The Secret Circle ep 14

It’s Valentine’s Day in Chance Harbor and, while Faye and Jake finish scratching each others’ itches, Adam has something a bit more romantic planned for Cassie.  Cassie, however, has no time for such flummery; she’s too busy being haunted by a Dude in a Hood!

The Dude in the Hood and his fellow, um, Dudes in Hoods, are the ghosts of dead witches, killed by Cassie’s dad, and…no I don’t even care a tiny bit.  The Dudes are impressively scary, but the episode is still rotten.

As usual, the dreadful Jake’s scenes are plentiful and unconvincing, and, unfortunately, the other storyline is rubbish too: Faye is having a no-boys slumber party, which – this being tv – of course, ends up being exactly what boys are always hoping a girls’ slumber party will be: pillow fight, ouija board, make out with the pizza guy.  While out of your head on something you shouldn’t be.  Now what was I saying about supernatural teen drama bingo…?

It’s a shame really, because I did love how this show started but I’m bored now.  I’ve stuck with it this long in the hope that they will recapture that early form, but it hasn’t happened and I think I’m done waiting.  Even Cassie and Adam’s epic smooch – and I’ve been waiting for that for ages – wasn’t enough to rescue this for me.  Now Vampire Diaries has got its mojo back, I’m less inclined to spend any more time on this transparent and increasingly tedious attempt to replicate the formula, so I think Circle and I are pretty much done.  If you decide to stick with it, though, let me know how you get on.

The Secret Circle ep 13

Bad boys, bad boys, whatcha gonna do…

Dump them?  Not if you’re on the CW, apparently.  This week, Adam turns into a possessive, controlling and generally objectionable fellow who tries to make Cassie’s decisions for her.  While I agree that Cassie’s decisions are often moronic, that is still not cool, Adam.  Of course, the main reason he does all this is he’s jealous of Jake who, let’s not forget, originally came to town to kill Cassie and co, but now apparently wants to kill his old buddies the witch hunters instead, and is happy to use Cassie and everyone she knows to do it. All that killing and using, Jake? Not cool, either.

Much of the episode is taken up with the pair of them annoying me, while Cassie vacillates between them both, in a sort of Junior Kate-From-Lost kind of way, then promptly does whatever stupid magic necklace -related thing she wants to do anyway: um, yay, Cassie?  Meanwhile, the rest of the girls are busy doing even stupider things as Faye not only gets Melissa hooked on devil’s spirit but also practically shoves her into the clutches of greasy biker/drug dealer Callum (weirdly, he seems to hand out his stock for free – I don’t think he understands the concept of drug “dealing”) who is so far from being a good way to get over Nick that he should have a hazard warning stamped on his forehead.

It’s the perfect time then for psychic Lucy to roll into town to take advantage of every character behaving like an idiot, and take advantage she does. Nice to see the tables turned on the increasingly evil Dawn, but seeing as the writers seem bizarrely keen on keeping her alive, my surprise at what I thought was her demise was very short-lived.  And seeing as Cassie dispatches any and all danger with a magic glare – just like she’s done every week for a while now – the episode and its big twist just peter out into a big nothing.  Loads going on?  Yes.  Much of it entertaining?  No.

The Secret Circle ep 12

As the show continues to shuffle morosely along, charisma-vacuum Jake is back into town (to put the final nails in the coffin?) and persuades the determinedly gullible Cassie that the only way to save herself from the witch hunters is to jump into his memories because, handily, it now turns out Jake witnessed the fire that killed everyone 16 years ago.

Of course, when we visit these memories, it also turns out, handily, that not everyone who “died” in the fire is actually “dead.” Surprise surprise, a magic necklace is the key to the mystery; I guess we can pop it on to the pile with the magic crystals, the blocked memories, the witches, the hunters, the misunderstood bad boy, the forbidden love triangle, the dark secrets, the destiny – it’s pretty much supernatural teen drama Bingo we’re playing here, and I call House!

