Wednesday, September 16, 2009

"The Vampire Diaries" Suffers from Anemia

Wednesday, September 16, 2009 7
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If Dark Shadows and Twilight had an anemic baby, it would be The Vampire Diaries. The new TV series, based on the Y/A books by L.J. Smith, debuted on The CW last week and the first episode followed a well-known and, by now, more than tiresome formula.

For nearly 20 years I have been reading books and watching films, and television shows about vampires. Finally, this otherwise useless vault of knowledge will come in handy.

The latest vampire craze has been painful for me for three reasons:

1. All of this has been done before.
2. I prefer vampires who live up to their name, not vampires trying to be human.

The parenthetical information included below will help you Google your way to sighing over the monotony.

Set in the fictional town of Mystic Falls (ohhh...ahhh), Episode One kicks off with a couple being attacked in their car from above (see: The Lost Boys).

Next, we meet our gorgeous, but haunted human heroine (see: Bella from Twilight, Mina from
Dracula, Sookie from True Blood, Beth from Moonlight and Caitlin from Kindred: The Embraced). Elena Gilbert (Nina Dobrev) has recently lost her parents in a car accident. However, a new school year has begun and our brave little toaster straps on her emotional armor and hides her pain with a smile.

Everyone loves Elena because she is just so beautiful! All the boys want her and all the girls want to be her (why does this sound so familiar?). Recently, Elena dumped super-jock Matt (Zach Roerig) because their relationship lacked "passion."

Rather than moving on, Matt humiliates himself in public by pathetically continuing to pursue her (see: Mike and the rest of the Bella harem in Twilight, Sam in True Blood).

To round out the female archetypes and make sure young women realize they can only fall into one
of two camps - good girl or WHORE - there is Vicki Donovan (Kayla Ewell). Vicki is free-spirited and sexually extroverted (see: Lucy in Dracula, all those chicks that were offed in the first season of True Blood, and any young woman who has had sex in a horror movie ever).

Vic dislikes it when boys want to talk to her or establish anything resembling emotional intimacy (we women SO hate that crap). Elena's substance-abusing brother Jeremy (Steven R. McQueen) is just such a lad. He refuses to give up on Lucy - er, I mean Vicki - because, like all teenage boys, he wiles away his hours scrap-booking future wedding plans, longing for true love and an oh-so-serious relationship.

I am not sure what is causing the severe lack of testosterone in these young men. Perhaps the water in Mystic Falls is contaminated with enormous amounts of estrogen.

Because of her sextra-curricular activities, we know that Vic, like Lucy, is sure to be chomped early on. When she is discovered after the attack, we are treated to the obligatory "Oh-my-God-she-has-teeth-marks-in-her-neck-and-her-blood-has-been-drained-and-she-must-have-been-attacked-by-a-wild-animal" scene (see: every movie, book, short story, or TV show about vampires or werewolves ever).

Now on to the vamps. Stefan Salvatore (Paul Wesley) sees Elena and is instantly smitten (see: Edward Cullen, Barnabas Collins, Dracula, Mick St. John, Julian Luna, Bill Compton). He enrolls in high school (see: Edward Cullen) even though he is like 400-years-old because he must get to know her! We find out later that Elena looks exactly like Stefan's former true love/soul mate (see: Coppola's Bram Stoker's Dracula, Dark Shadows).

Stefan is "on the wagon" when it comes to killing humans (see: all of the Cullens, Louis de Pointe du Lac of The Vampire Chronicles, Angel from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, most of the vamps in Kindred: The Embraced, the "assimilating" vamps in True Blood). He is also desperately in need of tweezers because Peter Gallagher's eyebrows have reincarnated on his face.

Stefan begins following Elena around, showing up at her house late at night without calling first and disappearing as if he has (GASP!) supernatural speed (see: Edward Cullen, Batman). He also gets all shaky, pale and generally wack at the sight of her blood (see: Dracula, Twilight, Kindred: The Embraced, Dark Shadows, a bunch of other stuff I'm forgetting). However, our heroine is not creeped out in the slightest by this strange, Ted Bundy-like behavior. On the contrary, she is delighted (see: Bella Swan, women who write love letters to inmates).

At this point, I was not entirely sure that I wasn't watching a new episode of 90210 written by Stephenie Meyer. I also wondered exactly when a hot vampire with normal supercilia was going to show up.

Enter Damon Salvatore (Ian Somerhalder), the best The CW could find. Damon is Stefan's
high-spirited brother. He is pro-vamp, definitely not a "vegetarian" and enjoys hunting humans - a major no-no in his bro's opinion (see: Lestat de Lioncourt from The Vampire Chronicles, all of The Lost Boys, Spike and Drusilla from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Victoria's gang in Twilight, the anti-assimilation vamps from True Blood).

It is immediately obvious that, despite having spent several centuries together, these boys do not get on so well (see: Louis and Lestat from The Vampire Chronicles, Angel and Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Eric and Bill from True Blood). It is also revealed that Damon is responsible for the attacks on Mystic Falls' residents.

