The Worst Witch is a British ITV television series about a group of young witches at a Magic Academy and is based on The Worst Witch books by Jill Murphy. It aired for a total of 40 episodes spread over three series between 1998 and 2001, before being followed by Weirdsister College. The series was later followed by The New Worst Witch, which ran for two series and chronicled the experiences of Mildred's younger cousin Hettie as she attended the school.
The series stars Georgina Sherrington (As Mildred Hubble), Felicity Jones (as Ethel Hallow), Clare Coulter (as Miss Cackle), Kate Duchêne (as Miss Hardbroom) and Una Stubbs (as Miss Bat). Felicity Jones was replaced by Katy Allen after the first series, it was explained away as a magical makeover (a "witch-over"). The series was broadcast from 1998 to 2001 on ITV, and later on HBO.
The Worst Witch TV series is based on Jill Murphy´s Worst Witch books. The first season dramatised The Worst Witch and The Worst Witch Strikes Again , and the second series dramatised A Bad Spell For The Worst Witch and The Worst Witch All At Sea. Both of these two series also contained original stories. The third and final series continued with purely original material. Most episodes revolved around the school, following the adventures of Mildred and her friends.
The Worst Witch TV series was produced by Galafilm. The series was broadcast from 1998 to 2001 on ITV in the UK, YTV in Canada, HBO in the U.S, and the ABC in Australia. The Series also aired in Mexico, Germany, Finland, Poland, Norway, and likely in France.
While all the characters speak with a British accent in the original version, the series was dubbed into "American English" to help sell it when it was aired in the U.S. Each year the series was aired in Autumn and Winter, In Autumn 1999 the second season and in Autumn 2000 the third season was aired in UK and Canada- and later in other countries as well. Every summer, the witches would resume producing another 13 episodes of a new season.
The roughly $8-million, 13-part, half-hour series was a coproduction of London, England based HTV and Global Arts and Montreal's Galafilm. It is unique in that all the lead characters are female and the cast includes 15 regular characters. Special effects were required for broom flying, disappearing, zaps and flashes, and tornado simulation, but the production devoted most of its money to the elaborate sets, the writing and the large cast.
The series was mostly filmed at Twickenham Studios in London, which was used for inside the school (Great Hall, classrooms etc.). The Exteriors of Cackle's Academy used Castell Coch, located in Great Britain near Cardiff, Wales. The courtyard was filmed at Loseley Park near Guildford, and some episodes were filmed in Montreal, Quebec,Canada.
Writers on the series were Martin Riley (23 episodes.), Garry Lyons (12 episodes.), Clive Endersby (2 episodes.), Graham Mitchell (2 episodes.) and David Finley (1 episode.). Dan Maddicott, Arnie Gelbart and Michael Haggiag were executive producers.
The Show Producers were Angela Beeching (30 episodes.) and Michael Haggiag (10 episodes.) and it was directed by Andrew Morgan(16 episodes.), Stefan Pleszczynski (15 episodes.), Alex Kirby (5 episodes.) and John Smith (4 episodes.). The theme music composer was Paul K. Joyce.
Although the series targeted an eight- to 10-year-old female demographic, many older viewers watched, and today the series' fans range from young girls to adult women.
On Halloween (October 2000) CITV produced a Worst Witch Magazine due to popular demand.
Jill Murphy was pleased with the series: "I was thrilled to bits to have Mildred and Co. in their own TV series. I thought it was better in the early episodes, but I do think that it was basically a good series and people still remember it very fondly."
Differences from the books
The majority of the storylines in the episodes came straight from the Worst Witch books, although some brand-new episodes were made up purely for the television series. New characters were invented as well, such as Jadu and Ruby (friends of Mildred) and Merlin 'Loppylugs' Langstaff (an apprentice wizard who the girls spend some time with). Some characters, such as Drusilla (a good friend of Ethel's) were mentioned briefly in the books and developed into more major characters for the television series. The books were re-released around the time of the television series, with new covers featuring scenes from the television series.