Sadly, without any of the life (ironically), energy or humour of The Vampire Diaries on even a mediocre day, Secret Circle is now just an exercise in ticking off the boxes, even if it is made by the same team.  This episode is plodding and, again, embarrassingly earnest; so much so, that Faye wanders off into what seems to be her own separate show and Ethan gets so bored he takes matters into his own hands and swaps his entire character for Charles’s.  What?  Never mind, I don’t care.

The Secret Circle ep 11

There’s a fairly lame school dance.  Adam’s feelings for Cassie are getting stronger.  Diana’s conflicted.  And Faye’s busy trying to steal back her solo superpowers, with disastrous results.  Again.

Guys, have we not been here before?

The only real difference being a shift in the show’s love axis: Adam is now so over Diana, and is going all out to woo Cassie, instead of dithering about like he usually does, fretting over whether his confusion is due to destiny, love, or just being a teenage boy close to two gorgeous girls. (The answer doesn’t seem that hard to me, but then I’m not in a supernatural soap on the CW.  Sadly.)  

Ordinarily, I’d applaud the guy for making an actual decision but I’m a bit worried about what seems to have been behind it.  I mean, Diana seemed most attractive to him when she was trying to dump him, but since Cassie upped the ante by actually trying to kill him last week, suddenly Diana’s old news and Cassie’s the bees’ knees?  Dude.  Maybe you need to have a good long think about what you’re looking for in a main squeeze?  

Having said that, the chemistry’s there in spades, Thomas Dekker’s eyes are all kinds of intense, and the only thing that spoiled the big kiss scene was its interruption by the awful, awful, awful you-know-who.  Blergh.

The Secret Circle ep 10

Absence hasn’t made the heart grow fonder as far as Circle and I are concerned – the mid-season break gave me a chance to  wonder whether there isn’t anything more fun I could be watching for 40 minutes a week.  On the strength of this episode, the answer is one the writers wouldn’t like to hear.

It’s not that it was bad exactly, more that it badly needed a sense of humour.  I mean, let’s recap: Cassie now knows she has the super-powered, mega-watt, dark magic to end all magic flowing through her veins, so suddenly she can’t stop smiting folk.  Dawn is so crazy-desperate to kill anyone who even looks at her funny that Charles (Charles!  The man who killed Cassie’s mum, killed Henry, killed Nick – Charles!) has to rein her in: “Dawn, we are not killing anyone else.  Certainly not my mother.”  (Heh.  Okay, that did make me laugh.)  And Diana’s Grandma Kate turns up – because Cassie’s gran’s away for the week and there’s a gran quota to be fulfilled, obviously – and turns out to be a crazy psycho nutbar!  Oooh.

Played tongue-in-cheek, all this would have been gold, but unfortunately, like a lot of things on this show recently, it was all done in such a painfully earnest and serious fashion that it fell slightly flat.  Except when Cassie blasted her way out of the death-box trap: hurrah for that silly, awesome stunt, amongst all the agonising and hand-wringing.  Lighten up, guys! It’s a CW soap about teen witches, for pity’s sake, not a serious commentary on the human condition.  Faye has the right idea, camping it up like nobody’s business, but everyone else really needs to start treating the material with a lot less reverence.

Public Service Announcement 9 of 2012: Grimm, Friday Night Lights, Secret Circle, Ringer, Parenthood, The Mentalist

Looks like the hiatus is properly over because this coming week is crazy busy on the TV front.

Monday (13th) at 8pm on Watch brings us the UK debut of Grimm, a dark fairytale-inspired series (but not that one) about a young (quite good-looking, in case you’re wondering) man, who discovers he’s a descendant of those Grimms and has to protect humanity from the supernatural nasties that are apparently everywhere.  It’s from the makers of Angel, and the pilot is a clever, enjoyable riff on the Red Riding Hood legend: cute, downbeat, and a little bit, um, grim, but in a good way.  Advance word from unpopcult’s US sources (*waves at e*) is that it’s worth sticking with so I will be taking that advice.  I might also write about it occasionally, we’ll see.

