"Charmed" Copes with Single Motherhood

LOS ANGELES ( - Fans who were present for the fifth-season finale of The WB's "Charmed" know that the star-crossed marriage of good-witch Piper (Holly Marie Combs) and her mystical Whitelighter guardian, Leo (Brian Krause), has hit a snag that not even Dr. Phil could solve.

It was tough enough for these two to wed -- in the "Charmed" universe, witches and their Whitelighters aren't supposed to fraternize (although they do) -- and now Leo has been kicked upstairs to be a wise Elder.

His promotion and subsequent disappearance (not death, as some fans feared) have left Piper alone to raise the couple's son, Wyatt. Even though Leo will reappear in the show's sixth season, which launches Sept. 28th with a two-hour season premiere, it looks as if the marriage is essentially kaput.

"They're absolutely separated," says producer Brad Kern. "Once we find Leo, he's still an Elder, and that doesn't change. That'll create a split for them that will force Piper to learn to live life as a single mom, but it finally gives her some hope ultimately of having the normal life she's wanted ever since she became a witch.

"They will not be together, certainly for the first half of the season. But they share Wyatt, so that's going to keep forcing them together. What happens at the end of the season, I certainly have some thoughts on, but I can't share what they will or won't be."

What Kern can share is the effect little Wyatt will have on his mother's social life. While many TV shows play the drama of pregnancy and childbirth, then shuffle the baby off-screen, not so with Wyatt.

"He's going to display a lot of surprising magical powers," Kern says, "even at nine months old, that worry Piper and her sisters quite a bit and create even bigger challenges for Piper, who's got quite enough challenges just to be a single mom in the year 2003."

Apparently, Piper tests the dating waters. "She's on her own," Kern says, "and the kid is not exactly conducive or helpful to letting her date other guys. When Piper has a date, a lot of strange things are going to happen to that date, until Piper realizes that it's Wyatt that doesn't want her to be dating."

Although it's tough to split up Piper's marriage, Kern thinks it was a necessary development for the show. "Their characters had overcome so many things, and at some point in time, this last thing becomes one too many things to overcome.

"It'll be fun to play Piper single. We'll play her real, as a single mom, but we'll also have the fun for her that her sisters have been able to have fun with, which is dating and not just being the married person all the time."

As for her sisters, Phoebe (Alyssa Milano) continues her long-distance romance with her boss, publisher Jason Dean (Eric Dane), while Paige (Rose McGowan) pursues her dual interests in men and clothes.

"And we'll give her both this year," Kern says.