Jan 17 2013

Finally, Vampires I Like: My Shocking Embrace of The Vampire Diaries

Published by at 12:00 pm under Editorials,Television

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I hate vampires.

I always have, it’s not just a Twilight thing, though that can take a good chunk of the blame.

They were alright when Daywalker Blade was chopping them to bits, but less interesting when Interviewed with their goofy long hair. I didn’t like their snarling faces on Buffy, which may in fact be a good show, but some mental block exists in my head that won’t let me watch past episode three.

They were fun for a while in their bloody, sexy glory on True Blood, but that show became more about shock value and fantastical plots than quality writing or characters. And of course yes, I’ve been barraged with five Twilight films that tell me that vampires sparkle and werewolves never wear shirts.

Needless to say, I wasn’t expecting much when my fiancée convinced me to give The Vampire Diaries a shot. The title alone is a huge hurdle for most dudes to overcome, as was the obvious love triangle right off the bat between the vampire brothers and the girl they both sought. It seemed like Twilight Lite from afar, and nothing I wanted to be anywhere near.

But I gave it a shot, and three weeks later, I’ve watched 75 episodes.

Whoa.

Memorial

Truth be told, the Vampire Diaries is what Twilight would be like if it actually had well written characters. All the same elements are there, the love triangle, the vampire werewolf rivalry, the feud with older, deadlier vampires, but it’s all handled so, so much better. It’s unfortunate that Twilight became this worldwide phenomenon on the scale of Harry Potter while the Vampire Diaries has a CW show at 10% of their following at best.

Why does the show work? One reason stands out above all others, the characters. This is a combination of the actors cast and the scripts they’re given. One needs to only look at another CW show, Arrow, to see how awkward casting and wooden dialogue can completely negate an interesting concept. In the case of the Vampire Diaries, it’s the opposite. The characters are so good, that it overrides an idea that’s been done to death at this point.

It’s the way characters keep evolving on the show that keeps you coming back. Damon, the elder vampire brother, starts out as the villain of season one, terrorizing the town of Mystic Falls as his animal blood-drinking brother Stefan tries to charm Elena, a girl that looks suspiciously like a clone of his old girlfriend from the 1800s. Damon is a monster, but slowly shifts into an anti-hero role as the show progresses and greater evils loom, and eventually became my favorite character.

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Further illustrating the point, much of the show is spent around seeking out and trying to kill one of the oldest vampire families alive. After a heated conflict, these vampires become regulars on the show themselves, and they too are able to transform from one-dimensional villains to something resembling friends and allies.

Transformations work both ways as well, also from good to bad. Nice brother Stefan has a dark side to him where if he gets near human blood, he turns into the equivalent of a vampire serial killer, and his character goes from relatively tame to the most psychotic creature on the show.

Even sub-characters are held in high esteem, something that happens rarely on most shows. Friends turn into vampires themselves and become pivotaly important to the plot. Others are revealed as werewolves, vampire hunters, and so on, and there ‘s really no one who feels extraneous or useless, impressive for an ensemble cast.

And for a show called something as fruity as The Vampire Diaries, it’s very nearly as dark as True Blood, and thematically has more in common with the HBO show than it does with Twilight. Can you imagine Edward breaking up with Bella and then going on a cross country murder spree ripping people limb from limb? I didn’t think so.

ripper

The world that’s been created here is quite interesting. Over time, you get to know the rules. Rules like if you drink vampire blood and die, that’s how you become a vampire. Vampires can have daylight rings to walk in the sun without being burned. Humans can have protection rings to prevent them from supernatural-caused death. Original vampires, the oldest, can’t be killed with regular stakes. Werewolf bites poison vampires. And so on. The only nagging issue with this is the show’s use of magic, and it  frequently draws on witches and spells to get itself out of plot holes created by the above rules, which can be a tad annoying.

