Putting these shows on the same night back-to-back is a smart move from the CW. They're both supernatural teen dramas, share some plot features (and actors), and even have the same executive producers and writers. And while both shows have not been critical favorites, I gotta say, I'm hooked on both.
First, the new kid on the block: The Secret Circle. If you're a fan of the Vampire Diaries, you'll probably be a fan of this. While it's lacking the gore and body of the former, it's got a lot in common with its sister series. You've got your supernatural elements (of course), a very good looking group of teens, families keeping secrets that stretch back centuries, a love triangle....etc.
I know Mac wasn't a fan of the books, but having never read them I came into the show without any preconceptions. Most of the critics have eviscerated the series, but since I am seem to be the a big CW apologist I really liked it. It's a good looking show full of good looking people doing some decent acting. I wouldn't say the writing was particularly snappy, but it wasn't bad either. The pilot sets up enough questions that I am looking forward to the next episode, and I like how the adults are clearly also "up to something." Basically, it's not just a bunch of whiny teens running around (looking at you 90210).
In a nutshell I would say that it's Vampire Diaries meets The Craft. If you're a fan of either or both, I would suggest giving it a try. And who knows--Vampire Diaries ended up one of the best shows on tv (not kidding) so The Secret Circle might be able to pull off a similar feat.
And speaking of The Vampire Diaries, its third season premiere was also last night. It didn't seem to have the punch as some of the episodes last season, but I think it was mostly meant to serve as an establishment episodes. It's clearly been several months since the events of last year's finale, and we needed a chance to catch up with the characters and see where everyone was, physically and emotionally.
There were still a few surprises (spoilers ahead): Damon's fake-compelled girlfriend bought it, we got to see Stefan in his full badass mode and learn how he got the nickname Ripper (ew!), and the town elders have clearly figured out Caroline is a vampire. Is it just me or does she seem to get vampnapped like every episode?
Point is, it served the purpose of a good premiere and contained enough set-up and surprises to leave us looking forward to the season to come. And you can't argue with a good cliffhanger. Or a naked Ian Somerhalder.