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Sarah Michelle Gellar plays twins; witches gather in Pacific Northwest

Sarah Michelle Gellar plays murder witness posing as her twsister wife rich New Yorker (Ioan Gruffudd) “Ringer.”

Sarah Michelle Gellar plays a murder witness posing as her twin sister, the wife of a rich New Yorker (Ioan Gruffudd), on “Ringer.”

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‘RINGER’ ★★★

8 to 9 p.m. Tuesdays on WGN-Channel 9


8 to 9 p.m. Thursdays on WGN-Channel 9

Updated: November 26, 2011 12:28AM

A couple of promising dramas debut on the CW this week, each one tailored to opposite ends of the network’s targeted 18- to 34-year-old, estrogen-rich audience.

First out of the gate is “Ringer,” the most adult-oriented program on a network whose lineup is chock-full of characters too young for Botox.

The soapy psychological thriller — one of the season’s most buzzed-about broadcast newcomers — stars Sarah Michelle Gellar. Listen closely and you can hear a collective sigh of relief from “Buffy” fans who’ve spent eight long years waiting for Gellar’s return to the small screen.

The programs, though, differ markedly in style and substance, with Gellar trying to save the world in one (“Buffy”) and having a hell of a time just trying to save herself in the other (“Ringer”). Gellar makes up for lost time by doing double duty in “Ringer,” playing identical twins.

Bridget is a newly sober stripper who’s on the run after witnessing a murder. She flees into the slightly heavier arms of her estranged sister, Siobhan, a rich socialite and stepmom who’s kept the existence of her troubled twin hidden from family and friends. That sets the stage for Bridget to slip into Siobhan’s Manolo Blahniks when the latter mysteriously disappears.

Granted, the I-Have-a-Secret-Twin shtick is straight out of the daytime soap opera playbook, a genre Gellar knows well after her Emmy Award-winning stint on “All My Children.” But if you can suspend your disbelief enough to get over the improbable premise (and overlook Nestor Carbonell’s abuse of eyeliner as FBI agent Victor Machado), “Ringer” takes you on an exciting, suspenseful ride full of more twists and turns than Siobhan’s hallmark hairdo.

“Ringer” originally was intended for the more mature eyes of CBS viewers but landed instead on sister network CW, where the new supernatural teen drama “The Secret Circle” — premiering Thursday — should appeal to those on the younger end of the 18-34 spectrum.

“Circle” centers on a high school student, Cassie Blake (played with admirable restraint by Britt Roberston), who moves in with her grandma in a small town in Washington state after Cassie’s mom dies in a fire.

As freshly orphaned Cassie tries to adjust to her new hometown, she’s dealt another mind-bending blow: She finds out she’s a witch. So are several of her classmates. They’re all descended from a long line of witches, and Cassie is the missing link who makes the new generation of the Secret Circle complete and more powerful than ever.

In the premiere at least, the story unfolds nicely — and to the tune of a good soundtrack. When the episode ended, I wanted to know more about the Circle, both its history and where it’s headed.

“Secret Circle” will get a big assist from its lead-in, “The Vampire Diaries,” CW’s highest-rated show. The network is looking to replicate the success of that blood-sucking smash by following the same recipe with “Circle”: Mix L.J. Smith’s young-adult novels with executive producer Kevin Williamson of “Scream” fame, and hope for a hit.

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