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Posted by and | August 18, 2011, 12:16 (MST) | 34 Comments
Category: The Vampire Diaries TV

In case you haven’t heard (but you have, right?), The Vampire Diaries will have a new 9 p.m. partner this fall on the CW: The Secret Circle, based on L.J. Smith’s trilogy of the same name, adapted for the screen by Kevin Williamson (executive producer, The Vampire Diaries) and Andrew Miller (creator, Imaginary Bitches web series). Yep, an Alloy Entertainment/L.J. Smith/Kevin Williamson block on Thursday nights, which has us long-time fans of both series pinching ourselves and wondering what year it is. (The Secret Circle was originally published in 1992.)

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The series stars Britt Robertson as Cassie (center) and (left to right) Thomas Dekker as Adam, Jessica Parker Kennedy as new (i.e.: non-book) character Melissa, Louis Hunter as Nick, Shelley Hennig as Diana, and Phoebe Tonkin as Faye.

The short version: We really, really liked The Secret Circle pilot.

NOTE: Yes, there are major changes from the books, but we think most fans are braced for that and we won’t dwell on the details here. (Tierney Bricker has an excellent breakdown if you’re curious about books vs. pilot. Please be aware that there have been changes to the pilot since the posting of the article.)

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1. The pilot is GOOD.

Crissy: Most shows end up being better than their pilot episode — or at least that’s the hope. The pilot is the rough draft for the more nuanced and compelling season. With The Secret Circle, my hope is that the season maintains the degree of awesomeness in its pilot, living up to the promise of a double-whammy of kickass TV on the CW’s Thursday nights. While it does all the work it has to — we meet the characters, their world and conflicts, and it establishes the atmosphere, tone, and general direction plot-wise — the pilot still manages to be an awesome episode of TV, something that feels whole and manages to be scary as heck, romantic (more on that in a second), and sad. (Yes, so, maybe I teared up.) It doesn’t feel rushed but a lot goes down, and immediately the stakes are set high. There’s murder, dangerous games with powers not yet understood or controlled, secrets between generations, and enough of a hint of the town’s dark history to whet our appetites. Here’s hoping that once you’re in, there’s no way out.

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2. Cassie and Adam have serious sparks.

Crissy: In the first Secret Circle book, The Initiation, Cassie and Adam meet and there are sparks. Translating that magnetism, which neither Cassie or Adam can explain, to our TV screens means Britt Robertson and Thomas Dekker need to have mad chemistry. And they do — they look at each other, you ship them. But what’s a CW show without a love triangle? Cassie and Adam can’t be together (at least not yet, I say hopefully…) and the tension between them only grows, particularly for Cassie whose confusion about their feelings is tied to her discovery of the witchiness of Chance Harbor. Troublemaker Faye suggestively says that they made magic together in the forest. And after watching that particularly romantic bit of witchcraft, I’m betting your response will be the same as ours: heck yes they did. More please!

Vee: I am not a person who gravitates to romance in my television, but the tension between Cassie and Adam is so palpable, you can’t help but actively and passionately root for them. And now I’m looking forward to loving Adam’s girlfriend Diana as much as I love Cassie and Adam, so the situation is even more worthy of winces and heart-clutches.

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3. Intriguing and memorable characters? Check. Strong, complicated relationships? Check.

Crissy: Thanks to an excellently written pilot and a well-cast show, there are no duds on The Secret Circle. Fans of Elena Gilbert, prepare to embrace Cassie Blake. Britt Robertson’s Cassie feels true to the book character (she’s not Lux 2.0) and, in the same way that Nina Dobrev always makes crazy supernatural situations feel real, Britt plays Cassie’s discovery of her true powers, her family history, and the new-girl-in-a-strange-town-thing compellingly. In addition to Thomas Dekker’s Adam, other standouts include: Gale Harold as the awesomely scary Charles Meade; Phoebe Tonkin as Faye, who’s just this side of over-the-top in a Damon kind of way; and Adam Harrington as Ethan Conant (Adam’s dad) — he’s the Alaric of Chance Harbor, you guys (i.e., usually a few sheets to the wind). But what use are interesting characters without some twisted relationships between them? In The Secret Circle, you get the usual romance and friendship stuff as well as tensions within the newly complete circle, between the generations, within the older generation, and (likely) between the witchy townsfolk and the muggles.

