October 21, 2011
I never read the books that The Secret Circle is based on and so I have no pre-conceived notions about what should happen or how characters should behave. I am going into this show with only the expectation of being entertained and on paper, that seems like it should be a slam dunk. Do I like TV shows about teenagers? Yes I do (see: Dawson's Creek, Everwood, One Tree Hill, Roswell, Veronica Mars, My So-Called Life, The O.C. and dozens upon dozens of others). Do I like shows about supernatural stuff? Yes I do (see: Supernatural, The Vampire Diaries, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Angel, Charmed, etc.). I am predisposed to like this show without much effort on its part. And yet....
The quality of the storytelling and the acting is all over the place and I'm not sure what to think about any of it. A few of my friends are really enjoying it and I want to like it so that I can talk to them about it, but more often than not I'm barely able to care what's happening with the story because I'm too busy being overwhelmed with feelings of ambivalence. Frankly, I've seen little evidence that the writers care much more than I do about these people. The vast majority of the characters lack dimension, depth, humanity, interest and even the most basic likability.
I cut the show some slack when the characters all seemed generic and cardboard in the pilot because I thought there was potential for things to develop into something more intriguing as we got to know them more. It seemed impossible for Melissa and Nick not to get more interesting since both were barely more than extras in the pilot, but five episodes in Nick died and pretty much the only character development he ever got was a scene an episode later when Diana told us a story about when Charles took them sailing as kids. Waiting until a character is dead to tell me anything interesting about him is not the way to win me over. Melissa spent episode six sitting in a booth, staring into the middle distance, having "emotions" over the death of her boyfriend. "Emotions" we were only made aware of when she told Faye she was having them.
Faye simpers and mean-girls her way through each episode as if simply being pretty and making vaguely menacing eyes and/or comments is the same as being interesting. It isn't. Cassie's primary personality trait appears to be "staring agape" and she's working that for all it's worth. Apparently the boys in town find that (as well as her low-cut tops and miniskirts) far more appealing than do I because she's the Joey Potter of TSC (that is: universally beloved by members of the opposite sex for no fathomable reason other than because the writers say it's so). Adam's received the lion's share of the character development having been allowed to get angry, be concerned, and make sex eyes at two different girls.
I saw such potential in Diana when I thought that her boyfriend's OBVIOUS attraction to the new girl would lead this over-nice alpha witch to become a closet vindictive bitch but sadly, she remains sweet to the point of blandness.
With Nick dead and a hole in the circle that the entire show is named after, the writers brought in his older brother Jake, played by Chris Zylka, who is either a MUCH better actor than most everyone else, or the writers just managed to give him more qualities in one episode than everyone else put together. Either way, he's the most interesting thing that's happened to the show so far, by a country mile. Is he on the side of good? Bad? Neither? Both? Will they let him into the circle? Will he double cross them? Will he kill them all? Will Grandma Jane crush him like a bug (you know she could)? These are questions his character prompts me to ponder. The other characters usually just prompt be to wonder if I remembered to water the lawn and what I'll make for dinner tomorrow.
I really think the show could be better than this. The people could be more interesting and the plot could be less boring and I could care more about all of it. So who needs to do what in order to fix it? I have no insight into what happens in the writers' room or on the set so the best advice I can give them all is simply this: make it better. Make it a lot better.