But the real reason the show works is that it resonates emotionally. There are moments scattered throughout the show that are among the most gripping I’ve seen on TV, nearly all of them revolving around my favorite character, Damon, and his constant battle between being an asshole murderous vampire and a pretty great guy. More than once my stomach knotted during a particularly heart-wrenching death scene, and the show really knows how to drive these touching moments home.

It’s unfortunate that vampire over saturation and a very stupid title have driven away those who might enjoy this show. I would have never thought in a million years that The Vampire Diaries would be for me, but 75 episodes later, I’m all caught up and waiting breathlessly for the next new episode tonight.

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If anything, this has taught me that quality entertainment can come from anywhere, even places you would never expect. Never dismiss anything outright until you’ve tried it for yourself. Maybe you won’t feel the same way I do about this show, but you might, and if so, my work here is done.

The first three seasons of The Vampire Diaries are on Netflix Streaming right now.





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31 responses so far

  • MattChi

    Errrrrrrrrrr,
    I’m desperately looking for new stuff to watch, but I.Just.Don’t.Know.

    Since it’s on NetFlix, I’ll probably give it a try.

  • Langolyer

    Advertisement detected.

  • trashcanman

    Wait, didn’t you go out of your way to seek out and give positive reviews to every single Twilight film like the day they were released theatrically? Also, all of those rules you mentioned that make the VD world so “interesting” are actually all cliches older than either of us that any casual horror fan should be more than familiar with. You can’t really say you hate vampires if you aren’t aware of that. It just means you are only familiar with vampires that are force-fed to you through the media, which typically gravitates to the crappiest things it can possibly find. And everybody hates those vampires. Except Kate Beckinsale. She’s purty. I gave this show a shot when it fist came out as I’m wont to give just about anything vamp-related a try and the first episode was so utterly, laughably, and intrinsically steeped in tired cliches that it gave zero possibility to ever watch it again. Gee, don’t tell me: a vampire finds out his new girlfriend is his reincarnated former love right? Sooooo surprising! Never been done before. That would be so shocking if that happened. Seriously. OMG. Maybe it’s genuinely gotten good over several season, but no way am I going to torture myself through the first few seasons worth off hackneyed crap to find out.

    • http://www.unrealitymag.com Paul Tassi

      Yes, trashcanman, something tells me this isn’t for you.

      You can just hang out with all your cool vampires from the 1920s.

  • Zydoxis

    I’m right there with you, Paul. Everyone I knew spent months trying to convince me that this show was worth a shot, and I just couldn’t bring myself to watch it. When I did, I watched the first episode and it seemed to be exactly what I expected, which was just more vampire-themed teenage-angsty trash. Then my friend recommended that I skip the first six episodes. After doing that I’ve been hooked on it ever since. Definitely one of the better shows on TV right now, and that’s coming from a 26-year-old guy.

    If you’re still looking for other decent shows to watch, you should check out Justified on FX. All of the other shows you review fall in line with my tastes, so I’m pretty sure you’d be into it.

  • Mark Miller

    I started watching a few episodes here and there in the first season, because my sister was watching it, and by the second season I was watching them every week. I don’t like all the characters, and some of the story arcs are a little boring but characters like Alaric, Damon, Claus. Catherine, Elijah and even Elena keep me enthusiastic about the show. I hope it continues to highlight badassery and doesn’t play overly into the teenage love fiasco.

  • wevs

    I swear, you should just hand the keys to TJ or Natty and go run paid ads and blandly political pieces on Forbes. Do you even read your own site anymore? You repost stuff on “The Final Countdown” Natty posted a day early, Halloween articles in November… you’ve obviously skipped Benny’s pieces about Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines as well, if you claim this is the first time you’re into vampires, or your taste is just that bad.

    • http://www.unrealitymag.com Paul Tassi

      Wevs,

      The Final Countdown is often written before Nattyb’s posts go up. He’s shifting out of writing so that won’t happen anymore.