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4. Double, double, toil and…oh, crap, Gale Harold just blew up a house.

Vee: The Vampire Diaries pilot presented a rather generalized vampire-meets-girl premise (and slowly expanded the first major plot arc over the first half of Season 1), whereas The Secret Circle comes storming out of the gate in regards to plot and intrigue. It may just give Vampire Diaries a run for its money in the “breakneck pace” department, if its introductory 40-plus minutes are to be believed.

Kate: And one of the main things steering that intense plot is the complicated interwoven dynamics within and among the families of the Circle. Family drama is so much more exciting when the angsty teenagers can literally control the weather. Generations of potentially-deadly family secrets? Sign me up! (Related: there are an astonishing number of parents and grandparents around. And they’re at least semi-involved in their kids’ lives! Is this really the CW? Honestly, it’s rather refreshing.)

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5. It has style in spades.

Vee: The show looks and feels witchy. That may sound silly to you right now but once the action lands in the Washington town of Chance Harbor, it’s easy to fall under the spell of old coastal houses, dewy forests, and silver skies. Where Vampire Diaries trades in amber light and deep shadows, The Secret Circle pilot practically shimmers. Liz Friedlander (who directed Vampire Diaries episodes Unpleasantville, Blood Brothers, and Rose) and Director of Photography Ramsey Nickell (who also did the Vampire Diaries pilot) do a remarkable job of capturing the lush, saturated beauty of the Pacific Northwest. (The show films in Vancouver, for the record.) And, just like The Vampire Diaries, there’s a cool overlap of vintage and modern, lending just enough of an otherworldly feel; Chance Harbor already feels like a fully realized town and I look forward to learning more about its secret pockets.

Kate: One of the things that makes the town feel real is the obligatory “place everyone goes to hang out.” Sure, these places sometimes give the impression that there’s literally only one restaurant in town, but I love them anyway. They’re a good way of both giving the audience a point of reference that feels like home and of providing a shortcut into the characters’ daily lives. This seaside restaurant/bar gets bonus points from me for reminding me of Duke’s place on Haven and even the Ice House on Dawson’s Creek.

Vee: And if you’re a fan of TVD Music Supervisor Chris Mollere, you’re going to love Liza Richardson‘s choices for Secret Circle. (She’s the former music supervisor for Friday Night Lights, which had some of the best music on TV, period.)

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6. Get ready for a different brand of witchcraft.

Vee: The awesome set of posters (seriously, we’re so freakin’ jealous) and the penultimate scene of the pilot – Cassie and Adam in the woods, which is the centerpiece of the video promos – perfectly captures what I so desperately want from The Secret Circle: a representation of witchcraft that is based in Nature and the elements, not demons, angels, or other supernatural phenomena. The Vampire Diaries version of witchcraft is very old school-inspired and often very dark, so highlighting beauty and wonder (even if it’s amidst a whole lot of darkness) would be a welcome breath of fresh air/earth/fire/water and a nice contrast to TVD’s brand of witchy juju. The witchcraft(-lite) of The Secret Circle book series is tactile, with beach and bedroom ceremonies and characters often refer to stones, plants and herbs, oils, and salt water. This inherent connection to Nature permeates their lives, right down to preparing for a high school dance. It’s also very sexy at times. And as seriously as they take their powers, they have fun with them too – something poor Bonnie Bennett hasn’t had much time/cause for, given all Those Vampire Problems. Secret Circle executive producer Andrew Miller and actor Thomas Dekker have been referencing 1996 movie The Craft a lot in press, which is one of my personal guilty pleasure movies. While I hope they take inspiration from the film’s eclectic hodgepodge of traditions to create their own unique take of on-screen witchcraft, I also hope they’ll succeed where The Craft ultimately failed: Staying true to the characters and not sacrificing them at the altar of flashy, histrionic spellwork. (Not that we don’t want flashy spellwork!) Oh, and fingers crossed we’ll never hear the word “warlock.” Men can be witches, too! (Oh, can they.)

