I think I actually groaned when I heard that the CW was making L.J. Smith’s The Secret Circle into a series (a pilot for one anyway). After the total hack job they did with The Vampire Diaries (which I stopped watching when they completely deviated from the plot of the books), I was afraid because this was far more one of my favorite stories Smith wrote. But I dutifully recorded the pilot episode and got around to watching it this weekend.
I understand that when books are adapted to TV or movies that there are things that will be changed. Plots will be shortened. Characters who started out brunette may become blonde. Characters who were kinda bitchy and unlikeable in the books might be toned down to be more appealing (hello Elena). Secondary characters may get combined (hate this, but okay fine). But it just seems like with these L.J. Smith adaptations, they’re taking character names, only the vaguest of plot aspects, and trying to capitalize on the popularity of the books just by attaching the same name to a show that really bears no resemblance to the books.
What follows is spoilery for both the books and the show, so if you’re not up for that, cease and depart.
Okay first up, they have totally changed the location of the story. In the books, it’s set in New Salem Massachusetts, which makes total sense because of the history of the characters ancestors, who moved over after (or maybe during, I forget) the Salem witch trials. In the show, they’ve randomly set it in a coastal town in Washington state called Chance Harbor. Um, why?
They’ve absolutely trimmed down the cast. I don’t like it. But okay it’s a pilot and they don’t know if it’s gonna catch, so they can’t really afford to cast 12 teens for the actual coven. So they have 6. Diana, Faye, Adam, Nick, Cassie, and some chick whose name I don’t remember but who isn’t even one of the original 12. I don’t know what that’s about. So Doug, Deborah, Sean, Susan, Chris, Laurel, and Melanie are just SOL. Yeah, I’ve read the books often enough I know everybody.
Those are both fairly small things that I could have lived with, but everything else…well, I’m getting to that.
In the books, Cassie meets Adam before she meets everyone else. They have a moment–kind of a bonding thing, and then never expect to see each other again. In the show, they don’t meet until after she moves to Washington, and then the moment they have is way less innocent than the one they had in the books (bad Adam).
In the books, Cassie’s mom ran from her life as part of the coven after something goes horribly wrong in the circle, leaving most of the kids of Crowhaven Road without at least one of their parents. Then she ultimately decides to take Cassie back, where we meet her grandmother–a crone in every sense of the word. In the show, Cassie’s mom is murdered by one of her former coven members as a means of getting Cassie back to town because her grandmother is her only family. I’m sorry, what? And then when Cassie gets there, grandma is this hip, hippie, New Age kind of woman who really looks more like a mom than a grandma.
In the books, the coven knows exactly what they are and what they can do. They can control their powers just fine and delight (some of them) in using them to rule the school. In the show, it’s all forbidden and a lot of the adults seem not to know that the kids know. Except for the former coven members of Cassie’s now dead mother, who seem to have agendas of their own. Including Faye’s mother, who is now the school principal? What the heck? And the existing 5 seem to need Cassie to control things. And to do bigger magic. Which they seem to largely do without actual spells.
If they departed THIS MUCH from the books in just the set up, I can’t imagine that the rest of the show is going to adhere to the original plot much, so I have to declare this one a thumbs down from me. I won’t be picking up the rest of the series.