On Sept. 15, The CW premieres its latest supernatural drama, "The Secret Circle." The network placed it strategically after "The Vampire Diaries" on Thursday nights, hoping vamp fans will stick around to see how the witches do things. While there are a few promising parallels between the two series, it's not a solid bet that "The Secret Circle" can hold on to that lead-in audience.
Britt Robertson ("Life Unexpected," "Swingtown") stars as teenager Cassie, who goes to live with her grandmother after the mysterious death of her mother in a fire. Back in her mom's old home town, Britt discovers she's descended from a long line of witches, and both her classmates and their parents seem out to get their hands on Cassie's not-yet-realized powers. There is murder, suspense and, like any good CW show, hot characters and romance.
If it looks like the witches are following some of the same rules as Bonnie (Katerina Graham) of "The Vampire Diaries," it's not just a coincidence. The tales of orphaned Elena (Nina Dobrev) and orphaned Cassie were originally created by the same writer, L.J. Smith . So far there are no vamps or werewolves in Cassie's world, though we suspect a crossover between the two series is not out of the question.
The Sexy Bad Boy
One of the main reasons "The Vampire Diaries" built up such a diehard fanbase was its resident sexy bad boy Damon (Ian Somerhalder). "The Secret Circle" gives us Gale Harold of "Desperate Housewives" and "Queer as Folk" fame. Like Somerhalder, Harold is a master at making a loathsome character sexy and even sympathetic. The problem here is that Harold's Charles Meade has some truly evil baggage that may set him up as the Ultimate Bad Guy with no redeeming qualities. That's not nearly as much fun as a brooding vampire with a deep need for love and redemption.
The Cuteness Factor
"The Secret Circle" offers plenty of eye candy for both male and female viewers; the couple that look to be the story's protagonists are pretty watchable. Robertson has the perfect blonde-next-door cuteness and sweet charm, and Thomas Dekker's Adam has those ridiculously pretty eyes and the swoon-worthy "good guy" vibe. It's also a pretty good guess that some hottie with darker motives will be out to tempt Cassie as well.
The "Gossip Girl" Factor
The previews for "The Secret Circle" show the "It Witch Girl" Cassie arriving in town amongst whispers and rumors -- everyone seems to know her. This instantly conjures up deja vu for the return of wayward Serena (Blake Lively) in Season 1 of "Gossip Girl." In fact, Deadline.com dubbed the new show "'Harry Potter' Meets 'Gossip Girl.'" While "The Vampire Diaries" has its catty schoolgirl moments, the new witch series seems to ramp all of that up, with lots of googly-eyed romance and who's-the-most-awesome-sorceress-at-school vibe.
The Good News
"The Vampire Diaries" has always been compelling with its exploration of the gray areas between good and evil. In a recent Comic-Con interview, actor Thomas Dekker (Adam) indicated that "The Secret Circle" will tackle those areas as well: "What I think is most exciting about the series is that all of us go through big changes due to a lack of control over our powers. Characters you might think are villainous in the beginning and heroic might be slowly switched over time."
Will "The Secret Circle" Succeed?
One of the many pleasant surprises of "The Vampire Diaries" is that it has evolved and become a better show -- even the acting has improved. So even if "The Secret Circle" is looking a little bit rough around the edges at first, there's a chance it will come into its own later on. The CW is the perfect place to get your guilty pleasure fix, but part of the vampire series' draw is its brilliant use of plot twists and cliffhangers. No matter how jaded or suspicious we viewers get, they still manage to blindside us regularly with gasp-worthy moments.
Watching previews of the show, and checking in with Comic-Con reports on the pilot, "The Secret Circle" is coming off somewhat bland, banal, and possibly boring. Guilty pleasure shows can survive so-so acting and ridiculous plot holes, but no one's going to tune in for characters they don't care about. If the new show has its share of maddening mysteries, shocking twists and emotional punches, "The Vampire Diaries" fans should stick around to see what happens next. If it's all fairy lights and cat fights, the viewers will be looking elsewhere for their supernatural drama fix.
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