Kevin Williamson sure knows his stuff.
Having first hit the heights of success with Dawson’s Creek, and the schlocky but fun films Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer (amongst other hits), he is well attuned with the youth entertainment market.
He also knows vampire lore and the adolescent market go hand in hand.
In adapting L.J. Smith’s novels The Vampire Diaries into episodic television, he’s thrown everything at this teen horror series: pretty kids, hot romance, billowing fog, pretty kids, wild parties, high school bimbos, theatrical photography, cemeteries, peril, waterfalls, a black crow, yearning and pretty kids. Did we mention the pretty kids?
Thankfully most it sticks.
The premise is simple enough. Two vampire brothers, one good (Paul Wesley) and one evil (Ian Somerhalder) will fight over the affections of an attractive female (Nina Dobrev). She bears a striking resemblance to a flame from the 1800s, that has never been forgotten by the two. Talk about history.
In the town of Mystic Falls, a brooding smalltown that looks particularly photogenic after dark, locals will get in the way of these two brothers who don’t see eye to eye. The opening sequence on a dark roadside in which strangers perish stamps the show with a sense of fun. The two look set to be ham it up like Smallville‘s Lex and Clark. Yeah, it’s that kinda love / hate relationship.
Most of the cast in the pilot ep were memorable for their aesthetic appearance rather than their dramatic flair. This is all the more evident when Somerhalder belatedly arrives in full view (after menacing from the wings). He has a rollicking time as the baddie here, teasing, goading, and getting downright theatrical. The sweet, syrupy Dobrev is effective as the heroine, but it remains to be seen if her character is imbued with any… ummm, teeth?
Cleverly, the ‘Diaries’ of the title allow Dobrev’s character, Elena to link the storytelling together with narration.
Despite its southern setting (Georgia), this series is far more saccharine than True Blood. Forget about minorities here, everyone is painfully white.
As with HBO’s drama, it also shares the concept of virtuous vampires, some wandering around in daylight hours as Moonlight had. While one thrives on metaphors the other is just here for the merriment.
The production values are terrific. It looks lush and inviting, turning smalltown USA into a foreboding ground of deeper secrets.
With a little DNA from Gossip Girl, Supernatural and Charmed in check, The Vampire Diaries should hit its mark with a spirited young audience. It remains to be seen if it can rise above its stock characters and handsome window dressing, but with Williamson on board there is every hope.
The Vampire Diaries airs 8:30pm Mondays on GO!