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- TV Series: The Vampire Diaries
- Episode: Pilot
- Starring: Ian Somerhalder, Nina Dobrev, Jennifer Rose Locke, Paul Wesley, Michael Trevino, Kayla Ewell
- Written By: Julie Plec, Kevin Williamson
- Directed By: Marcos Siega
- Network: CW
The Vampire Diaries: Pilot Review
Not as Sucky As You Think
By Liana Aghajanian
September 11, 2009
Although one can argue that pop culture’s obsession with vampires never went away, it certainly has had us on a whirlwind for the last few years, from Underworld to the abstinence porn that is Twilight and HBO’s sexy, yet sophisticated True Blood. The latest fixation brought to you by the CW network, “The Vampire Diaries,” a new series featuring every girl’s dream – a vampire with a conscience - is a clear indication that the trend shows no signs of sucking, er, slowing down.
Based on the young adult novels by L.J Smith, “The Vampire Diaries” tells the tale of high school student Elena Gilbert (Nina Dobrev) and the budding romance she develops with troubled vampire Stefan Salvatore (Paul Wesley, who has returned to the town of Mystic Falls, Virginia after being away for several lifetimes. Added to the brood-o-meter is Stefan’s third leg, otherwise known as his brother Damon (Ian Somerhalder) who follows him to the small town and immediately begins stirring trouble.
For all its plot similarities to other current vampire dramas, somewhat stagnant dialogue and hard to believe scare tactics, “The Vampire Diaries” has zoned in on an audience that will remain faithful to the show – no matter how many times they’ve seen the bites, camera and action before.
Unlike True Blood’s strictly adult focus, and Twilight’s tacky, laughable subject material (hello, sparkling vampires) the Vampire Diaries has enough soul to carry it through at least one season and is at its core, an old-fashioned romance in more ways than one, that comes alive in truly personable characters with real problems – an important piece of the puzzle that has been forgotten – at least by Twilight author Stephenie Meyer, whose vacant, remote anti-heroine Bella is no match for Elena, the raven haired lead who spends her time grieving the loss of her parents and coming to terms with her feelings through the pages of a hand-written diary (imagine that!).
The vampires on the other hand, more or less have powers we’re familiar with, from glamoring their human counterparts to trying to control their blood-thirst and not being able to come inside a house unless they’ve invited to enrolling in high school with the squeals of teenage girls in the background as they watch the dark, mysterious newcomer glides down locker-filled hallways.
Though Ian Somerhalder has thus far gotten a good handle on Damon, Stefan’s sinister cock-blocking brother that rounds out the love triangle, his incessant ability to produce fog before he appears to feast on his next victim is a downfall. The unnecessary special effect is more foreboding of a troop of badly dressed 90s teenagers at the junior prom than any menacing vampire.
For its shortcomings and contributions to the oversaturated vampire market, Vampire Diaries offers characters that young women can relate to – from Elena’s self-rationalizing when Stefan’s eyes suddenly start convulsing with earthworm-like veins under his skin at the sight of her injury (“I get it, you’re squeamish about blood”) and her friend Jenna Sommers (Sara Canning) lamenting over the mysterious new comers lack of interest in her (“How come the guys I want never want me?”) Stefan’s introspective nature that mirrors Elena’s, both in tribulations and habit to keep a diary is exactly what viewers want to see – two tortured souls whose pain and anguish evaporates, if only just a little, when they find each other.
“The Vampire Diaries” has director Kevin Williamson’s (Dawson’s Creek, Scream) fingerprints all over it, with tinges of teenage self discovery set to the sounds of MGMT and Placebo’s cover of Kate Bush classic “Running Up That Hill.” Though critics and viewers will definitely see the similarities between other vampire favorites that might leave them bored, it’s good to keep in mind that the novels arrived on the scene some 18 years ago. Still, it’s no secret that show and its network are trying to cash in on the undead craze, and with a tried and tested formula full of passionate romance, underdogs and unpretentious high-schoolers, it seems safe to say that they will.