Review: “The Secret Circle” (Pilot Episode)

It’s been a while since “Charmed” went off the air, the long-running story of three witches (four, if you count losing one and having her replaced) and their weekly world-altering adventures that were fun but really never seemed dangerous (or particularly compelling). The CW Network has been carving a genre niche for itself for a while now with successful runs of “Smallville,” “Supernatural,” and more recently Kevin Williamson’s “The Vampire Diaries.” To be honest, these are very much supernatural soap operas, but the compelling factors are usually beautiful people trying to screw over one another with pretty cool special effects; the only x-factor is whether or not the plots and characters can keep us interested from week to week with the melodrama.

Let’s break down “The Secret Circle,” then, shall we? Scenes opening to current/future teen angst music? Check. Cute (pretty, beautiful) girl orphaned at the beginning of the show? Check. Relocation to relative’s (Gramdma’s) house? Check. Small town where everybody knows everybody else? Check. Manipulative bad girls and bad boys? Check. Not so clueless parents trying to control their children’s lives behind the scenes? Check. Legacy going back to 1692? House books belonging to potentially rival witch families? Supernatural stuff? Oh yeah. The show is based on the books by L.J. Smith, author of “The Vampire Diaries,” so what better bookend than to pair these two shows up?

Enjoy thunderstorms, wet sun dresses, spontaneous fires, and a clever excuse to have all the typical teen stereotypes lumped together in one room (they’re all witches, even if it’s the only thing they have in common). Whether or not the show survives the first season will depend on how the stories develop the characters and how the characters develop the stories. The pilot sets up plenty of unanswered questions and secret plots to keep it running for half a season before mixing it all up. The players seem up to the task, especially mean-girl Faye (Phoebe Tonkin) who looks like she’s going to be fun as the constant do-whatever-she-feels-like foil in the group (until she’s played out, reinvented as a good girl by the writing staff, then goes bad again just when everyone starts to trust her). We’ll keep our eyes out for this one.

Speak up, Mortal -- and beware of Spoilers!

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