Moving away from the supernatural to a different kind of magical, 8pm on Sky Atlantic meanwhile sees the start of something marvellous: season 1 of the frankly magnificent Friday Night Lights.  We won’t be reviewing it as FNL season 1 and 2 have already been shown (and shunted about the schedules) on ITV4 when I think only Jed and I watched them.  This is verging on criminal.  I cannot over-state how absolutely astoundingly good this programme is and what a crying shame it is that it doesn’t get more UK attention.  Whether you care about American football or not (and I don’t) doesn’t matter a jot, either: with a brilliant cast led by unpopcult favourites Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton, FNL is a wonderfully warm, realistic and beautiful portrait of a marriage, a town and a school in the heart of Texas, and it’s hands-down one of the best things you’ll see on TV this year.  Or any year for that matter.  I’m hoping that enough people will watch it to encourage Sky Atlantic to buy seasons 3, 4 and 5 which haven’t been shown in the UK ever, and if you’re one of those people, feel free to comment on this thread and tell us how you get on.  Eric and Tami Taylor 4EVA!

Ok, that’s my cheerleading done, let’s move onto Wednesday then, when 8pm on Living means the return of the decidedly less impressive Secret Circle after its mid-season break.  Secret Circle started in a CW-tastically entertaining fashion then unfortunately lost its way when it killed off a main character, turned another one into a whiny jerk, and brought in a third one who’s an ass.  Big mistake, Circle.  The second half of the season is make or break time as its renewal or otherwise is still far from decided, but I’m sticking with it (and my weekly reviews) for now.

And no, we’re not done yet.  Stay with me, now.  Thursday brings with it the return of both Ringer (s1 part 2) and Parenthood (s2), at 8pm on Sky Living and 10pm on 5* respectively.  One of these shows is fabulously, awesomely silly and has Buffy The Vampire Slayer posing as her evil twin, while the other one is a fantastically funny and warm family drama from FNL genius Jason Katims.  But there’s no such thing as a guilty pleasure here at unpopcult so we’ll be watching them both avidly.

And finally – for now, anyway, but Jed will be along in the next few days to fill you in on yet more tempting tv – set your DVRs for 9pm on Friday as The Mentalist is back on Channel 5 after its Celebrity Big Brother-related break.  Jane, I love you.  Rigsby, stay away from Van Pelt.  Cho and Lisbon, keep it cool.  And Van Pelt: go away.  Far, far away.  Please.

The Secret Circle ep 9

Mid-season finale time, and the residents of Chance Harbor are preparing for some Gala (nobody cares what for), while Jake and the witch-hunters (have I already said that sounds like a covers band?) prepare to do a little witch-napping.

Melissa’s cousin turns up and smiles too much (is he the new new Nick seeing as Jake hasn’t worked out?), Diana flirts unconvincingly with him, and I get distracted by the gorgeous necklace Cassie has on for the party.  It’s huuuge and silver and has a giant heart pendant and lots of charm thingys attached.  Ooh.  Want one.

While I’m busy gazing at the shiny things (Diana’s bangles are lovely too…), the Mary Sue-ification of Cassie continues: turns out she’s descended from a bloodline of super, mega, wowser-powerful Dark Magic.  Be afraid, witch-hunters, be very afraid!  Or actually don’t, seeing as super, mega, wowser-powerful Dark Magic seems to be no match for a hankie with some chloroform in it and a wee bit of string round the wrists.  Again.  Need to work a bit on the self-defence there, Cass, hon.

Luckily, Adam and Faye are less susceptible to the dazzling effects of costume jewellery than I am, so they rumble Jake quite quickly – yay! – and work together to rescue Cassie and each other from the suck-fest they’ve been subjected to the last couple of weeks.  Will I be shipping them as a couple?  No.  But they work really well as a team, instead of annoying everyone senseless by moping separately over other people, so go Team Fadam: Super-friends!

