Witchy teen drama makes a solid companion with 'The Vampire Diaries'
Robert Browning, who observed "Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, or what's a heaven for?" would not have lasted very long running a broadcast television network.
Sure, it's easy to point to the huge risks that pay off hugely and change the fate of TV networks. A singing competition in which a British guy nobody has heard of insults the talentless? Airing in the summer? Crazy. A drama about plane crash survivors on an island with weird things in the woods? In the same season as you're airing a comedic soap opera narrated by a dead woman? Crazy.
But in most seasons and on most networks, "dice-rolling" usually takes a backseat to "managed risk." And this is even the case in circumstances where you'd think wild gambling might be the order of the day.
The CW did a little gambling with "Ringer" and the results weren't overwhelmingly successful, unless you think that an audience of 2.7 million viewers against zero scripted competition is likely going to hold up in Week 2, especially given reviews that I'll generously call "mixed."
And I guess The CW is even gambling a tiny bit on "Hart of Dixie," banking on another Old WB-style dramedy after similar offerings like "Privileged" and "Life Unexpected" had only brief runs.
But nobody anywhere is going to classify the Thursday drama "The Secret Circle" as a gamble.
Thursday 9 p.m. is one of TV's most crowded time slots, but on The CW, it's also the time slot after the network's biggest hit, "The Vampire Diaries." After giving "The Vampire Diaries" variably compatible lead-outs in "Supernatural" and then "Nikita" the past two seasons, The CW's approach this fall has been to put fish in a barrel and load up a rifle.
"The Secret Circle" comes from "Vampire Diaries" author LJ Smith and it has been adapted by "Vampire Diaries" producer Kevin Williamson. And although the star-making promotional legwork didn't necessarily pay off for Britt Robertson on "Life Unexpected," The CW is hoping that it at least laid the groundwork for a full-scale breakout with "Secret Circle."
There are many ways to design a show and "The Secret Circle" feels like it was developed with compatibility as a higher priority than creativity. But there are worse things than being compatible with what is The CW's most popular and also best series. "The Secret Circle" may be over-calculated and under-inspired, but that doesn't necessarily mean "The Secret Circle" is bad. There's something to be said for setting reasonable goals and largely succeeding, especially when there are plenty of shows that aspire to a good deal less and still fail.
More on "The Secret Circle" after the break...