The Vampire Diaries: The Complete First Season Review

**WARNING** Continuing to click through this review will likely lead to exposure of the reader against another person's viewpoint. It is the author's personal viewpoint, and is therefore not to be interpreted as some definitive, monolithic treatise on the merits of teen vampire fiction, or lack thereof. If the idea of someone expressing thoughts or opinions that resemble anything other than rigid, uniform conformity to your own offends you, and/or is likely to trigger a bout of self-harm or some vitriolic outburst of inarticulate abuse, then please stop reading now. No good can come of this. You'll simply get all worked-up and over-excited, and we really won't care anyway.

While it's certainly nice to see another vampire series on the CW, a network born of a merger between UPN and the old WB, which was, after all, the house that Buffy built, this latest teen-oriented trip to the dark side has a long ways to go to live up to the network's old legacy. For while they certainly talk a good game (my god, do they talk), The Vampire Diaries just doesn't have the bite.

Based on author L.J. Smith's hugely popular teen lit series, the action takes place in the sleepy fictional town of Mystic Falls, Virginia. There certainly seems to be something mystic about it alright, because no ugly people exist within town limits anywhere. Even the background walk-ons look like Gap models and everyone has blindingly white, perfect teeth. The town also appears to exist in a space/time vacuum, where everyone still goes to high school despite being very obviously well into their twenties.

A bedrock of supernatural goings-on, stretching back centuries, Mystic Falls is home to Elena (Nina Dobrev) and her brother Jeremy (Steven R. McQueen), two troubled teens reeling from the death of both their parents the previous year. Together they live with their Aunt Jenna (Sara Canning), who is about five minutes older than they are and can therefore facilitate the plot without the awful, unwelcome intrusion of someone who isn't young and beautiful.

Struggling to get back to normality, Elena finds herself inexplicably drawn to Stefan (Paul Wesley), a benevolent vampire whose long lost love, Katherine, Elena eerily resembles. Into the mix comes Damon (Ian Somerhalder), Stefan's evil brother, who takes interest in Elena as a way of tormenting Stefan and because he too still pines for Katherine. Oh, and they can both stroll around during the daytime because of these magic rings, or something, because it's kind of hard to have a love triangle set in a high school if two of your three principles can only come out after school is closed.

The trouble is we've seen this all before; daywalking vampires; a backdriop of witches, werewolves, and magic; a girl torn between two bloodsuckers, one nice and one nasty; true love tested. It's all been done before and done better. It matters not a jot that Smith's source novels predate the likes of Twilight and The Sookie Stackhouse Books by more than a decade - which they do. In terms of on-screen entertainment, The Vampire Diaries is late to the party and somewhat underdressed, so to speak.

Diaries lacks the underlying sincerity that make Bella's escapades such a guilty pleasure, and has neither the unapologetically trashy sensibility, nor the sardonic humor that makes True Blood so much fun. In fact, this show lacks anything approaching a sense of humor, with the producers seemingly less concerned with spinning an entertaining yarn than they are with making sure none of the cast wander into a patch of bad lighting. The scares aren't up to much either, with everything cooked up in post-production, cranked up that bit louder whenever there is a jump. No, this is a series aimed firmly at the "Dear diary..." crowd, and those who still kiss posters goodnight.

While Dobrev isn't necessarily bad, being called on to exhibit more and more range as the series progresses into developments that we wont spoil here, Paul Wesley is just terrible. Armed with two facial expressions (blank and blanker), and a chin you could land a helicopter on, Wesley's brooding, tortured bloodsucker is so wooden that if he tripped and fell he would very likely stake himself. Thank goodness for Ian Somerhalder, the Alan Rickman to Wesley's Kevin Costner. Hamming it up and clearly having a whale of a time, his deliciously devilish and flamboyant Damon steals every single scene he is in. Sadly, his performance doesn't so much take The Vampire Diaries to the next level as highlight just how bland everyone else in the show seems to be.

Blu-ray Bonus Features

Tons of stuff! Into Mystic Falls details the transition from page to screen. When Vampires Don't Suck talks about the resurgence in popularity of vamp fiction. A New Breed of Vampires covers the casting. Vampires 101 lays out the rules of vampire lore. There is also cast/director commentary on the pilot, a gag reel, webisodes, and a downloadable audiobook version of L.J. Smith's The Awakening.

"The Vampire Diaries: The Complete First Season" is on sale August 31, 2010 and is not rated. Fantasy, Horror, Romance, Television. Directed by Various. Written by Kevin Williamson, Julie Plec, Barbie Kligman, Gabrielle Stanton, Brian Young, Sean Reycraft (Series) ; L.J. Smith (Novels) . Starring Candice Accola, Ian Somerhalder, Katerina Graham, Nina Dobrev, Paul Wesley, Sara Canning, Steven R McQueen, Zach Roerig.

Sep
08
2010
Neil Pedley • Associate Editor

Neil is a film school graduate from England now living in New York. In addition to JustPressPlay, Neil writes about for Uinterview.com as well as being a columist and weekly podcast host at IFC.com. His free time is spent acting out scenes from Predator in the woods behind his house, playing all the different parts himself.

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