The Secret Circle premieres Thursday, September 15th at 9 p.m., immediately following the Season 3 premiere of The Vampire Diaries. Worried you won’t be as into witches as you are vampires? Give it a chance. We think you’ll be surprised at how bad ass and compelling witches can be – and an entire coven of them? Get ready for your new Thursday night appointment viewing.

Visit the official Secret Circle page at cwtv.com and check out fansite TheSecretCircle.net.

The Secret Circle – Preview:

Follow the cast and showrunners on Twitter:
@RealBritt_Rob (Britt Robertson)
@TheThomasDekker (Thomas Dekker)
@shelleyhennig (Shelley Hennig)
@PhoebeJTonkin1 (Phoebe Tonkin)
@LouisHunter1 (Louis Hunter)
@MillerLoLife (Andrew Miller)
@kevwilliamson (Kevin Williamson)
Find more cast and crew on @secret_circle’s Twitter list.



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  • Lauren

    You don’t have to tell me twice! I’m definitely giving this one a shot. 

  • Laurie

    Fantastic post. I’m so excited about Thursday nights on the CW. Here’s to more smart young adult shows that can be watched — and enjoyed — by everyone.

  • Anonymous

    I guess I’ll give it a shot and if I don’t like it after 3 or so episodes (you can’t judge a show after the first episode) then it’s not my thing.

  • http://twitter.com/JamieCxx Jamie Coudeville

    love the post, i’m deffinitly gonna watch it

  • http://twitter.com/Angelized_1st Tiff Biff

    Great article Crissy, Kate, & Vee! I’m so excited for this series, because I loved the books. Way more than the TVD books, in fact. Plus, I’m a huge Thomas Dekker fan, so I’m so excited to see him back on tv every week. Having seen the pilot, I really think this will be an awesome show. 

  • Abigail

    This show is soooo getting canceled.  Then it’s going to drive down Kevin Williams’s premium, which in turn will dilute TVD’s appeal but in a very mild and insignificant way.  Why can’t the TVD execs just focus on their show that’s really well-done and doing really well?  Why do they have to get greedy and put another high school supernatural show out there?  Market is too saturated right now.  TVD has already done something very special: it blends modern storytelling and historical narrative, human and vampire, mortal and immortal, small town and epic themes so well.  It’s unlikely another show can do this right now. 

  • evangeline

    Of course I will watch it! But the boys in this show are not my type! They look too young! bummer^^ But I already love Faye! Love bitchy characters^^

  • http://twitter.com/momina95 Momina Amjad

    I don’t know about you- but I’d love to watch as much Fantasy genre as I possibly can. I watch other crime shows and legal and medical dramas and comedy- and I like them- but I can’t obsess over anything quite as much as the supernatural stuff. Maybe it’s my childhood love of listening to stories or the fact that these shows are so out of this world. As Adam Young from OwlCity puts it “Realtiy is a lovely place but I wouldn’t want to live there” 

    As much as KW part is concerned, I think that man is talented enough to work 2 great shows side by side. You can’t just judge the thing. I think everybody who loves TVD sure as hell should give TSC a chance. It looks fantastic IMO. 

  • http://twitter.com/momina95 Momina Amjad

    Same here. I had a feeling I’d like Faye more than Adam. 

  • Aimee

    I LOVED the Secret Circle books (think we can milk a Night World based show next????)! So I am exceedingly more optimistic about this pilot than I was when the Vampire Diaries came around. As a huge LJ Smith fan it was scary to sit through the first few episodes of the Vampire Diaries but boy was it worth it so I can only expect the same! Who cares if it’s different! As long as it’s good and they at least have the names I’m happy!! :D Completely excited for a full night of LJ Smith!!! :D

  • Annie

    I guess I’ll go for it. But really, the TVD Family has too big a place in my heart – it does’t leave room for much else. And the cast here doesn’t come across quite as likeable…but I won’t judge yet. 

