Salem Saberhagen is a character from the American comic Sabrina, The Teenage Witch, who also appeared in all other adaptations of the original, including the 1969 animated version by Filmation in which Salem is a cat of indeterminate breed, and has no other name except "Salem". In addition, unlike the sitcom version, this Salem is only a cat, and could only meow. The rest of this article will deal with the version of the character as seen in the TV sitcom.
He has a barbed wit and is often the first character to come up with the one-liners or obvious puns in a scene. In addition to world domination, his ambitious plotting often includes attempts to make millions, become a famous celebrity, regain his magical powers, and become human again. He sometimes dispenses (bad) advice to Sabrina, often involving using magic to solve a problem, which usually ends up leaving Sabrina with even more problems then she began with. He is motivated mostly by his greed, hunger, and ambition. Salem is very proud of his singing voice, which he has shown off during the series. Some of his favorite pastimes are playing with yarn, lint spotting, surfing the internet, and reading Sabrina's diary. He has a liking for Lizard Flakes, a snack for cats which is said to be fattening and full of cholesterol. In the show's pilot, he made the remark to Sabrina that he misses being able to dance. And he loves the Sports Channel on TV. However, despite his mischief, greed, and egocentricity, he is shown in many episodes to really care about, and even love, the Spellmans, especially Sabrina, and also is very fond of Harvey.
Salem was a warlock, sentenced to spend 100 years as an American Shorthair cat with no magical powers (although in the comic [depending on the story], he retains limited powers) by the Witch's Council, as punishment for his attempt to take over the world. However, in the film, he was cursed to spend a century as a cat because he had kissed a mortal (due to the fact he had used his powers to impress them). At the beginning of the television series, he had already served 25 years. Salem generally serves as some of the show's comic relief, with his rapid fire jokes and deadpan manner.
The leaders of his attempted revolution were also turned into house pets. Newt, the pet of Hilda and Zelda's cousin Monty, was heavily involved with the scheme, for the promised reward of Denmark. Another follower, Duke (played by Dick Van Dyke), had a reduced sentence and was set free during the series, though Salem tried to use him to take over the world again. Hilda was also one of Salem's followers; her punishment was to keep Salem free of worms during his period as a feline although she was pardoned at the end of season five. During season one, Salem was visited by his parole officer, to whom he insisted that his reformation is under way, but he accidentally lets it slip that he still yearns for control of the planet.
Members of Salem's blood family include his daughter, Annabelle, whom Salem loves dearly but doesn't interact with much due to his shame about being a cat. Salem managed to make it to her wedding and performed all the duties of father of the bride that he could in his furry state. His mother visited Salem and pampered him to the point Sabrina missed her own mother and went to visit her. It is revealed later in the episode that Salem's mother, ironically, is allergic to cats. Another member is Salem's grandfather, who is a hobo riding the rails of an Other Realm train. According to Salem, Salem's grandmother claims he (Salem's grandfather) was lost at sea. He also mentioned having an uncle Goliath and Morty. In one episode of Sabrina, The Teenage Witch, Salem mentions that his father's name was Gummo, implying that he died.
Mrs. Saberhagen, Salem's mother. She was strict but well-meaning and didn't know that Salem was a cat until she came to visit him. She pampered him and he loved it. But she found out that she was allergic to cats and had to leave early.
Uncle Morty is Salem's uncle. He is rude and has no manners.
Gummo is Salem's father. Mentioned.
Annabelle is Salem's daughter.
Uncle Goliath, Salem's uncle. Mentioned.
Grandpa, Salem's grandfather.
Cheryl, Salem's cousin. Mentioned
Grandma, Salem's grandmother
Aside from the original comic, he appeared in the live-action film, along with the TV series it spawned, as well as Sabrina, the Animated Series, the movie Sabrina: Friends Forever, and its spin-off show Sabrina's Secret Life. However, prior to any of these adaptations, Salem appeared in Filmation's 1969 animated version. The sitcom version also made a guest appearance on the shows Boy Meets World, You Wish, and Teen Angel during the fall of 1997.
The sitcom's creators were very sensitive to the treatment of animals, so Salem was often played by an animatronic puppet rather than one of the 4 actual cats who are used for the non-dialogue scenes. This part was performed by three puppeteers and two different animatronic puppets. The mechanical Salems were originally made by Animal Makers, but they were fired in early 1988 and their puppets were replaced with ones made by Chiodo Brothers. The new mechanical Salem(s) were controlled by 3 puppeteers, who could manipulate Salem's body in more than 30 ways via rod, cables, and radio control.
- In the few instances where his human form is shown in flashbacks, he is portrayed with his face in shadows, but with a body type and militaristic uniform similar to Fidel Castro.
- The name Salem is reference to the Salem witch trials of 1692.
- In the sitcom and DIC versions, Salem was voiced by actor Nick Bakay. In one episode of the sitcom Salem says, "I need to call in to Nick Bakay's sports show on ESPN radio, all he ever talks about is the Buffalo Bills! And his voice? Lord, is it annoying!"
- In one of the books, when Salem was using raisins as counters for Sabrina, he refused to help her, saying he lost his ability to "raisin".
- On at least one occasion, Salem has been depicted as wearing a Santa hat and being in possession of a giant plate of donuts.