Sat
Sep 3 2011 5:30pm

L.J. Smith’s Secret Circle: Ruined for Television?

It is with great trepidation I view the upcoming CW series The Secret Circle. I’ve read L.J. Smith’s trilogy countless times, and read most of Smith’s other books as well. (Ironically, not The Vampire Diaries, but I was still very excited for the author when it became a show.)

When I first heard that the Secret Circle was going to be on TV, I had a few seconds of unadulterated joy. Then reality kicked in. I’d seen part of the previews, and my feelings toward it became worse and worse. I finally just saw the entire extended preview and...is it too strong to say I hate it? I have to admit, such feelings made me delay the writing of this post. A lot. (Sorry!)

First, I’m afraid it’ll become so people won’t read the books because they’re turned off by the series. On the show, they dumbed it down. Painfully so. If Gossip Girl can have interactive flow charts of which characters slept with whom in the New York Times, what makes the CW, or its writers, think viewers can’t handle a reasonably sized cast? Cost? Enh.

The Secret Circle: The Initiation by L.J. SmithI noticed first of all, that they changed...well, everything. The circle is a coven of witches, and there are supposed to be twelve of them. Twelve. The previews very emphatically state there are only six in the coven. I’m actually hoping the writers play around with that from the pilot, and I noticed they were very vague with character names, aside from Cassie, the main character, as well as Diana, Faye, Adam, and Nick. Those are the most central characters, but all the others are key as well. The manner in which the show deals with Cassie’s mom is total crap, as are the parents. It hints that Diana’s dad is some sinister... something trying to control the coven. Which is stupid, because then why wouldn’t the parents have their own coven? The parents in the actual books aren’t present, which is a big part of YA in general. The book doesn’t lack parental figures, however, and grandmothers are most influential.

There are also gaps even in the previews because they imply that being a witch is passed from mother to daughter. Which means there’s a huge WTF when it comes to Adam and Nick, and whatever other male character(s) the writers deemed important enough to write into the show. I really hate that the parents seem to all be characters. That’s entirely contrary to the series, and smacks of Gossip Girl. Beyond that, the “magic” and spells and events and powers are just all off. From the start, well, how the series starts is wrong. I could forgive that, and move on. Too much back story doesn’t always work for TV: Location costs, etc.. But to change everything? What’s the point?

The Cast of the Secret CircleThe casting of the characters is also wrong wrong wrong—so incredibly wrong. I get that everyone has to be amazingly attractive on television, but could they at least have tried to follow the book more? Cassie and Sally are supposed to be similar in both coloring and personality. Cassie is a witch, and Sally is effectively her “regular human” doppelgänger. Cassie is supposed to have “mousy brown hair.” She looks rather plain; she’s pretty, but understated and unnoticeable, which is a huge part of her growth when people realize she’s someone to be reckoned with. Cassie is supposed to begin as the timid Plain Jane girl next door.

Faye and Diana are foils of each other. Faye is supposed to have black hair and golden eyes; Diana has green eyes, and incredibly fair pale blonde hair, the color of moonlight. They’re actually cousins, and there’s more there, but I won’t spoiler it for you in case you do read the books. Adam is blond (because he’s the good guy). Nick is darker, with brown hair, and is your typical brooding bad boy. He has mahogany eyes. You aren’t quite sure if he’s good or bad. (Get the themes? Light equals good, dark equals bad.) In the show, Nick is blond, and seems to run around without his shirt a lot. Doesn’t Twilight get enough spoof jokes?

Adam and Cassie in Secret CircleIt’s hard to imagine the series will be able to plumb the depths of the books, especially with half the coven missing. Each person has a distinct personality and a different talent and power they bring to the circle. Additionally, the parents being involved means the entire plot of the series is thrown off.

I’m almost tempted to watch it, but my head might explode. I definitely recommend you read The Initiation, The Captive, and The Power. I’m sure the characters will be much more likeable, the story will make more sense, and it’ll simply be better across the board.

As you can see, I have strong feelings about it.

What about you? Will you watch the series? Do you mind when the characters in the show or movie look nothing like how the characters are described in the book?

Am I just being crazy ranty here?


