After finishing Arrested Development, I had trouble finding a new show to watch. Everything on my “to watch” list was too heavy. Then, like a sign, I saw a poster for Just Add Magic while I was in New York this past weekend. I remembered hearing the name for the show before and being intrigued. This was the perfect opportunity to give it a try. I hopped on my dad’s Amazon Prime account and hit play. And then promptly binge watched the entire two seasons.
Just Add Magic is adorable. I knew going in that it was a kids show and the premise immediately became clear: three friends find a magic cookbook and use it to cook magical recipes. Have a little brother who just can’t stop talking? Maybe you should give them a slice of Shut Them Up Shortcake. If you need help studying for a test, then Brain Boosting Bolognese might be perfect for you.
It would have been easy for the creators of the show to have turned this into a simple moral of the week type show. Instead we are treated to a surprisingly well thought out plot arc that develops over the course of the season. Kelly’s grandma is sick with a mysterious ailment. The three friends become determined to cure it and to solve several interwoven mysteries in their town that will help them understand the history of their magical cookbook. The girls realize that not everything can be solved with magic, and that it always comes with a price.
The three main characters of Just Add Magic – Kelly, Hannah, and Darbie – are well rounded characters who genuinely feel like preteens you might run into at a local middle school. As someone who teaches at a middle school, I loved this – these girls felt like they could be my students. Too often shows with preteen/ teen characters make them too mature. Young characters are pushed to act and dress in ways that are absurdly or detrimentally mimic adult life. I once stopped watching a show because in the pilot episode the lead character, a high school student, stops to get a drink at the local bar and makes out with a handsome stranger who turns out to be her future teacher. What? Who has a high school experience like that? And why would we encourage it?
However, in Just Add Magic the three characters are bright but never precocious girls who don’t fall prey to petty drama or deal with middle school cliches. Kelly, Hannah, and Darbie face real preteen problems like dealing with parents getting divorced, and babysitting attempts gone wrong. I especially want to give a shout out to the wardrobe department. The girls each have their own distinct style of dress, none of which ever strays into sexy or high fashion designer wear. These are outfits that real girls wear, or could easily mimic.
Finding a kids show where the parents are present and/ or not idiots is a hard task. In Just Add Magic, the parents of these girls are obviously involved in their lives and, act like competent adults. We get some great scenes of the girls talking out problems with their parents and working together with their families. Kelly and her brother bicker a few times, but it’s obvious they love each other. Kelly often realizes that her brother is annoying her because he wants to spend time with her and isn’t sure how to get her attention.
Then there are the drool worthy cooking scenes. Never before have I been so tempted to run to my kitchen and try whipping something together.
Just Add Magic is available free with Amazon Prime, and currently has two seasons.