The beauty of programming to a younger audience is things that were so ’60s, like supernatural soap operas (“Dark Shadows?” Feh) can become minty fresh all over again. So the CW’s modest hit “The Vampire Diaries” begets “The Secret Circle,” another Alloy Entertainment adaptation that’s essentially “One Tree Hill,” only with witchcraft (“One Broom Hill?”) to complicate the multigenerational suds. As usual, it’s a new kid who provides a wide-eyed introduction to the shenanigans, though nothing in the pilot conjures any genuine magic, TV-wise.
Said new kid is Cassie (Britt Robertson, off the recently canceled “Life Unexpected”), and it’s clear why the CW’s casting brain trust is high enough on the young actress to recycle her. Pretty yet vulnerable, Cassie comes to town to live with her grandma (“Heroes'” Ashley Crow) after the girl’s mom dies in a not-so-accidental fire.
But of course, little is at seems, and Cassie quickly learns she’s part of a mysterious legacy involving witches dating back to the 17th century. In this context, when someone asks, “Are the children practicing?” they’re not talking about band camp.
Not only is Cassie an heiress of sorts, but her arrival allows a small group of teens with the gift to heighten their cumulative power. Her presence also triggers interest from several adults, including the menacing Charles Meade (“Queer as Folk’s” Gale Harold).
“We can do anything we want,” one of the mean girls insists, and on cue, the skies darken and a downpour ensues, though fortunately, none of the witches start melting.
Adapted by Andrew Miller and directed by Liz Friedlander, “Secret Circle’s” pilot is slick enough to entice a second look, though it’s easy to lose enthusiasm for supernatural intrigue in small-town settings (see ABC’s short-lived version of “Witches of Eastwick”), which can prove a trifle confining.
On the plus side, the themes in this juvenile property might help scratch the itch left behind by the “Harry Potter” franchise (orphans apparently make good witches), and the show boasts a solid cast, including Thomas Dekker (“Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles”) as the sullen-eyed boy who helps Cassie ease into her transition.
“We’re different. You’re different,” he tells her.
Actually, stirring around in the cauldron of CW shows past and present — including those overseen by Kevin Williamson, he of “The Vampire Diaries” and “Dawson’s Creek” — “different” hardly applies. Even so, if the goal is to help this “Circle” stay unbroken, everyone involved would be well-advised to keep on practicing.