Fall TV season: Are witches the new vampires?


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Guys with fangs are so last year. This fall, witches are taking over. You’ll find them on HBO’s ‘True Blood,’ where Sookie will face down a coven this season. They’ll be casting spells on their fellow high school students in the CW’s ‘The Secret Circle,’ a drama from ‘The Vampire Diaries’ creator Kevin Williamson. A particularly wicked one shows up in ABC’s ‘Once Upon a Time’ to place a curse on the town of Storybrook. Plus, with NBC’s mystery ‘Grimm’ riffing on various fairy tales, Hansel and Gretel’s friend with the black pointy hat might soon join the others.

So where did all the soft-hearted, sharp-toothed Edward Cullens go? Since women generally watch more television than men, the networks are greenlighting more female-skewing shows for fall, including ensemble dramas lead by female characters (ABC’s ‘Pan Am,’ NBC’s ‘The Playboy Club,’ ABC’s ‘Good Christian Belles’) to comedies anchored by actresses (Christina Applegate’s ‘Up All Night’ and Whitney Cummings’ ‘Whitney’ on NBC, Zoey Deschanel’s ‘The New Girl’ on Fox). And viewers seem to like bad girls best: CBS’ ‘2 Broke Girls,’ starring an insult-slinging Kat Dennings, tested better than any comedy or drama in CBS history, and two of the season’s most highly anticipated shows, ‘Good Christian Belles’ and ABC’s ‘Apartment 23,’ originally had titles that featured a word that rhymes with witch. For networks seeking female viewers and mean girl heroines, witches offer the perfect double threat.


Plus, for advertisers seeking younger viewers, there’s that whole built-in audience of goth girls, who’ll no doubt love to watch ‘The Secret Circle’ hero Thomas Dekker -- or as some might call him, the Man-Witch. Teenage girls have always loved witches -- during the ‘90s, they flocked to ‘Charmed,’ ‘Sabrina, the Teenage Witch,’ ‘The Craft’ and Winona Ryder’s version of ‘The Crucible’ -- and it’s easy to see why: Those stories verify the feeling that high school is filled with total monsters, that popular girls are casting spells on their hangers-on, that if some pale, creepy kid with long fingernails gets close to you, you’ll just die.

Still, while witches are somewhat timeless (there’s a reason each one is, like, 10 billion years old), they also seem particularly attractive to a generation of girls drawn to the tough-minded, self-sufficient heroines like Katniss of the book and coming film ‘The Hunger Games’ or the arrow-slinging killer in ‘Hanna.’ At a time when parents have their kids under constant supervision, through Facebook and FourSquare and cellphone check-ins, ‘The Secret Circle’ offers a world in which rather than being hyper-managed by parents and teachers, young women can literally control everything around them with the only counsel coming from a book of spells. It’s no accident that right before the heroine of ‘The Secret Circle’ discovers that she’s a witch, her mother dies, leaving her to make her own decisions.

No doubt these stories appeal to adults too. And that’s especially true on ‘True Blood,’ on which the witches apparently wield the power to make Eric’s shirt disappear.

-- Melissa Maerz

Upper photo: ‘The Secret Circle.’ Credit: CW. Left photo: Actors who play TV witches: Katerina Graham, Melissa Joan Hart, Elizabeth Montgomery and Kevin Alejandro. Credits: CW / ABC / Nick at Nite / HBO