The Vampire Diaries, based on the book series by L.J. Smith, is the CW's latest coming-of-age, teen-angst melodrama – with a supernatural spin. Seventeen-year-old Elena and her younger brother Jeremy start a new year at school following a car accident that killed both their parents. Elena is captivated by new student Stefan, even though she doesn't know he is a vampire.
Stefan wants nothing more than to fit in with human society. He can go out during the day, he attends school, and he only drinks animal blood. He has even severed all ties with his older brother, Damon – that is, of course, until Damon comes back to town, leaving a trail of bloodless victims in his wake. Damon embraces his vampire heritage, and bullies his little brother for not doing the same.
I was pleasantly surprised by The Vampire Diaries. I honestly thought it was going to be another teen throwaway, capitalizing on the success of Twilight. But having Kevin Williamson (Scream, Dawson's Creek) at the helm definitely bumps up the quality of the show several notches. Pilots are notoriously weak: they have to set up an entire cast of characters, an episode plot as well as a series arc, and often have significantly less time and resources than a standard series episode. The Vampire Diaries pilot took its time – Damon wasn't even introduced until the last act. I believe the original order was for twelve episodes right-off, so the producers knew that they could take their time.
The acting is surprisingly good, especially by Nina Dobrev, who plays Elena. Her parents are dead, her little brother is on drugs, and she dumped her boyfriend, yet she does not mope around miserably the entire episode. It would have been easy for an actress to play the role as brooding and depressed, but Dobrev balances sadness while putting on a happy face in the hopes of moving on. Supporting characters include Elena's BFF Bonnie, who half-jokingly thinks she is psychic; Vicki, the semi-slutty pill-popper who had a fling with Jeremy over the summer; and Matt, Vicki's brother and Elena's ex.
Twilight fans ought to be sated by the romantic brooding of Stefan and the everyone-can-relate setting of high school. These vamps don't sparkle, though – Stefan wears a family ring that keeps him safe in the daylight. It's a little more somber than Buffy, and not quite as violent as True Blood. However, I've only seen the first episode, and it wouldn't surprise me if Kevin Williamson upped the action and threw in some snarky lines in the episodes that will follow.
Verdict? Definitely worth a viewing. It's a strong outing from the CW, with a strong cast and crew to boot. And it should satisfy the bloodlust of most fang-bangers out there.