The Pitch: You’ll spend a lot of time thinking about chairs, while watching Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts. Not just who’s sitting in them, and where, and with who, but the chairs themselves: plush vintage armchairs, high-backed wooden thrones, and the wide spectrum of options in between.
The anniversary special dropping on New Year’s Day is a loving look back at the global phenomenon, as told by the stars and directors involved with the journey along the way. It also, despite best efforts made to add some visual flair in the form of wandering about archived film sets, is about 80 percent just footage of people sitting and talking.
While tracking the chairs people are sitting in is oftentimes necessary to understand the context of the soundbite you’re hearing, overall the stories being told from these seated positions are certainly of great interest to any serious fan of the Harry Potter films. For those outside of that very specific audience, a perfectly natural reaction to seeing the feature-length runtime would be to watch literally anything else.
Where’s a Marauder’s Map When You Need One? There’s some seemingly necessary but unremarkable scene-setting when it comes to things like the initial casting for the first film. (Spoiler alert: Apparently the role of Harry Potter was difficult to cast!) Overall, many of these stories will be familiar for anyone who’s followed the making of these films over the years — though it is cute to hear about Alfonso Cuaron’s homework assignment directly from the director and actors themselves.
But understanding the geography, so to speak, of this special is tricky. While there’s a clean and clear timeline established early in, with the special moving chronologically through the making of all eight films, each segment is constructed out of a mix of new direct-to-camera solo interviews as well as filmed conversations between cast members, conducted mostly on sets from the original films.