  • Savannah Starr

    Very excited about this! :) <3

  • Ariel

    I’m goin 2 give it a shot, but it will never top tvd

  • http://twitter.com/Habiba_86 Habiba

    have you guys seen the pilot?

  • :-)

    I can’t help but compare the guy who plays Nick to Jackson Rathbone…!

  • Charlotte

    I’ll give it a go not 100% convinced i’ll love it because I couldn’t stand britt robertson in LUX but you guys make a good argument for it !
    The Promo Posters are epic though…why can’t TVD have promo art like that which actually reflects the badass-ness of the show? I love the gorgeous shots of the trio but they never really reflect what the show’s about..

  • Erin

    The main problem I have with this whole Secret Circle thing is not so much the show itself (I haven’t seen it! I’ll admit that), but it’s the fact that they’re trying to tie it with TVD.  I don’t want the two associated with each other.  I don’t want them compared.  The similarities will already draw inevitable comparisons:  they’re shown on the same night, same Kevin Williams, witches and folklore in small town America.  The tying of the two “brands” really bothers me.  A show in it’s first season is going to be heavily judged and it’s vulnerable.  Even good shows can get canceled early.  Saying something to the tune of “If you love TVD, then you should give this show a try” is using the goodwill TVD has established with audiences.  That’s a lot of pressure.  I’m afraid that if Secret Circle isn’t successful, then it will somehow diminish the goodwill TVD has earned.  I just want the two shows to stand alone.  If the Secret Circle is really good, then own it and stand alone.  Don’t involve TVD.

  • Shadiyaray

    I will give it a try, but the guys are not TVD fine. I know that I’m vain, but I like eye candy. To be honest, what started me into watching the vampire diaries was Paul Wesley. I didn’t know about Ian Somerhalder, Michael Trevino, Matt, Mason, Jeremy, Alaric, etc. (can’t think of their real names right now, sorry!)

  • Sophy

    I think it’s MUCH more refreshing after TVD.. 

  • Zainab Shabbir

    I will give it a shot but I will always luvvvvv tvd and no show can ever be better…go team damon…go team stefan..tvd is the best show EVER

  • Anonymous

    Kevin Williamson is like Joss Whedon to me, if he has anything to do with it, I am there.  Thursday night is set for me on CW, in fact I have 6 series that will be on my DVR on CW.

  • Anonymous

    Oh yeah, it will be good to get “John Connor” back on my TV, have missed him.

  • Anonymous

    I can only think of 3 series that hooked me with the first ep and TVD was NOT one of them.  Loved Supernatural, Roswell and Veronica Mars from ep one.

  • http://twitter.com/momina95 Momina Amjad

    Exactly! TVD pilot was not even half as good as the the show. It was actually very twilight-ish (and that means BAD) and to be honest, the reason I watched the first few episodes were because of Damon Salvatore. Thankfully the story lines got more interesting with emphasis on Katherine and all and I think that Fool Me Once was the episode when I decided I’m hooked and i’m not gonna miss one more episode of the show. S1 last few episodes and the whole of S2 has been an amazing journey and needless to say. TVD is now my favorite. 
    Most pilots are not good compared to the rest of the show. The only one that got me hooked from the first ep that I remember right now is Game of Thrones with the cliffhanger in series premiere and the “Things I do for love”. If Secret Sircle has a good pilot, chances are it’s gonna be a pretty darn good show. 

  • http://twitter.com/tessgiftoxo Tessa Giftopoulos

    I must say, that promo kind of scared me! It was perfect! Definitely reminded me of the earlier episodes of TVD which were more suspenseful and frightening then S2 eps. I miss it. I hope the secret circle will follow that tone throughout the season.

  • night magic

    cant wait!

  • Nat

    brilliant post :)

  • http://twitter.com/DamonElenaFTW Brianna Lewis

    Oooh, I may just watch this. I hope Cassie really does live up to Elena’s realism in TVD. :D





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