The season is over, and "The Secret Circle" has not been renewed. This is sad and something of a surprise. It was the second highest rated show for The CW after its sister show, "The Vampire Diaries," but lost a third of that show's lead in audience as compared to a 20 percent loss by last year's pairing was evidently deemed a fatal fault.
Adapted from another L. J. Smith series of books, as is "The Vampire Diaries," the shows were never tied together. In early interviews with co-creator Kevin Williamson, there was no intention of ever crossing the two shows over -- the tone of the two shows being different and the rules governing their witches conflicting.
Immediately there were changes and departures from the source material. In particular the circle size was reduced from 12 to a more manageable television cast size of six, and the action was moved from historically linked "New Salem" to the more generically named "Chance Harbor." Cassie's mother was killed off instead of lingering in a debilitated state.
The first impression you are left with from the premiere episode is of the striking cast. Teenagers and parents alike are all very beautiful. Actually, I found them Stepford creepy in their airbrushed perfection. Even the grandparents -- no mobility troubles in the whole set -- escaped having less than a full head of hair even if some of them had gone white. Not a single "character actor" in the whole lot. This is not a fault, per se, just a sign of things to come. Of this group of young and attractive people, only lead character Cassie's actor, Britt Robertson, seemed to be hired for appearance at the expense of acting ability; although, she still had her moments.
The character interactions were quite good in general. They all made sense with the exception of Faye and her various men ... although Diana and Grant's love affair was insanely accelerated. Many of the encounters were non-perfunctory, full of color, texture, humor and warmth (where appropriate). Most secrets were not kept past a reasonable point as in many genre shows. As "Polite Dissent" blogger, Scott, is fond of saying, the soap opera was good, but there were technical issues.
The biggest problem for this viewer was in the world building. The magic system as described made very little sense. The illogical rules were inconsistent and infuriating. That kind of thing can still work. "Charmed" lasted eight seasons with a similar devil may care attitude towards their magic system. The difference is that their hodgepodge of mismatched rules didn't drive the plot to the extent as was the case with "The Secret Circle." There was not a continued emphasis on "the rules say, the rules say, the rules say" when the rules make no sense.
In addition to the show mythology rules not making much sense, real world rules were similarly flouted. Not that real world laws need to be rigorously applied in a fantasy show (or indeed in medical dramas or procedural), but when nothing makes sense the audience has no anchors. Faye and Adam have active on-screen parents. Nick and Jake's parents are dead, but they must have guardians who we never see and are never mentioned. Cassie loses her mother and then her grandmother. Her father is legally dead; so where's the court appointed guardian? Care arrangement with Charles? Something?
While denigrating the plot elements of the show, it has to be said that the overall first season arc and world back story does seem to have been planned out from the beginning, unlike other shows where story elements accumulate as they are written with no underlying road map.
John Blackwell/Balcoin's machinations spanned over 18 years and two generations. Taking over the world with seven dark witches from which he intends to generate some kind of master race is really wacky and prone to inbreeding issues, but mating with witches in three different circles, fathering dark children in each, manipulating the other witches to form circles to support his spawn until the time to bring them all together, artfully destroying the families to produce children of the right mind set, coordinating the timing of all these events ... it all knits together even if the why of it leaves you scratching your head.
That said, would the plot issues of someone closer to the grandparents' ages than that of the kids be the same as what was causing the target demographic to tune out? L. J. Smith has written at least two other distinct book series. Will they make television shows out of those?
About the Author