There are some distinctive differences to the Books: Miss Bat and Miss Drill hardly appear in the books, as do Griselda and Fenella - in fact, Griselda appears once, but only as a very timid third year who is tricked into getting tied up by Mildred so she can take her place in the Halloween display (as opposite to the TV series, where Mildred ties up Drusilla) and Fenella doesn't appear at all, she is just mentioned as being the previous owner of Ebony, the cat who briefly replaces Tabby as Mildred's cat (this is Harriet Goodcharm in the TV series). Also the fourth Book, displaying Mildred´s visit to the recently freed wizard Rowan-Webb, is set not at a riverside retreat, but at the seaside and there is no dragon lord in the book.
New characters were also added, such as Frank Blossom (the school's caretaker), Miss Crotchet, the Chanting teacher in the third series who replaced Miss Bat and two students from ethnic minorities -Ruby Cherrytree and Jadu Wali. New recurring characters included Merlin, a wizard apprentice who befriended Mildred; Baz and Gaz, his two mean-spirited acquaintances; Charlie, Frank's nephew who really wanted to be a wizard; Mrs. Cosie, the nervous owner of the nearby tearoom; and Mistress Hecate Broomhead, the evil school inspector who later became a brief headmistress.
The acting in the television series is generally very good. Most of the girls playing the young witches were new to acting; this is noticeable in the first series. By the third series, however, they were all used to their characters and doing an extremely good job. The adult actors are also very good and well-suited to their characters. The actors in the television series have been made up to look almost exactly like the characters portrayed in the drawings by Jill Murphy. The costumes worn are also faithful to the book. Kate Duchene (Miss Hardbroom) even turned down a role in the Harry Potter film to remain true to her TV character.
- Miss Amelia Cackle - Clare Coulter
- Miss Constance Hardbroom - Kate Duchêne
- Miss Davina Bat - Una Stubbs
- Miss Lavinia Crotchet - Polly James
- Miss Imogen Drill - Claire Porter
- Mildred Hubble- Georgina Sherrington
- Maud Moonshine - Emma Brown
- Enid Nightshade - Jessica Fox
- Ruby Cherrytree - Joanna Dyce
- Jadu Wali - Harshna Brahmbatt
- Ethel Hallow - Felicity Jones (Season 1)/Katy Allen (Season 2 &3)
- Drusilla Paddock - Holly Rivers
- Fenella Feverfew - Julia Maleskwi (Season 1 & 2) /Emily Stride (Season 3)
- Griselda Blackwood - Poppy Gaye
- Sybil Hallow - Charlotte Knowles
- Clarice Crow - Georgia Isla Graham
- Harriet Goodcharm - Charlotte Powell
- Mr Frank Blossom - Berwick Kaler
- Mrs Maria Tapioca - Annette Badland
- Mrs Semolina - Flaminia Cinque
- Egbert Helibore - Terrence Hardiman (Seasons 1 & 3) /Richard Durden (Season 2)
- Algernon Rowan Webb - Paul Copley
- Charlie Blossom - Nicholas Pepper
- Merlin Langstaff - Guy Witcher
- Gary Grailquest - Anthony Hamblin
- Barry Dragonsbane - Paul Child
- Agatha Cackle - Clare Coulter
- Millicent Coldstone - Jackie Webb
- Betty Bindweed - Jenny Mc Cracken
- Serge Dubois - Patrick Labbè
- Bean Pole - Jay Baruchel
- Spooky - Todd Fennell
- Bounce - Anthony Etesonne-Bedard
- Tin Can - Anthony Salador
- Mr Hallow - Patrick Pearson
- Mrs Cosie - Sheena Larkin
- Percy Slyce - Harry Hill
- Sam Hope - Stephen Spreekmeester
- Mistress Hecketty Broomhead - Janet Henfrey
- The Dragon Lord - Vlasta Vrana
- Miss Pike - Susan Wooldridge
- Deborah - Candace Hallinan
- Dolores - Michelle Ryan
- Terry Root - Christopher Ettridge
- Amanda Honeydew - Tina Hall
- Tour Party Leader - Tetsuro Shigematsu
- Lucy Fairweather - Ursula Holden Gill
- Harriet Hogweed - Virginia Clay
- Miss Phyllis Pentangle - Charmian May
- Deirdre Swoop - Stephanie Lane
- Icy Stevens - Christopher Guard
- Miss Gabrielle Gribble - Rebecca Clarke
- Lynne Lamplighter - Mary Woodvine
- Mr Von Raffenburg - Jeremy Clyde
- Benjamin Greengage - David L. McCallum
- The Battle of the Broomsticks
- When We Feast at the Midnight Hour
- A Pig In a Poke
- A Mean Halloween
- Double, Double, Toil and Trouble
- Monkey Business
- Miss Cackle's Birthday Surprise
- The Great Outdoors
- The Heat is On
- Sorcery and Chips
- Let Them Eat Cake
- Sweet Talking Guys
- A Bolt from the Blue
- Old Hats and New Brooms
- Alarms and Diversions
- Its a Frogs Life
- Crumpets for Tea
- The Inspector Calls
- Animal Magic
- Carried Away
- The Dragon's Hoard
- The Genius of the Lamp
- Up in the Air
- Fair Is Foul & Fouls Are Fair
- Green Fingers and Thumbs
- The Millennium Bug
- Secret Society
- An Unforgettable Experience
- Which Witch Is Which?