At the end of the episode, Elena invites stalkin' Stef into her home, and we all know what that means (see: Dracula, The Lost Boys, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, True Blood).

The Vampire Diaries is, quite simply, Twilight for TV and all of the characters, the plot and the mythology have been recycled from better films, books and TV shows. Granted, Smith's books were published pre-Twilight, so it is really Stephenie Meyer (big surprise) who has done most of the stealing. However, the real question is: why waste the air time?

This is what happens when a sub-culture phenomenon catches the attention of the public at large and becomes a trend. Any originality and depth is left by the wayside to appeal to the larger, less discriminating mainstream audience.

Remember the hair bands of the 80s? This show is the equivalent of Winger.

I cannot blame The CW for jumping on the fang-bang bandwagon. After all, a lot of money stands to be made. What is frustrating is that they chose a Twilight-esque series of books to base the series on, when they could have chosen something with a premise we haven't seen before, or invented an entirely new mythology.

If someone could create (or at least remake with passionate fervor) a vampire protagonist that actually kills people, it would be most refreshing. If his primary motivation is to fall in love with Mary Sue, then he is really just a human with bad teeth.


Episode Two airs Sept. 17 at 8 p.m. EST on The CW.

What did you think of the show? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

"Supernatural" Fills the "Buffy" Void

Wednesday, September 9, 2009 3
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Following the demise of my beloved Buffy the Vampire Slayer in 2003, I essentially gave up on network television. This was easy to do as I have no interest in cop, hospital or legal dramas. I like my shows quirky, dark and witty, with a dash of the occult.

Earlier this year, while conducting interviews for another story, one of my sources suggested I check out Supernatural. This recommendation stuck with me and this summer I finally got around to renting Seasons One through Four.

The series follows brothers Dean (Jensen Ackles) and Sam Winchester (Jared Padalecki) as they travel across the country in a bad-ass 1967 Chevy Impala listening to cock-rock and hunting evil.

They had me at Back in Black.

At first, it seemed too good to be true. This show had everything I love clever writing, ghosts, demons, psychics, witches, good vs. evil but throw in a soundtrack featuring Black Sabbath, Ratt and Soundgarden, and I am definitely in it for the long haul.

Of course, it doesn't hurt that the two leads are extensively easy on the eyes, but I digress.

I suspect the writers of Supernatural have taken a Joss Whedon Master's class. Like Buffy, each season thus far has followed a main story arc, with side-roads throughout. Another big plus is that, at times, it is downright scary.

In an interview featured on the Season One DVDs, creator Eric Kripke said that his intention was to make a mini-horror movie each week and this vision has been successful, although, in some episodes more than others.

The series began with the guys hunting creatures based on urban legends, such as Bloody Mary and the infamous Hook Man, but for Season Five the show has taken on an arc of biblical proportions. At the end of Season Four, Sam had inadvertently unleashed Lucifer, signaling the beginning of the Apocalypse, and Dean had been chosen by the angels to stop it all.

Kripke told TV Guide Magazine that viewers will indeed see an Apocalypse, complete with "four horsemen" and that they have definitely put a new spin on Lucifer (Mark Pellegrino).

"One of our goals is to depict Lucifer in a way that’s rarely seen on television," Kripke said. "We want Lucifer to be the most sympathetic character this season. He’s this wounded angel who feels very betrayed by God and his fellow angels."

Lucifer may be the Devil we don't know, but the Apocalypse sounds disturbingly familiar.

"Our version of the Apocalypse includes things like hurricanes unexpectedly slamming into the U.S. coasts, and swine flu, and North Korea suddenly arming up with nuclear weapons," Kripke said. "We’re really trying to create the idea that we always have, that this could be happening right outside your door and you don’t know it."

Characters from seasons past will also be returning, including angel Castiel (Misha Collins), demon Meg (Rachel Miner) and even Sam's dead fiance Jessica (Adrianne Palecki).

So far, we have angels, demons, the resurrected dead and Lucifer, so how about the Big Kahuna?

"God will be a character on Supernatural this season," Kripke confirmed. "He’s vanished from Heaven, which is why the Angels have taken over the joint, but we’re planning on God’s return, probably around the end of the season. This story thread has generated much hilarity in the Supernatural writer’s room. We ask ourselves questions like, 'Well, what’s God’s motivation in this scene?' And then we start laughing, cause, you know, Gossip Girl just ain’t having these problems.

At this point, my fellow Buffsters may be wondering if Supernatural is (dare I say it?) better than Buffy?

Not yet. In fact, only the dialogue has, occasionally, come anywhere close to Buffy standards, but that could all change this season. So instead of watching the same tired NBC Thursday night sitcoms this fall, give Supernatural a shot.

After all, what could be more exciting than the Apocalypse?

Supernatural Season Five kicks off on the CW Sept. 10 at 9 p.m. EST.

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