Thomas Dekker, Britt Robertson Thomas Dekker, Britt Robertson

Just because a show makes good programming sense doesn't make it a good program. This week's case in point: the CW's dreary and laughably derivative teenage witch-centric The Secret Circle, designed as an overly compatible companion piece to The Vampire Diaries (inspired by a series of books from the same author of the Diaries best-sellers) and produced by the same brain trust led by Kevin Williamson. It's basically the same show, only substituting witches for vamps and lacking (at least initially) the sense of humor and pacing that makes Vampire such a treat most weeks.

You'd think while they were busy cloning, they could have concocted their own Damon. No such luck.

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Everything about Secret Circle is recycled, from its angsty tone — including a parent's fiery death, recalling the origin of

Supernatural (which was much scarier) — and acres of turgid mythology exposition ("Our families are written in the stars") to its retread casting with a flock of oh-them-again actors: Life Unexpected's Britt Robertson and Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles' Thomas Dekker leading the teen troops, while relative old-timers Gale Harold and Natasha Henstridge do the adult scheming.As newly orphaned waif Cassie (Robertson) arrives in scenic Chance Harbor, Wash. — which differs from Vampire's Mystic Falls only in not throwing some sort of public celebration every 10 minutes — she is soon confronted by a clique of a secret teen coven informing her, "We're different. You're different." In the real world, that lands you in the glee club. Here, the notes they're conjuring are tiresomely familiar.There is one impressive scene, involving floating droplets of water in a literal rain forest, that evokes a sense of wonder and awe at the circle's potential power. More typical, though, is an unintentionally hilarious crisis evoked by mean-girl witch Faye when she summons a lightning storm that gets out of control. Watching this poor girl try to yell "Stop this storm!" convincingly — it sounds more like she's trying to get a dog back on its leash — leaves pretty much everyone all wet.To say Secret Circle isn't spellbinding is an understatement. Originality and surprise are the main ingredients missing from this tepid witches' brew.The Secret Circle premieres Thursday, 9/8c, on the CW.

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