Sunday, September 13, 2009

Pilot Review: The Vampire Diaries

The Vampire Diaries (CW)
Premiered September 10 at 8pm

This clearly is the era of the vampire. After “Moonlight” kicked off a renewed interest in the subject in 2007 and stirred up an enormous amount of fan support, two different book series were adapted into a movie franchise and TV series, “Twilight” and “True Blood,” respectively. Less mainstream films like “Let the Right One In” and the upcoming “Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant” also center on this immortal bloodsucker phenomenon. “The Vampire Diaries” is also adapted from a book series, though it hardly seems as interesting. Though I haven’t seen “Twilight,” it seems to follow a similar format. It’s set in a high school environment where promiscuous sexual relationships are all the rage. The main vampire isn’t evil and bloodthirsty; he instead seeks to protect those he loves and defend the community from the threat of those who don’t think like him. The writing and dialogue is pretty pathetic, and the characters are so underdeveloped that it’s difficult to discern who’s who if you don’t remember exactly what they look like. The wide-eyed Paul Wesley tries hard to be dark and mysterious, but his friendly smile takes away from his supposed reputation as an ancient vampire. He’s outdone in darkness and mystery by his villainous vampire brother, played by Ian Somerhalder, best known as Boone from “Lost.” Neither is particularly convincing, and it feels like either of them could easily be ripped apart by any measly freshly-turned vampire from “True Blood.” The women are hardly interesting, and I honestly had a hard time keeping the characters straight, and wasn’t invested in telling them apart because they just didn’t seem worth it. This show is another series fitting to the general quality of the CW, but lacking in the imagination that made former Thursday night supernatural stalwarts “Smallville” and “Supernatural” worth their salt.

How will it work as a series? Any show based on a book series has a leg up on original programming in terms of where it can go because the material’s already been written. The pilot didn’t introduce enough remotely fascinating characters to demonstrate where it can go next, but I’m sure that if the book series seemed full of enough content to be made into a show, they’ll have a place to go (I just won’t be watching).
How long will it last? The numbers for the first episode were the biggest ever for any CW series premiere, but keep in mind that it doesn’t mean much since the network’s only been on the air for a few years (and this really only means it did better than “Gossip Girl”). Still, the vampire craze should keep this show on the air for at least the remainder of the season, and I imagine it will likely be renewed early on for a second season due to ratings alone.

Pilot grade: F