comics' chief creative officer, and his singular vision for Riverdale has carried into its sister series despite their different networks in tone, aesthetic, and source material. We love Riverdale for Riverdale, but we also love it for bringing Chilling Adventures into our lives.