This fall the CW is debuting a show called The Vampire Diaries, based on the series written by LJ Smith. Before you get your knickers in a twist, she started writing her series in the EARLY NINETIES, so this is not a Twilight knock-off. Still, lots of critics are spouting off accusations right and left that the CW is playing off the hype of Twilight to suck in (sorry) more viewers.
I threw myself right onto their fangs.
I was lucky enough to gain access to a disc of the pilot and had a viewing party a couple of nights ago with some friends. Two are die-hard Twilight fans, the other two not as much.
Overheard at party:
"Wow, this is better made than the Twilight movie."
"Where was SHE when they were casting Bella?"
"Ooooooh, vampire brothers!"
"Is anyone on this show ugly? No? Okay. Is anyone on this show actually a teenager in real life? No? Okay."
"Wait ... why doesn't he sparkle?"
Kevin Williamson (Dawson's Creek, I Know What You Did Last Summer, Scream) is one of the executive producers of the show. He brings some solid credentials to the table when it comes to teen angst and scary situations. The pilot proved that he and the rest of the team are committed to a solid representation of both in The Vampire Diaries. There were some hugely cliched moments, but cliches become so because they work.
Before I allowed myself to watch the pilot I read the first book in the series. (It's currently packaged with the second book and you can't beat the price.) I never do this, but I have to say that the television version is .... better than the book.
While the television characters remain true to their book personas, there were a few well-thought-out changes that really raised the emotional stakes (sorry again). When we meet Elena in the book version, she's just returned from a summer spent sunning in France. She's beautiful and she knows it. She uses her blond hair, blue eyes and perfect figure to establish herself as the "Queen of the School." She makes scathing comments about discarded boyfriends who simply weren't interesting enough once the chase was over, she's as rude to her friends as she is to her enemies, she gossips, she lies, and all in all ...
I didn't like her.
When she first sees our hero, Stefan, her immediate thought is, "I WILL have him." My immediate thought was, "Okay, you go ahead and have him and I'll find a book with a main character I can stomach." But, I kept reading, hoping Elena the Ice Princess would do something to redeem herself. She didn't.
In the pilot, Elena grabbed my sympathy in the first frame. While Nina Dobrev is an absolutely gorgeous girl, it's a warm beauty rather than a cold one. Elena in the Pilot might be as much of an "It" girl as Elena in the Book, but she didn't shove it in my face and then rub it around like a microdermabrasion treatment. Interactions with her drug-abusing younger brother (not in the books) sets Elena up as a compassionate girl who won't take any crap. When she reads aloud from her diary, we see that she's insecure and lonely. In both the book and the pilot Elena's parents are dead, but the sorrow felt more authentic from Elena in the Pilot.
Other thoughts: The wit of Kevin Williamson is hugely present and the actors and actresses carried it off, garnering lots of LOL's at my viewing party. The special effects were spot on, with the exception of some fog that suddenly appeared - in a cemetery - but I'll forgive it because Elena had on Chucks in the scene. (Converse sneakers can cover a multitude of sins.)
I will be adding The Vampire Diaries to my DVR listing. I will also be buying books three and four of The Vampire Diaries by LJ Smith, in hopes that Elena in the Book will be one of those characters who is a changer rather than a stayer.
There's always room for growth.
And for another guilty pleasure from the CW.