      That Halloween article that accidentally ran late was not mine.

      Of course I read Benny’s piece, and it was great, but I have not played that game. I’m not saying I’ve never heard of vampires before, just that this was the first time in a long while I actually enjoyed something with vampires as the subject matter.

      Though I appreciate your readership, your attitude is not necessary, especially on a post where I was simply sharing that I enjoyed a show I did not think I would enjoy. If you watched two episodes and think it’s shit, more power to you, but I don’t need to be chastised on my own site with facts that are incorrect or merely assumptions.

  • http://www.mandyatlarge.com Mandy

    Why is it TV continues to give shows terrible names? If this show is good, and not solely for teenage girls… what a horrible name. TBS is still trying to convince me to watch Cougartown with their “Crappy name, great show” commercials..
    It is funny what we’ll watch based simply on the name and what we ‘think’ is the target audience. And I’m not even saying it’s a sexist issue.. I’m female and still don’t want my Facebook or whatever else that announces my every move (it happens) to tell people I’m watching Cougartown or Vampire Diaries.. or whatever crappy title they come up with. Just not going to do it.

    Also, haha, you like Vampire Diaries. ;)

    • http://www.unrealitymag.com Paul Tassi

      @Mandy

      Yeah I know that happened with Cougartown too, I read the showrunner was pissed the network forced him to name it that or something, but it’s too late to change it now.

      And yes, yes I do.

  • WolfStark

    Well, maybe the show is really not so bad, Desperate Wifes surprised me (even though I wouldn’t call it THE show) but I still dislike the thin as straw girls and the over-feminine look.

  • miglib

    Similar experience. My last gf kept trying to get me to see it and i never did bec she was too far along and i didn’t want to play catch-up. That, and I had far too much fun teasing my sisters who loved the show. My current gf convinced me to start it with her though so it’s more of our “couple thing”. On Friday or Saturday nights, we sometimes go up to 8-9 episodes in a row. Good stuff. The girls are hot (but that’s to be expected in a show like this) but the sheer amount of twists and new subplots and characters introduced as old ones are tied-off and killed off help keep this thing firing on all cylinders.

    My friends make fun of me for watching it but these are the same friends that got into Gossip Girl so I think I still have more “man cred” in my tv series history.

  • Chelsea

    I’m in the same boat as you (almost). A co-worker was telling me how great it is and, honestly, it doesn’t take much to get me to watch anything with Ian Somerhalder in it. I started watching and am almost 60 episodes in after just a few short weeks. Sadly, I’m not caught all the way up yet and the new episode tonight conflicts with my other DVR shows. However, I hope to be up to speed soon.

  • wevs

    Sorry Paul, I have been a legitimate butthole, but your pieces have really been rubbing me the wrong way the past few months. I may be overreacting, but that’s probably because I saw you as one of us and not one of them (“them” as in the common journalists that get involved into the culture for their work, not vice versa), but you have been acting more and more like one of them.
    I’ll refrain from commenting your work anymore, unless I have something less angry and more constructive to say, but at least think about what I’m saying, I’m sure some of the other readers agree with me, or at least the ones that have been reading for a while now.

    • http://www.unrealitymag.com Paul Tassi

      @wevs

      I remember this really starting around when I didn’t like The Hobbit and everyone got mad. Then everyone acted all mystified that I liked The Dark Knight and Avengers so much, movies no “true” critics as you say put them anywhere near their top ten lists.

      I don’t know, I just don’t buy the idea that I’ve morphed into some sort of elitist writer or reviewer. This post we’re commenting on is about how I like The Vampire Diaries for godssake. I just want people, you included, to differentiate between “we have different opinions on some things” and “you’re being an elitist because you didn’t like something I did, or you are an idiot because you don’t like something you should.”

      If my writing has gotten worse somehow, that’s a different issue and something I should work on. It can be tough to keep up writing about the same topics for years, I’ll admit.