- The Witchy Hour
- Learning the Hard Way
- The Hair Witch Project
- Just Like Clockwork
- Art Wars
- Power Drill
- Better Dead than Co-Ed
- The Lost Chord
- The Unfairground
- The Uninvited
- Cinderella in Boots (Christmas Special)
Cinderella in Boots was a Christmas Special, and is not in the normal numbering of episodes. it is variously listed as 3-14, 3-7a, or just 3-8, with Art Wars as 3-9 and so on.
Awards and nominations
In 1999, the series was nominated by the Royal Television Society for Best Children's Drama.
The Worst Witch has been sold to more than 60 countries and have scooped several international prizes, as well as Bafta, Prix Jeunesse and Royal Television Society award nominations.
VHS and DVD releases
In the United Kingdom season 1 was released on VHS on six video sets in 2000. "The Best of" was released on DVD in 2002 and included the episodes: "Battle of the Broomsticks", "A Pig in a Poke", "Old Hats and New Brooms", "It's a Frog's Life", "The Witchy Hour", "Unfairground", and "The Uninvited".
In the United States seasons 1 and 2 were released on DVD in 2004.
In Australia series 1-3 of The Worst Witch were released onto DVD as was Weirdsister College, and both seasons of The New Worst Witch were released in 2007. Seasons one and two of The Worst Witch were released onto one boxset, containing four discs which play on most DVD players (including the United Kingdom), and Season three and Weirdsister College (listed as series four) on another boxset. These were later released in the UK.
Series 1-3 were re-released as a 10 disc set in Australia in 2017, with special features including photo galleries and an interview with Georgina Sherrington.
- Enid Nightshade is added to the show's opening in episode 7, Miss Cackle's Birthday Surprise, her first regular appearance after her introduction in the previous episode. She does not appear in the opening in the first six episodes. The first episode has a different opening altogether, without Mildred and her friends.
- Although the series sees Mildred and her friends go through three years at Cackle's Academy, the show's opening shows them with purple sashes (year 1) for all three seasons.
- The school song, 'Onward Ever Striving Onward' is sung on multiple occasions by the characters (and actresses) themselves, though the version done for the credits was performed by the choir of the Wispers School for Girls.
- Only Kate Duchene's voice as Miss Hardbroom is the same in both the American dubbed version and the original non-dubbed version broadcast in the UK, Canada & Australia/NZ. Clare Coulter (Miss Cackle) does the voice for both versions, but she uses an American accent for the American dubbed version. (Or probably just her own Canadian accent being as she's lived in Canada most of her life. She was born in England but came to Canada at age 9). All the other voices in the American version are dubbed by Americans.
- The Worst Witch has been dubbed into a number of languages, including French , Spanish, Italian, German, Dutch and Czech. The series is known in France as 'Amandine Malabul', which is Mildred Hubble's name in French. The German version is known as 'Eine lausige Hexe' (The Lousy Witch), the Dutch Version is called 'De Hopeloze Heks' (The Hopeless Witch), the Italian title is 'Scuola di streghe' (School of Witches), and in Czech the series is called 'Čarodějnice školou povinné' (The witch school child).