Friday, April 30, 2010

Talking TV and that means Vampires!

I am writing about the TV show, The Vampire Diaries.

No real spoilers...believe it or not:)

This season started with me refusing to watch The CW's trite, watered down, poorly constructed, sadly redundant (TV version) of Twilight (not on my top 10 list anyway) for teeny boppers. Okay, I imagine that sentiment describes at least 75 percent of my friends who likely had similar reactions to the idea of watching the show, if they even bolthered to think about watching TVD at all.

I had to be dragged, kicking and screaming, by a friend who said, you've got to check this show out. So I caved in around episode five or six (I've since seen all episodes by the way). It took me a while to submit (not just because of the reasons stated earlier here), but that friend doesn't have my passion for well-crafted story lines and ensemble casts that showcase character, plot, arcs, etc. She liked BTVS, and AtS was perfect eye candy. But she didn't re-watch each and every episode of AtS or BtVS to the point where she could recite scenes or knew the title of the next episode (you know what I mean). I enjoy searching for details, getting to the heart of a story arc, character black moments, etc. She enjoyed the shows. Sure. But wasn't nearly as obessessed:).

Anyway, she's a good friend, so I said to her (when she wouldn't stop insisting I at least try TVD) okay, I'll watch. The first few episodes were a struggle. I was pre-occupied with Being Human (a superior BBC-2 paranormal TV show), but still I watched. Frankly, I can't remember the episode that added me to the list of fans who 'can't miss an episode' of TVD. Likely, it was more so about Damon and Bonnie, the witch. Those two characters caught my attention - especially Bonnie. I LOVED the way the show was developing the witch and vampire history/relationship and especially the role of the witch in the history of the town, and the potential for her character and her ancestors to be pivotal to the entire story (and yeah, I know - she disappeared for about four episodes but by then I was hooked into the overall story).

If you don't know me, there is one thing that's pretty clear when it comes to me and entertainment - be it reading, watching or listening. I love vampire stories. Paranormal grabs me in a huge way, and I seek it out. Most of it unfortunately falls short, I must admit. I imagine part of that is being spoiled by the likes of Spike and Angel - and before those two rascals, as far as TV vampire drama was concerned I've got to go back so far it's practically pre-historic - and yes, I'm talking Barnabas Collins - so there.

Anyway, what's my point?

Vampire Diaries is a classic in the genre. Very different from BtVS or AtS, but rooted in the same love of vampire mythology as either one of those shows, and in many ways more so. There are no statements here about the struggle or challenge of girls becoming women or metaphors about high school, young aduthood, first time sex, or other growing pains - those topics have been covered. This show is telling the tale of a scary old town filled with vampires, vampire killers, witches and werewolves (so far), and it's good. Damn good. What are my reasons for coming to this conclusion?

1) It' a complex family saga - those of us who LOVED the relationships and history shared between characters like Darla, Dru, Angel and Spike, and their tragic choices throughout those histories and their obsessions, will find the same surprises in this tale. The unique issues of vampires are exploited here. For me that means they live long lives during which they can obsess about everything, as was the case with Whedon's vampires. Hundreds of years of living or unliving during which a vampire relived whatever was the focus, missed opportunity or mistakes of their human lives.

On TVD we have a triangle that the writers are not shying away from, too - two brothers in love with the same woman (Spike, Angel, Buffy, if you will). Except this time we have two human brothers who fall in love with a vampire named Katherine. (And whoa, I'm waiting for the fic that slashes Stefan and Damon - although I won't read it - just like I don't read Wincest - but you know it's a coming.). Anyway, they are both sexy, intense and their love for each other and the issues they have with each other is as riveting as their obsession/love for Katherine/Elena. And there's huge back story here, too.

2) The femaie leads (for the most part) are strong, fearless heroines (Elena/Katherine - I can't separate them because I believe there is no separating them:) or Bonnie or the blond (sorry can't remember her name now) or Isobel (who promises to be Darla with dark hair). So far, although Elena has no super powers, she is fearless and believable. She will walk into any situation as if she were a slayer when it comes to vampires. She owns Stefan, and Damon is right on her heels.

3) Bad Guys. Can we just say Uncle John? (And yes, I know he's a new face - only showing up two or three episodes ago, but damn!). At first, it was Damon, and in the early episodes I couldn't see any way for the writers to redeem him - but they aren't necessarily redeeming him as much as explaining why he is the vampire that he is, and it's not contrived. It works and yes, I actually thought of Dexter during this last episode. I mean if Dexter can be loved why can't Damon Salvotore?

4) Excellent supporting cast and subplots. If a scene doesn't involve Elena, Stefan or Damon, I('m good. There's the witch, the teacher, the sheriff, Jeremy and Anna, Pearl, the list goes on and on and each character fits into the puzzle, although Uncle John is a SHIT, and still a major mystery. Okay, I'm emotional about him. He just offed a character I wanted to see more of...

5) Flashbacks. TVD uses flashbacks exceptionally well. When the viewer is taken back in time we learn something new, see a character from a new perspective, understand more about a character's motives, etc., and they don't mind being dangerous and exciting about Damon and Stefan and their lives back in the day. No wasted screen time there.

6) Pacing, pacing, pacing. Each episode rockets from one OMG to the next. I love good pacing, and the only way to carry it off on a TV show is with good writing. And yes, VD is well-written.

7) One thing that's not so good...the show has no mature characters. I think the oldest regular is the Sheriff, and she's not necessarily filling the shows of someone like "Giles' for example - no way no how. The witch's grandmother was interesting, but that entire story arch skirted in and skirted out rather awkwardly, IMHO. So there it is, my long, rambling overview of The Vampire Diaries.

There are only two episodes left of TVD this season, and I'm almost as excited to watch them as I am about watching the last two episodes of 'Bones'.

So that's it, and yes, I haven't even mentioned True Blood. Why? It's always entertaining, shocking and fun, but thought provoking? Good vampire lore? No, not really. At least not to me. And that's what The Vampire Diaries gives - plenty of story to mull over.

NOTE: I'm on the train heading back to DC from Orlando after a week off. I've been writing, reading {The Strain) and doing that thing I wish I had more time for when I'm up to my eyebrows working...talking TV:)

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