This fall's slate of new CW shows has the network trying to venture outside of its stereotypically youthful programming, with less than successful results. Its best pilot, The Secret Circle borrows much of its creative team from its lead-in (and one of the network's most popular shows), The Vampire Diaries and, together, these dramas prove that teen supernatural fare is still what this little network is best at.
After young Cassie (Life Unexpected's Britt Robertson) loses her mother in a freak accident, she heads back to her parents' hometown of Chance Harbor, Washington to live with her grandmother (Ashley Crow). The small seaside town is a little eerie in its friendliness and lack of boundaries. On her first night, Cassie spies the neighbor boy (Louis Hunter) peering through her bedroom window. On the first day of school she's greeted by the principal (Natasha Henstridge), who claims to have been very close to her mom and she's instantly stalked by a pair of girls, Faye and Melissa (Phoebe Tonkin and Jessica Parker Kennedy), who have an obvious bad girl air about them. Before long it's clear that things are more than just a little weird and this is confirmed when five of her classmates tell Cassie that they're witches and not only is she one, too, but so were both of her parents.
There's a familiar feel to The Secret Circle, as if it's something that would have aired on the WB ten years ago. It's not overly ambitious but, in a way, that's what's nice about it. While the CW tries to expand it's brand with the trying-so-hard-to-be-mature Ringer, The Secret Circle knows its audience and plays straight to it, slowly unraveling a mythology that should offer plenty of stories down the road. The cast is full of fresh faces, but Robertson and Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles's Thomas Dekker lead the cast well. The presence of a name like Henstridge indicates that we can expect some involvement from the adult characters, as well, something like a lot of teen shows avoid. While the show has hiccups: Faye's bad girl act comes on a bit strong and the magical incantations are incredibly cheesy, The Secret Circle succeeds at being an hour of good fun.
The Secret Circle premieres Thursday 8pm on CW.