Vampires have long been a staple in mass media. TV-wise especially there always seems to be a vampire show on the go (the theme of vampire investigators seems to be weirdly prevalent – Forever Knight, Angel, Blood Ties, Moonlight – due to the ability supernatural powers give them to sniff out blood and zero in on clues?). There’s been a claim of a resurgence of vampire themed entertainment recently as True Blood became popular for its depiction of a world where vampires have ‘come out’ and live freely in human society.
It features rather hilariously over the top depictions of bloodlust and orgiastic frenzies, and doesn’t really capitalise on the core market of the Twilight watchers – dewy-eyed teenage girls who are longing for another abstinent vampire to ritually offer up their necks to. Enter The Vampire Diaries, the newest American import shipped over by ITV2.
The Vampire Diaries comes with a gold standard of teen market talent behind it; based on a popular series of books by Young Adult author L.J. Smith, it is brought to our television screens by Kevin Williamson, who any connoisseur of teen angst will recognise as the creator of Dawson’s Creek and the writer of the Scream films.
Ian Somerhalder, probably the only recognisable face in the acting ensemble having played the ineffectual Boone on Lost, also brings with him a solid background in guest-starring on teen shows and a stint on the short-lived series Young Americans, which I fondly recall as one of the strangest teen shows I’ve seen, featuring as it did a cross-dressing girl who Somerhalder falls in love with and a quasi-incestuous sub-plot.
Critics have so far been underwhelmed by the first episodes but I must say I rather enjoyed them. All the over-familiar plot devices are present – Elena has secret pain caused by her parents passing away, Stefan is mysterious and broody, gothic mist rolls and sways across the landscape and a crow flies overhead as the two bump into each other at the graveyard. The show is burdened by a clunky ‘Dear Diary’ narration and soundtracked by a passably good indie mixture (Bat For Lashes, Stars and The Raconteurs are some acts featured).
The acting is fine, as it goes, and of course the stars are all very pretty. It’s precisely its mediocrity that makes it so enjoyable. It has the air of a 90s classic teen show about it, I don’t want to get all ‘Kids these days…’ but it has an earnest air and a complete lack of attempting to be at all edgy or forcibly cool that feels a world away from something like Skins or Gossip Girl.
Watching it felt to me like putting on an old cosy jumper. I almost went into a Proustian reverie, I felt like I was 14 again with much smaller problems than my overdraft and nine-to-five woe, camping out on the couch to watch the travails of people much prettier and suspiciously better spoken than me. OK, I’m pushing it with the Proust thing, but all I’m saying is my formative years were defined by Buffy and Dawson’s Creek and watching The Vampire Diaries was for me an affable nostalgia trip, if nothing else.