'Vampire Diaries': Not Just 'True Blood' Lite


The CW

With True Blood wrapping up its third season on Sunday, you might already be dreading the effects of a withdrawal worse than going cold turkey after a V-binge. No shirtless Alexander Skarsgard for a whole year?! Say it ain't so! But before you get too distraught, there's some good news: you can catch the second season premiere of another Southern vampire show this very night, on the slightly less hallowed CW network.

Yes, I'm talking about The Vampire Diaries. After a summer of watching what often feels like blood-drenched soft-core porn (not that I'm complaining), it's time for the softer side of vampire-human love triangles. We're not in HBO-land anymore. The show is set in the South, yes, but in manicured northern Virginia (in the cheekily-named fictional town of Mystic Falls), not the deep South of True Blood's Bon Temps, Louisiana. In fact, everything about The Vampire Diaries is cleaner and more groomed: the high school setting, the lack of visible bloodshed, the readily-bared but overly-chiseled-and-hairless man chests.

Again, not that I'm complaining.

For all that it may seem to be a True Blood-lite, The Vampire Diaries is very much its own, highly enjoyable experience. The show took some time to find its footing in the first season, starting out with a bit too much attractive brooding on the part of both the "good" vampire brother, Stefan Salvatore (Paul Wesley) and his human love interest, the recently-orphaned but still glossy-haired Elena Gilbert (Nina Dobrev). Soon, however, the smirking "bad" vampire brother, Damon Salvatore (Ian Somerhalder) made his presence known, and the show got a bit more comfortable in its own immortal skin.

Unlike True Blood, The Vampire Diaries is clearly not setting out to draw parallels between vampires and other, less paranormal minority groups. Nor does it really own up to any of the other gritty realities of daily (and nightly) life in the American South. But what it does, it does well. It's a truly entertaining prime-time soap with a delightful paranormal kick. The "drama" of teenage life can be a bit tedious (see Gossip Girl), but when there are vampires, witches, and ancient magical devices thrown in, it all becomes so much more palatable. And just plain fun.

By the end of the first season, we had a full-fledged love triangle between Elena, Stefan, and Damon, the reemergence of a whole slew of Civil War-era vampires who had been trapped under Mystic Falls since the bellum days, the discovery that Elena was adopted and that her mom had become a vampire, and the return of Katherine, the naughty vampire who a) made Damon and Stefan and b) is identical to Elana (yes, she's also played by Dobrev).

If you missed the first season, fear not—here are the main things you need to know for the premiere tonight:

  • Katherine is back, baby! And she's already stirring up trouble, having killed (possibly for good—there are lots of magic, rejuvenating rings in this show—John Gilbert, the man recently revealed as Elena's biological father) and shared a passionate kiss with Damon while pretending to be Elena.
  • The Mystic Falls founding families know all about their recurring vampire problem and, having staged a coup to rid the town of its paranormal infestation, inadvertently revealed that their mayor was a werewolf. Also, they killed him. His son, Tyler, is still alive and well, as are his wolfy anger-management issues.
  • Elena's younger brother, Jeremy (played by Steven R. McQueen, who is far more generically handsome than his grandfather) may or may not have been turned into a vampire.

If that doesn't pique your interest, then you're just going to have to console yourself with True Blood re-runs. But I know where I'll be tonight at 8 p.m. (7 p.m. Central).