My Thoughts on the CW’s The Secret Circle

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.

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16 comments

  1. I have a confession- I’ve never read a single LJ Smith book. But so many people credit her as an inspiration, or even started writing fanfiction based on her writing, that I’ve got to bump her up on the TBR list.
    As far as series adaptations go, I gave up after the last two seasons of True Blood. Hopefully this is just a TV fad- series used to at least attempt to be faithful to the book. There’s the classic North and South- kind of my gold standard.

    1. I loved her work as a teen. Because there just wasn’t anything else OUT THERE at that time that seemed to be about REAL TEENS instead of twelve year olds with college student hormones. Honestly though, I’ve been afraid to go back and read them again for fear that in my new can’t-possibly-turn-off-the-critical-author guise, that I’d find I hate them or that they don’t live up to my memory, you know?

      1. I read both The Vampire Diaries and Secret Circle two summers ago and I think that if you’d reread them again, you wouldn’t be so annoyed with the TV shows. IMO, The Secret Circle are the better books and I do miss some of the things you mentioned – I guess they moved it to WA because they film in Vancouver? Adam and Cassie meeting on the beach – but I liked some of the updates because the books were set in 1993, which is when I graduated from high school, and teendom is just different now.
        I wasn’t that into The Vampire Diaries books, so I was glad when the show deviated from them – with the exception of people being more Team Damon. I still like Stefan better.

  2. I am going to say that most TV adaptations of books will be really off the point. I could not agree more that most of the time the only thing the show has in common with the book is a name. Legend of the Seeker is based on one of my favorite series The Sword of Truth which is a tidy rip off from Wheel of Time. The show was awful.

    I will also defend True Blood. A good portion is different than in the books but they had to tone a lot down. They kept the same cast. The first season and first book are almost exact. 2, 3 and 4 still loosely follow. This is more than I can say for a lot of series.

  3. I was actually going to mention True Blood and saw they everyone else had, but with different opinions. There is way more sex in the show than in the books. They deviate a lot from the books, I think. That orgy thing that happened with (was her name Mary Ann?) was just off the wall. But the series True Blood is like a train wreck…you don’t want to look, but you can’t help it. And I watch it faithfully. LOL

    I’ve never read nor seen Vampire Diaries. I know a lot of people who love that show, so I’m assuming these people didn’t read the books. And it’s probably the same with The Secret Circle…people who never read the books will probably like it. I remember looking forward to the movie Eragon because I liked the book so much. I was ready to shoot the TV because they left out IMPORTANT stuff. But if someone hadn’t read the book, they probably would like it.

    In the case of The Secret Circle, from what you said, it seems that the deviations from the books weren’t necessary. I don’t know why they would change the location, especially when it was significant. I have no idea why this happens all the time.

    At the risk of rambling, I want to add that the movie I’ve seen that stuck more to the story than anything else I’ve ever seen was The Langoliers by Stephen King. I could almost tell you what the characters were going to say or do next. Ok, I’m done now. I usually don’t write comments this long….

  4. Good to know. I watched the first season of True Blood and honestly it was a bit too out there and a bit too big of a departure from the books for me. Sounds like this is another example of that.

  5. I’ve read Vampire Diaries and watch the TV series … and I prefer the TV series … I love the twist they gave to Caroline/Matt/Tyler.
    I didn’t read Secret Circle (yet), but I watched the pilot and I thought it was interesting … I’ll probably keep watching for now.
    Unfortunately, movies and TV series adaptions from books are mostly disappointing. I could cite many books that were so much better than the movies. Well, I bet any of us could.

  6. I’ve gone back and read books that I loved as a teen…don’t do it, Kait! Your ‘adult perspective’ does ruin them. Except for a few classics, like say, Black Beauty. I reread the Oz and Narnia books…total bummer, and I loved those as a kiddo.

    In regards to True Blood, I saw bits and pieces online before ever trying to read the Sookie Stackhouse books. I couldn’t even make it past page 6 or so, closed it and returned it to the library the next day.

    However, I’m on season 3 of True Blood, and my main gripe is too much sex. I thought season 1 was hilarious, especially the scene where Sookie and Bill see each other for the first time. Could they have drawn that out just a little longer? LOL

    I think books/series I’ve read and enjoyed, I’m really disappointed when they’re made into TV shows or movies and deviate a LOT from the books. Those I haven’t read, I don’t know anything to be bothered by it.

    Always thought that they followed Stephen King’s stories pretty close when made into movies. Refused to watch The Legend of the Seeker just on principle, because they changed the series’ name. [shrugs]

  7. Ah, this makes me sad but I completely respect your opinion and you have valid points. I haven’t read the books and I’m enjoying the series very much. My guy too – and he tries to be “too cool” for YA TV quite a bit.

    I do want to read these books….thanks for the review Kait! It’s kinda funny – I posted about Smith’s other YA TV adaptation today. 🙂

  8. I’ve never read the books and I still haven’t got into the show. Probably why the latest episode is still sitting in my DVR.

    Do you watch Dexter? I can’t remember, but that’s one show that deviated from the books and is still awesome.

  9. I like both The Vampire Diaries and Secret Circle; however, I’ve not read the books. After the first season of TVD, I did buy the first four books and tried to read them. They just didn’t hold my interest; I was already too invested in the way the story was being told on TV.

    I’ve read and loved every single book and story Queen Charlaine has written about Sookie Stackhouse. And I love True Blood. I had to make up my mind early on that the books and the show were two different entities and leave it at that. I do feel that Snoop Dogg’s tribute to Sookie Stackhouse pretty much summed up the show. (google it if you don’t know what I mean)

    I’ve reread some of the books I loved in my youth. What I loved was still there, and I even saw where I got some of the themes I use over and over again. It was fun.

    Good post. I enjoyed reading what you had to say.

    1. HAHAHA the Snoop Dogg Tribute was hilarious! Yes the books deviate but I saw the show first and loved it on it’s own.
      As for re-reading or re-watching beloved children entertainment, I watched Hook the other night. The new stuff I caught this time around was great plus the old stuff was still lovable.

  10. I’ve found it’s best to either watch the TV shows first or to go in expecting something completely different from the novels with only the names being similar. That way, I’m always pleasantly surprised when good aspects of books make it into the TV plots.

    Now I want to write a post on this!

  11. I don’t know… I’ve never read an LJ Smith books but witches always appealed to me. I even thought of becoming one during my teens. Something about them fascinates me. Must be a lifetime (or is it two) spent on being a witch. 😉

    I do understand how it’s a turn off watching an adaptation not close to the book. It’s frustrating especially if you could tick off the things that didn’t match. In a sense, tv adaptations more closely. After all, they don’t have time constraints that novels have.

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