And that’s it for Circle for this year.  While I wouldn’t go ga-ga over this last hurrah, it was decent stuff: efficient, pacy and miles better than the past couple of episodes.  The dreadful Jake’s change of heart isn’t enough to make me mourn his exit (sail away, Jake, sail far away), Charles and Dawn’s shenanigans continue to irritate, and the witch-hunters are awful, but there was a fair amount to enjoy here, as well as a couple of decent cliffhangers to give the next part of the season a good launchpad.  We’re not back to top form yet, but hopefully the break till the new year will give the writers a chance to re-group and re-capture the magic that captivated me in the first place.  Hopefully.

The Secret Circle ep 8

There was a story here that could have been awesome – Faye being haunted by the ghost of HERSELF was a brilliant idea.  But, like everything else that could be good about Circle, that gem was lost in a load of soapy rubbish (and I don’t mean Faye’s bath of seaweed) as the kids took a trip to the lake house, theoretically to find their missing grandparents, but really so they could flog the love pentagon to death and bore the pants off anyone who might still be watching.

The world’s most ill-tempered game of Truth or Dare did nothing to help liven proceedings up and just made me want to shake everyone involved.  Hard.  I’m beginning to think the Circle should be exclusively female now as the writers seem to have forgotten how to write for the male of the species; the formerly lovely Adam has become clingy and pathetic, and Jake has always been utterly loathsome, yet these three super-powerful, gorgeous girls are fighting over them?  Ladies, you might want to try moving to Mystic Falls and checking out a couple of the menfolk there instead; these two idiots are so not worth your time.  Or mine.  I can’t believe I actually miss Nick, but the show has really hit the skids since his departure.  Any chance we can bring him back? I mean, they do it all in the time in Vampire Diaries….

The Secret Circle ep 7

What the hell happened to this?

The Secret Circle has never been Emmy-bait, but it’s usually entertainingly brooding teen drama and this, the Halloween episode, should have been a slam dunk.  Instead, it was awful.

Cassie throwing a Halloween party (cute Bee costume, by the way, Cass) and the witch-hunters making their move were both reasonable ideas, and in fairness, there was one glorious moment where she sorted them right out, but the rest of the episode was too focused on the incredibly boring Jake and his incredibly boring witch-hunter pals to be anything other than dull and annoying.

Even the love triangle/square/pentagon – the raison d’etre of this type of show – was utterly, utterly ruined by the total emasculation of Adam.  What the hell happened to him?  Since the break-up with Diana – over his feelings for another girl, mind – he’s gone from tortured, interesting and highly attractive, to whiny, irritating, and completely repellent.  I get that he’s a bit upset, but unless a) he grows a pair and b) somebody dispatches the awful Jake sharp-ish, I fear this season is about to take a real dive.

The Secret Circle ep 6

After last week’s shock (to me, anyway) exit, there’s a witch-shaped hole in the Circle – cue Nick’s bad boy brother Jake, back in town and apparently ready to fill it.  Although not if Adam has anything to do with it; I wasn’t sure about Jake turning up and romancing Cassie at first (he’s like a blander, smirkier Nick II) but the dramatic consequences it had for Diana and Adam’s relationship soon changed my mind.  And it gave Diana what has to be the burn of the season: “You’re acting like a jealous boyfriend.  And not mine.”  Oooh.  She may have lost Adam, but at least she’s gained the power of the put-down.

Jake’s mischief-making didn’t stop with turning the love triangle into a square (or pentagon, if you count Faye), though.  Assassins, fires, shifty gatherings…. dude brought a whole lot of other dangers into town, some of which were more fun than others.  This was another solid episode, and I really enjoyed it, but I’m not sure about “witch-hunters” as a concept to be honest.  They’re so last millenium.  And they seem to be led by the chief werewolf-hunter from Teen Wolf, which really jarred me out of the story.  Dude, stop hating on the supernaturals.  They’re people too.