 

Limecello is a reader, reviewer, lawyer, foodie and discusser of all things random. You can also visit her at her blog or Twitter.

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23 comments
Slyn
1. Slyn
Maybe the show will suprise you. I read the Secret Circle growing up and I was never a big fan of them (I loved the Vampire Diaries so much more.) but the TV version of the Vampire Diaries is really good. In many ways better than the books. It is more fleshed out, characters are more complex, history of the town is a focus...it is an all around good show. Perhaps Secret Circle will be the same, the show will be a nice "version" of the books that inspired it.
Lime Cello
2. Limecello
@Slyn - hmm I never really could get into the Vampire Diaries. Which is interesting - odd? - considering I read pretty much all her other books. I couldn't get into the tv series as well... but maybe at one point I'll give it another go.
I'm scared about The Secret Circle, but I'm also equally scared I can't stay away. What if it isn't good and ruins it all? As far as I can tell VD is at least somewhat close to the books - the main characters are all there. No so with TSC. :\
Slyn
3. Janine D.
I hope the show does surprise me but I am very cautious about really liking it. I totally understand why The Vampire Diaries strayed so far from the books but at least they kept the heart of the story the same. With The Secret Circle it seems like all they are doing is keeping the name and the fact that it revolves around witches and that's it. I, too, grew up reading this (and Vampire Diaries) series and I have been waiting for 20 years to see these characters and stories come to life, and now I am afraid that won't ever truly happen. Here's to hoping they prove me wrong.
Lime Cello
4. Limecello
@Janine - YES! That's my issue. (Well, one of them.) Why even call it The Secret Circle at this point? Why not like... "Young Witches: Based on the Bestselling trilogy The Secret Circle" - or whatever catchy show name there is.
I'm trying to think how I'd view this as say, a sixth grader... but I think I might actually have been more upset then.
Slyn
5. Jocelyn Rish
I read and enjoyed all of L. J.'s series growing up. I hated the first episode of TVD because the characters felt wrong to me, but I kept watching, and now it's one of my favorite shows. I keep telling myself that over and over and over with every article I read about TSC and after watching some of the clips. But I have a very bad feeling about this. They seem to have lost the magic (ha!) of what made the characters so special. But because of the slow evolution of TVD series, I will watch several episodes and try to keep an open mind.
Slyn
6. wrytersblock
I feel exactly the same way. TSC was and remains my favorite of Smith's series (I couldn't get into TVD). And the fact of the matter is, TSC is awesome because of the whole coven. Removing half of them? I'm sorry, but what about Deb and Chris and Doug? And Melanie and Laurel? What about Sean and Suzan and BLACK JOHN??? I read and reread the series as much for the character interactions as I do the plot. I loved Deb and Nick and the twins, and now all I get is a poor excuse for a Nick? Thanks, but no thanks; I think I'll just spend the evenings curled up with a good book. And I think I know which one...

Next they'll be announcing a Dark Visions TV series...
Heather Waters (redline_)
7. redline_
I'm wary too, but as a big fan of how The Vampire Diaries ultimately turned out, I'm also hopeful. The TVD characters were changed a lot--Elena is certainly not blond or blue-eyed in the show--but I also don't think it has ended up mattering that much in the long run. I'd say it's way more important that the characters have the right chemistry than the right looks, and I'm hoping that Secret Circle ends up with as strong a cast as TVD's.

It is kind of weird how they're playing with the number of characters and making the parents a bigger deal (but then, that's Kevin Williamson--the parents always had a storyline in Dawson's Creek too) than they were in the books. My guess would be that they thought it would be too hard to write/feature that many characters in an episode, at least at first. You want the audience to start getting attached to characters (or not) early on, and that's hard to do with a huge cast in only an hour-long pilot. Maybe they'll expand the circle over the season(s)?

All that said, though, I confess I'm not that invested in the TVD or Secret Circle books--I might be singing a different tune if it were the Dark Visions trilogy, which was my favorite of L.J. Smith's. :)
Casey Pepau
8. CaseyPepau
I think I'll watch the series premiere just to give it a chance. I've been reading LJ Smith since Jr High and love all her books (old, not new). Secret Circle wasn't my favorite, but still read it over and over. Huge fan of TVD books, but could not get into the show. Too bad they didn't do the Forbidden Game Trilogy...that was my all time favorite. But I'd want it just the way the book has it...
Alie V
9. ophelial
I totally agree with you about most of the things you covered. I was also bothered that they cut the coven down to only 6. I loved the twins, Laurel and the others!

