On TV: The Vampire Diaries

Over a decade before Charlaine Harris penned her Southern Vampire Mysteries (a.k.a. True Blood) and Stephenie Meyers had that fated vampire dream that would bear a Twilight novel, a cinematic hit and Robert Pattinson's star, L.J. Smith began writing her own young-adult series called The Vampire Diaries. Tonight, Kevin Williamson's adapation of Smith's novel hits the CW, giving network television its first cut of vampire mania.

Simply put, The Vampire Diaries is the story of a mortal high school girl, Elana (Nina Dobrev), who is torn romantically between two brothers who also happen to be century-old vampires. We learn about our heroine through her angsty diary narrations chock full of character exposition like, "I will no longer be the girl who lost her parents."

In case you didn't catch on, Elana's parents died last year, in a suspicious car accident caused by a crow slamming into their windshield. Even casual vampire fans will be screaming "Shapeshifter!" at the television, but Elana and her drug-addicted brother (Steven R. McQueen) are too busy adjusting to life with their clueless Aunt Jenna and struggling with the daily hardships of 21st century teenagism to notice. Luckily, Elena has a supportive best friend Bonnie (Katerina Graham), who hazily cites her Salem ancestry in the pilot before proclaiming herself psychic, as in, "I predict this year is going to be kick ass" psychic and "I predicted Heath Ledger" psychic.

Bonnie is the first person drawn towards Stefan (Paul Wesley), the mysteriously leather-clad new kid at school, not through her telepathic powers but the primal lust which will soon rage inside of nearly every young female in town, including sullen Elana. We learn that the fanged archfiend is revisiting the town to find a long-lost love, who looks strikingly similar to Elana judging by Stefan's treasured daguerreotype. Elana and Stefan may find everlasting, impulse controlled love, but not before dodging Stefan's equally smoking nocturnal brother, Damon, played by Ian Somerhalder.

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Diaries provides us with the usual vampire paraphernalia: the aforementioned shapeshifters, special lapis lazuli rings, weather manipulation and blood lust. But more exciting for many will be Kevin Williamson's return to television. Like his Dawson's Creek characters, the VD gang makes snappy pop culture references (Pete Wentz and Hitchcock), looks like they stepped out of an American Eagle clothing ad and eschews proper teenage breakfast for black coffee.

Williamson relies on dark cinematography to make Mystic Falls, Va. look like a constantly dusk Transylvania, or Vancouver. Dobrev infuses her mortal love interest with the kind of energy you don't see emanating from Kristen Stewart's dead eyes in Twilight and unlike Stewart's vampire franchise, there are no biblical symbols or exceedingly unrealistic innocences woven into CW's tale of eternal love. Little comparison can be made to VD's premium cable cousin True Blood either: Elana and her friends all have bright, college-educated futures and will probably never be chained inside of someone's musky sex dungeon.

The Vampire Diaries was will almost certainly post huge gains for the CW based on cult appeal alone, but it will also indulge viewers in some of the best guilty pleasure entertainment on television today. If it looks like Twilight and sounds like Dawson's Creek, it is bound to be a hit.



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