“The Vampire Diaries” – better than expected

Psst, Elena, these guys may leave  you cold.
Psst, Elena, these guys may leave you cold.

By Elaine Bergstrom

Well, at least the vampires are back on TV. With the heart-staking pulling of powerhouses Buffy and Angel, the axing of Moonlight and Blood Ties — the last a particular tragedy as it had no time to reach its very obvious potential (Could Lifetime be ruing that decision now that vampiremania is on the rise? I hope so!) — and the recent season finale of True Blood, fans of the suave creatures of the night can take heart that there are still a few lurking on the small screen, and, in the case of The Vampire Diaries, with all the gothic bells and whistles they have traditionally been known for. To elaborate, here are a pair of vamps (and maybe more, I suspect) able to change into animals, control the fog, glamour humans and seemingly disappear at will. Kudos to the production team for doing such a great job of keeping the old-time horror atmosphere alive. An early scene in which fog rolls into a cemetery when Elena is visiting the graves of her parents is something Hammer Film Productions would have been proud to call their own.

Diaries is the story of Elena, a girl still emotionally recovering from the loss of her parents in a car crash, and Stefan, a vampire drawn to her because she resembles the woman who turned him a century earlier. In order to meet her, he signs up for high school. This is my only objection to the story as there would have been plenty of easier ways for him to meet the young lady. Things soon get complicated for Stefan when his brother Damon shows up and people begin getting killed in obviously vampirish ways. Along with Damon’s disregard for trying to act human, things are far from peaceful between the two vamps and Elena will find herself in the middle of their battle as the series continues.

The first mistake Diaries has is a very miscast Stefan. At 27, Paul Wesley (who plays Kim Bauer’s husband on 24) is the second-oldest cast member, but none of them look anywhere near high-school age except perhaps for Nina Dobrev (Degrassi: The Next Generation) who plays Elena. Worse, Wesley seems the sort of actor able to get by on jock-ish good looks and a slight resemblance (at least in the hair) to Robert Pattinson’s Edward Cullen on Twilight. However, things take a turn for the better when Damon arrives. A far more skilled actor, Ian Somerhalder (Boone on Lost) looks right at home as the black sheep of the undead family and his sizzling looks should really heat things up as the series goes on.

The second mistake is that the series is on The CW — home of 90210 and Gossip Girl — and, has clearly been produced with their demographic in mind. But then, teenage girls adore watching beautiful people older than they are (but not too old, ewww!) testing their limits. So far the small-town school has featured drug use, drinking and a lot of implied sex. No wonder home schooling is on the rise.

It is tempting to compare Diaries with Twilight — and it was obviously created with the Cullen fanclub in mind — but in a single episode Diaries has already proven to be so much better. But then, that was hardly difficult.

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