No One Can Forget About This '90s TV Sidekick

by S. Atkinson

Let's play a word-association game. I say a word, you give me the first thing that pops into your head, OK? Don't overthink this. So... *NSYNC? "Pop." Sanders? "Bernie." How about... favorite Sabrina The Teenage Witch sidekick? OK, I know, a little tougher. I mean, there's no way you said either of Sabrina's kind of vanilla, forgettable BFFs Jenny and Valerie, right? Nope, it's hard to imagine how either could have been the one '90s TV sidekick that stole the show. And Harvey, while adorable, was definitely more of a boyfriend than a sidekick. Zelda and Hilda are both strong contenders for the sidekick role, but still not really sidekicks more than role models for young Sabrina. No, the real sidekick of Sabrina the Teenage Witch actually wasn't a person at all. Know who I'm talking about? Clue: he's furry and has a penchant for evil.

Yes. Salem the cat was the main reason we all tuned in to Sabrina The Teenage Witch, right?! In their world of strangely upbeat characters, Salem was salty enough to everyone around him that he helped rescue the overall tonality of the show from Pollyanna territory and single-handedly managed edge it into Daria-ville. Besides, the guy had an unbeatable backstory: Evil wizard caught trying to take over the world, then sentenced to 100 years as a cat as a punishment.

And please tell me you didn't forget about his killer one-liners? Yes, Salem was basically the Oscar Wilde of the show. Proof:

It's a testimony to how good Salem is that Sabrina just doesn't even come close. And this is coming from someone who says things like "I'm not a Melissa Joan Hart fan, I'm the Melissa Joan Hart fan." Yes, Hart is so funny and so, so overlooked these days. But even she can't compete with a puppet of a cat! Nobody can! Because he's Salem Saberhagen, goddammit. As a superior sidekick to Harvey and Valerie and Jenny and the aunts, Salem is always stowing away and getting taken along on adventures (with Sabrina never seeming to learn to check her bag). Which sucks for Sabrina, because who can keep up with his rapid fire comic delivery?

Besides which, Salem's so much more intriguing than Sabrina, character-wise. Sure, Sabrina's a teenage girl and a witch all at the same time. But Salem's an adult male trapped in the body of a cat. There's endless weird scenes with Salem flirting with human women, and it's textbook car crash TV: can't look, can't look away. See, for example, the scene below, where he tries to seduce an ex-girlfriend by dressing up a mannequin in his old clothes:

Salem was sassy, smart and charismatic. He was cute as a button and had a great selection of accessories (again, check out the video above). In short, the one major mystery of the show was how Salem didn't end up fronting his own spin-off. TV execs, if you're out there — given that we're all feeling terribly nostalgic for the 90s, how about giving Salem a show of his own?

Images: CBS Television Distribution; Giphy