'The Secret Circle': This time, witches

This image from The Secret Circle Facebook page

This image from The Secret Circle Facebook page shows Thomas Dekker, left, as Adam and Britt Robertson as Cassie in the show. (Credit: Facebook)

THE SHOW "The Secret Circle"

WHEN | WHERE Thursday night at 9 on CW/11

REASON TO WATCH Another gothic teen soap.

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Cassie Blake (Britt Robertson, "Life Unexpected") is forced to move in with her granny in Chance Harbor, Wash., after her mom is killed in what appears to be a mysterious accident. Chance Harbor is quaint, natch, but there is something odd about some of the kids at school: They are witches.

Some are mean, like Faye (Phoebe Tonkin), and some are cute, like Adam (Thomas Dekker, "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles"), and some are nice, like Diana (former Miss Teen USA Shelley Hennig). But they all have one goal -- to enlist Cassie, also a witch, into their "secret circle" to exponentially boost their magical powers. There's an evildoer in town, too -- Charles (Gale Harold).

MY SAY Well, well, where have we seen this setup before? Look no further than the lead-in, "The Vampire Diaries," one of the most successful series in the CW history and therefore ripe for rip-off. Not that there's anything wrong with that -- "Vampire" of course had generously borrowed from predecessors of the big screen and small as well. Moreover, L.J. Smith, author of "The Vampire Diaries" book series also wrote "The Secret Circle" series, so think of this as a brand extension. Nevertheless, there is a small risk for The CW, and that's an obscure TV-related medical condition known as the been-there-seen-that gag reflex. If viewers think this is a pallid rip of, say, "Teen Wolf," then they'll check out. That's where Robertson comes in. She's an appealing post-teen actress (age 21) with limpid blue eyes who loves the camera, which returns the favor. Her run on "Life Unexpected" was deemed a network success -- if not quite a big enough one to merit a third season -- and The CW made the reasonable calculus that with the right vehicle, she should could be as big a star as "Vampire Diaries" Nina Dobrev. This could be that vehicle.

BOTTOM LINE A not-bad formula gothic that'll rise or fall on the Dekker/Robertson chemistry; I'm betting on the former.

GRADE B-

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