      I don’t have a problem with dissent, I just get annoyed when it’s phrased in an overly hostile fashion or references things that don’t quite make sense to me.

  • wevs

    I’ve made pissy comments before the Hobbit, and it’s not simply about liking or not liking things, it’s about attitude, but I said I’ll just shut up and that’s what I’ll do. Again, my appy-polly-loggies for being such a butt, and when all’s said and done I really like your site and I’ve been a regular since early 2010.

  • WilliamMcScott

    Hear Hear, great show.

  • http://www.mandyatlarge.com Mandy

    Props for wevs on obscure CWO reference.

  • Amy

    I remember when the show premiered, I thought pretty much the same things you did: Twilight lite, destined to be laughably stupid. 3 1/2 years later and it’s my favorite show on tv. It’s just GOOD, in all aspects, really. Story, pacing (fastest I’ve ever seen anywhere), characters, acting, etc. And man, can it pack an emotional punch. I’ve laughed hard, cried harder, and literally jumped up and down clapping like a lunatic. And I’m 28 years old. (This show is magic.)

  • Jeydon

    I got into this show because my older sister asked me to watch it with her and seeing as my sister and I don’t do very much together I figured it would be the perfect way for us to spend a little bit more time together and if that meant watching a show that sounded like a long drawn out version of Twilight then I would manage to sit through it. But it didn’t take very long for me to get into the show. I would actually beg my sister to watch the next episode with me when she was ready to stop for the day. Now days I look forward to new episodes every week and this has to be my favorite show at the time. It’s nice to see another guy who gave The Vampire Diaries a chance and ended up liking it because there’s not many of us! (and yes you can blame that on the horrible title)

  • Cindy

    I agree. I am a 51 year old female. I was home sick one week and started watching it on netflix and was instantly hooked. It has become one of my favorite shows. I never saw a Twilight movie and don’t care too! I do love these characters and yes Damon and Elijah are my two favorites. For those that thing they are too cool–you are missing out–GIVE IT A TRY YOU CAN DO IT IN PRIVATE

  • Morgan

    I cant wait to have my boyfriend read your article. I have been trying to get him to watch the show for so long. He is convinced it is just another love show like twilight and does not want to lose his “man card” (but anything with Ian Somerhalder is manly). Maybe your article will finally make him give it a shot.

    TVD is my favorite show and I am one of those people that when I find something great, I want everyone else to have a chance to experience its greatness.

  • D

    Great article. I have a guy friend complaining to me about his other friends in the university urging him to watch a show “The Vampire Diaries” because apparently it’s so good, after you overlook the title.
    He was coming to a wrong person too, because I also love the show. Now he knows what he’s been missing out. Haha.
    The characters and plots are so well written. I give away my kudos.

  • jodi

    Well written article. I applaud you for speaking up and letting others know your honest feelings and sorry you have to defend yourself to some people. I followed an actor to this show and I love the characters and storylines and the writers are not afraid to shock and anger fans and give us characters to love-hate in each episode. Its entertainment every week. This from a much older fan!

  • mega

    Paul….
    Why havent you watched supernatural? Its the only show worth watching on CW

  • bf

    I echo your sentiments. I completely dismissed this show because of the title and similarity (at least initially) to Twilight. A friend of mine (male in his late 40’s) told me it was good and I still disregarded it. It wasn’t until I saw a couple of Delena vids on youtube that got me interested. Now, 2 months later…I am all caught up thx to Netflix and completely obsessed! I’m just glad I only had to wait 2 months and not 3.5 yrs. for all the juicy Delena stuff to happen. The show has great characters (yes, they’re nice to look at too but I also well-acted) and the plot moves quickly and keep you interested.

  • Michael

    This show is a great compromise to a gf or wife who only likes watching gossip girl, pretty little liars and nashville.