As for hair and eye colouring, I'm willing to suspend my belief. Elena in the Vampire Diaries was blonde too and Nina's doing a great job even though she's brunette.

I'm hoping my faith in Williamson will see this one through. He's done an amazing job with TVD and I hope he can do the same with TSC.
Slyn
10. motherof3
I will watch the season premerie, though when I saw that they were making the "Secret Circle" I was excited, I immediately explained to my 8 year old daughter that I read these books along time ago and thought that it was about time that they made these wonderful books into a TV series, though the downside to watching the previews they are not keeping true to the books at all, it's disappointing and I have to agree the characters are wrong. I hope the writers make some corrections with the series and that the actors read the books, maybe to do their homework.
Slyn
11. Arooj
I'm actually excited About the show although I'm really disappointed that they are only showing 6 of the witches in the coven in the Tv show. Actually I really wanted to know if there might be a book 4 for the secret circle like after the trilogy and if there is when's the realsing date?!!!!!
Slyn
12. Andain
When I saw that the CW was taking on TSC I was instantly dissapointed. TSC is one of my all time favorite books. I read TVD and everything else Smith has written (not any of the new stuff yet) but TSC has always been my number one. I had always hoped TSC would be done as a series or movie but I'm not 100% on board with this.

I'm terribly dissapointed in the previews I've seen. I can't imagine Diana and Faye as these plain burnette girls. One of the most interesting things about the books was the fact that the coven was so other wordly in looks. The casting again is all wrong for me and really turns me off. (The only casting I feel they got right with TVD is Damon, but I've only seen one episode, I just couldn't get into it.)

I don't mind so much that Cassie is blonde, she seems to have the expressive eyes and portrays that touch of the innocence that Cassie has in the books. I like the casting for Melanie even though they named her Melissa, the most. Nick is super dissapointing, as is Adam (he has red hair in the books BTW).

And I have to agree with you about the parents story line, that seems so.... meh. I do believe Mr. Meade will turn out to be Black John. Maybe they'll have Cassie and Diana turn out to be half sisters?

I think what bothers me the most how the series seems to be playing out is the love story of Cassie and Adam. This is what draws me back to read the books over and over again. Also the love and loyalty Cassie has for Diana. She would have rather been alone forever than ever hurt Diana. Everything just seems so mixed up, they've set it in WA and not New England, that I just don't think it will be very good.

The only reason I might watch the series is to see how they portray the magic. It does look interesting from what I've seen in the previews, but at the same time it could be so dissapointing. I'm not going to go out of my way to watch this series, but I'll try to follow it if they load the episodes online.
Slyn
13. Jordyn
I have strong feelings about this! Every character that l.j smith created in the book is obviously important!!! If they weren't significant then she wouldnt have created them! I watch the pilot but ill probably keep throing a pillow at the screen cause its so off. Cassies mom apparently died before she moved to the small village (Which doesnt even have the same name as in the books) and yadayadayada. Anyway the point is, they pretty much ruined it. There are suppose to be 13 houses on the road cassie lives on (12 minus black johns). Personally, i love the henderson brothers, deb, suzanne, melanie and sean >.
Slyn
14. BrookeAnn
I thought the same thing! It's been awhile since I read the books so I came online to search, I knew I wasn't crazy in thinking there were 12! I think it's ok to change SOME things... but it's irritating that the basics are completely wrong =( It makes me want to stop watching the show and go read the books again. They are SO much better.
Slyn
15. Asia
I agree with just about everything you wrote in your article. I love the SC series and I always thought that it would make a great series. They skipped a lot of things in the first episode and I  didn't how they started the series out, which is  sad because the books gives you so much material that would be great for tv series instead if what they chose to bring in the audience. First, it is a mystery that could have been streched out. With the books,  it deals so much with symbolism, as does witchcraft with good vs evil. Cassie is an outsider coming into a town that have their own set of rules. She's kinda like buffy coming into town except she dealing with a group of kids whom she finds out later is a big part of  who she is. She is  an outsider and given a hard until Diana comes into play. I didn't like the casting. Deejer  would work as a  NIck than Adam. The tv series also 
needed the twelve characters. Granted, the series did not have to bring in all of them at once and brought them as they needed them. 

