Tuesday, October 4, 2011

New Fall Television: The Secret Circle

I decided to watch The Secret Circle because a lot of the writing and production crew that’s involved with that show is also involved with The Vampire Diaries, a show that I absolutely love. The pilot episode of The Secret Circle did a lot of the things that I enjoy on The Vampire Diaries – it was fast paced, tightly plotted, and not at all afraid to embrace the unbelievable in order to be interesting.

The central character of the show is Cassie, a sixteen-year-old girl who moves to Chance Harbor, Washington to live with her grandmother due to the tragic death of her mother. Chance Harbor is already populated with a near-complete circle of high school witches (a term that is used in a gender-neutral fashion). Cassie completes the circle.

Or she would, if she were willing to practice. (The show gives the word an emphasis that makes me want to capitalize the first letter.) Witchcraft is a hereditary talent, and the circle is made up of one person from each of the six founding families of 1692. (Again, this echoes The Vampire Diaries’ fascination with history. Both series of books were written by L.J. Smith, which may explain some of the common themes.) Good girl Diana wants to bind the circle to help control their power, bad girl Faye wants to glory in the chaos that having power can cause. Overshadowing all of this is the circle the kids’ parents practiced in, sixteen years ago, when something went terribly wrong, and some of their parents wound up dead.

I really liked the pilot – enough that I’ve watched the second episode, and have the third waiting. But I do have some problems. Some are simply inherent in starting a show with a large ensemble cast – because the circle of teenagers isn’t the only circle of witches in Chance Harbor. With that many characters, some are still ciphers at the beginning. I have faith this will change as the show goes on. My other issue, though, is that right now the show is really pushing on the symbolic connection between magic and sex. I understand why – sex is the one really big and powerful thing that teens experiment with, and that their parents don’t want them practicing – but the connection feels a little on the nose right now.

Still, in many places the show makes the interesting choice, instead of the obvious one. It also is written to be fairly complex, in terms of story lines, with multiple plots in various states of development. I enjoy television that trusts that its audience can keep up. Do I think that The Secret Circle is going to go on my list of all-time favorite shows? Probably not. But I will keep watching.