  • The Mighty Chesticles

    My best friend is actually a huge Twilight junkie and URGED me to watch this show with her, despite the fact that I loathed reading the first Twilight novel she made me read, and also that the show is called VAMPIRE DIARIES.

    The first episode was TERRIBLE. Even my friend (who is one of THOSE Twilight fans… you know… on a “Team”), thought it was horrendous. But man oh man did we ever laugh our asses off at how bad it was. Seriously. Mist floating through the cemetery every time a vampire appeared. All that “Dear Diary” garbage. The cute vampire boy in highschool with the “big hair”. It was just the worst.

    Every week we would get together to watch the show, and even got our boyfriends in on it to laugh and make fun of how bad it was. We sort of turned it into a game – we made bets on how long it would last, drank shots of jaeger every time “mist appeared” or someone gave that squinty-eyed, pouty-lipped longing look.

    Then one day we just stopped laughing. Suddenly we couldn’t wait to get together and watch this show that had started as a pre-teen joke-fest, and had somehow morphed into a witty, emotionally complex, genuine television program. To this day, our boyfriends still watch it with us and we are continuously amazed by how far it has come.

    I’m going to go ahead and give the credit to Kevin Williamson, as his efforts in writing and production have no doubt been instrumental to this show’s success. Sometimes the best shows start off as one thing, but end up growing up and growing into it’s audience (see also: Happy Endings, New Girl, Cougartown).

  • Josh

    Dear Mr. Tassi,

    I owe you an apology. I’ve become a loyal unrealitymag.com reader to the point the day seems empty to me if i don’t check out the site for anything new. I especially love everything you personally put up on the site. As an aspiring writer, I find all your writing whether its from an article such as this one or the Last Exodus (yeah, man I freaking bought it the day you announced it on the sight and loved it. Alpha’s the freaking man…..or alien….it’s late where I am) to be phenomenal and interesting. To be honest, I’ve become such a fan of yours that you’ve joined the ranks of my top 3 allowed man crushes up with Joseph Gordon Levitt and Paul Rudd.

    But when i saw you make an article about this, I became very disappointed in you. I scoffed and thought, “Godammit, fricking females took the good Paul and whipped him good.” I ignored the article, shook my head, and scrolled past, not thinking anything else of it. Then two days ago, my little 12 year sister became obsessed with Doctor Who to the point she got a Netflix account just to watch it….I know, I come from a very passionate, nerdy, extreme family.

    So, tonight being allowed to browse this life-consuming media box, I stumbled upon the Vampire Diaries. I thought to myself “There’s no way Paul can like this shit….everyone just happens to be an insanely good-looking high schooler who looks like they could be 26. Everything is too coincidental…and there’s fucking vampires!! What the hell, Tassi? What could drive you to watch this filth?!?” After that caffeine and insomnia induced inner rant, I gave in and watched the first four episodes. Then I read your review. Now I only have this to say:

    Holy crap, it’s freaking fantastic and I’m sorry for ever doubting you. You’re the goddamn man and while you will probably never see this, keep doing what you do cause it’s amazing. I never thought I’d like it and props to your fiancee for suggesting it. However, I will never tell any of my close circle about my new TV obsession because I already get made fun of for once using the women’s bathroom at a bar…freaking white russians.

    -Your fan,
    Josh

    • http://www.unrealitymag.com Paul Tassi

      @Josh

      HAH! That’s hilarious, and of course I would never lead you astray. Except sometimes. But definitely not in this case.

      If you like it now, it only gets better. Season one is just so-so if you ask me, but it gets REALLY good from there. Keep me posted on what you think as it develops.

      Sometimes people just need to give something they think they’ll hate a chance, which was the entire point of this article which nearly everyone missed.

  • Pirate Spice

    I stopped reading this article halfway through. If you’re going to try to convince people that a show is worth watching, barraging them with spoilers about major plot twists is a horrible way to go about it. Thanks for helping to deflate what enjoyment I may have otherwise had if I chose to watch The Vampire Diaries.

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