I have seen the preview and I'm disappointed. The creator could have done a much better job of developing and executing this series. The casting isn't right. The storyline isn't either. I understand that Vampire Diaries doesn't exactly doesn't  fit it's novel but it doesn't have to. SC kinda does. It doesn't have to be word for word and I don't expect it .  But it could include the aspects that make it good- cassi's entrance, the ostracism, the characters, mystery, and build up. I fear I will not see Black John, which is a great character. I wish the creator would have made the series with some kind of appreciation to the characters and the great events that happened in the book and not a rip off the plot to make a series. 
Slyn
16. shyla
Totally agree, the only one they got right was casting Phoebe As Faye...
Slyn
17. Faerhi
I watch "Vampire Diaries" and I love it. Imagine my surprise when I went to read the books and hated them - especially Elaina. So I am hesitant to read the secret circle books for fear of the same thing, but given the reviews and this blog, I will definitely check them out. That's why I love this site. In any case, I am enjoying both shows by this author.
Slyn
18. Greg Black
I have never read either series of books (The Vampire Diaries or The Secret Circle). I have tried to watch the Vampire Diaries, but it really is unwatchable and awful. However, I have been pleasantly surprised by how well the TV version of The Secret Circle is. I'm hooked. It pulls you in, the characters are interesting -- I especially like the actress who plays Cassie. Good job, CW.
Slyn
19. Adie
Spot on review.

The saddest thing about this programme is the lack of any decent magic. I loved the initiation ritual part in the books and especially the Night of Hecate ritual. Instead of the feeling of a very old tradition, we get a lot of cheap (and not very good) special effects.

In the books, we had 12 teenagers with very specific personality traits and looks, and together they made a greater whole. In the tv show, we have 5 interchangeable pretty leads - for Faye and Diana they could have at least chosen actresses who contrasted - the ones they cast look too similar.
Slyn
20. Hippiechick
I love L. J. Smith's writing and have read almost every book she wrote when I was in high school. I really loved the Forbidden Game trilogy & the Dark Visions. Her Night World series was awesome as well. The Secret Circle & Vampire Diaries were fantastic books and I think that the show based on them were actually very good. So much was changed in the shows from what was in the books but as I watched the shows, they started to grow on me & I ended up enjoying them as much as I did the books. I am very disappointed that The Secret Circle was cancelled though. Also in the fact that LJ is no longer able to write her own series (TVD) and that now a ghost writer has taken her place. Not cool at all. Hopefully other books of hers will be considered for production and she retains her rights to them. I think that the Dark Visions series would be fabulous as a show or even the Night World series because of the different characters and storylines that could be used.
Slyn
21. Anon
i watched some of the series and read the books as well...
i think the tv programme is trying to be too much like Twilight, so i hated it as well because i hate Twilight (Adam is way too much like Edward). But once you watch it a bit and think of the book as a completely different story and the TV programme another story it is watchable.

I was like WTF! when Nick died.... which was just shite... and then Jake came on and its like why couldn't he have been there in the first place instead of Nick...
And what the hell is it with the crystals??

Anyway i think it will ruin the TV programme for you if you've read the books... but if you haven't you might actually like it.
Slyn
22. Cassandra Ringstad
I think that the tv show, is a piece of s***. I watched the entire series, and it is way off from the books. I say if you are going to make a tv show based off a book, MAKE IT LIKE THE BOOK!!!!!! I was soooo pissed off when I saw the first episode. I only kept watching just to see how far away from the book they went. Nothing was correct.

Also read the initiation, the captive, the power, the divide, the hunt and the temptation. those last three books, you just might like.
Slyn
23. liquidmoon
I just recently watched the whole season of the secret circle on Netflix and I gotta say I loved it. I wish I knew what would happen after that. Is any of the books like the show ? Is her Father Good or bad? Was it written in the stars for Adam and Cassie? I don't know if I should read the books , I don't want to get disappointed
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