Don’t Judge A Show By Its Advertising

There are surprises and then there are jaw-droppers. My love of The Vampire Diaries is the latter.

I was not going to like The Vampire Diaries. I was not even going to give The Vampire Diaries a chance. Then Yahoo had to go ahead and feature this blog post and I found myself reconsidering.

And now, having watched every episode to date, I have to make a confession: I’m kind of a huge fan.

My initial reluctance (read: refusal) to watch this show can be boiled down to three clear and distinct reasons:

  1. It is on the CW.
    I have an intense bias regarding the CW. That bias is disdain. As a whole, I have almost zero respect for this network and its programming. It’s attachments to even-more-ridiculously-attractive-than-regular-television casts, teen angst, and pop soundtracks give me hives.
  2. It stars Nina Dobrev.
    I was never going to admit this to anyone, but…I watched American Mall. It was terrible. Nina Dobrev was the star, and she was terrible. I hated her even more than everyone else in it (exception for SYTYCD alum Neil Haskell). Also, I don’t find her the least bit attractive.
  3. It sounded like Twilight.
    In retrospect, I realize this was mostly a marketing decision. An ingenious marketing decision, even, designed to reel in all those girlfans already primed for vampire fiction. So, clever. But I HATE Twilight and pointedly avoid it.

So, yeah, anyway. I was determined to not even give The Vampire Diaries a shot because of these points against it that I thought would be of vital importance. As it turns out, this show is nothing like Twilight and, as for points 1 and 2, I’m finding I don’t really mind (that much).

If I were to pick the one main reason why I’ve gone from unreasonable disgust to overt fandom, it’d probably be the fact that The Vampire Diaries (based on the book series by L.J. Smith) has an honest-to-god show mythology. A good one. There are the vampires, of course, who are fascinating. I’m not going to dive into a rant about vampire fiction and the abilities/weaknesses vampires ought to have; let me just say, The Vampire Diaries‘ vamps are maybe my favorites to come out of the last couple decades. In addition there are witches, tied to Salem and interesting in their own right. And, there’s reason to believe we’ll be seeing a werewolf before long. Lots of good times.

Other than the show mythology (which is vital to vampire fiction), there are a good number of other things to love about this show.

  1. Excellent period costumes.
    I kind of live for the Civil War-era flashbacks just because I’m violently in love with all the era-appropriate fashion…mostly women’s. Nina Dobrev has been given not only fabulous dresses, but also some intensely gorgeous undergarments.
  2. Humans who matter.
    The regular ole mortal people who don’t have a clue about what goes bump in the night are more often than not sidelined in this genre. But The Vampire Diaries puts a lot of good work into the human side of things and takes the time to fill out some genuinely relatable characters with what are really some very serious problems, even when compared to the trials of the world of the undead.
  3. People die.
    As in, speaking characters who actually kind of matter. There’s obviously some amount of death to be expected on a show that revolves around bloodsuckers. But The Vampire Diaries‘ willingness to part with people not totally on the sidelines is refreshing.
  4. Dream guest cast.
    Matthew Davis. Jasmine Guy. Bianca Lawson. Kelly Hu. Melinda Clarke. Gina Torres. David Anders (coming soon). Do I really need to say anything more?
  5. And speaking of casting…
    Television Without Pity blogger Angel Cohn (linked above) got it right when she listed Damon Salvatore/Ian Somerhalder as the number one best part of the show. He is magnificent. Scary, comic, deliciously evil, and just plain delicious.

The Vampire Diaries isn’t just angsting teen romance with fangs. The standard vampire topics – immortality, morality, et cetera – have been intertwined with Civil War history, witch persecution a la Salem, and the more serious issues of the modern youth to make for a substantial narrative. The whole production team – costumes, sets, makeup and digital effects – goes above and beyond. The cast is good, the writing is solid…there’s so much to love that I can (almost) ignore the occasionally grating CW-typical soundtrack.

Obviously this is not a show for everyone. But, if you are sticking to my former position of No, I Refuse Because It Sounds Moronic, I honestly suggest you give it a shot. It is far, far more excellent than it has a right to be.

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  • forensicfanatic  On April 6, 2010 at 7:11 PM

    Ok, looks like I’ll have to give this a try.

    I guess I’m of the same opinion that you were, Twilight ripoff on an usually annoying network. I tried to watch the first five minutes but I had such a bias against this show that I couldn’t even do that. This time, I’m gonna try to put aside my preconceptions and try to enjoy it; your review gives me enough reason to try again.

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