The Vampire Diaries: Pilot vs. Book

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.


  1. See, now I'm afraid to go back and read the books. I read them first when I was 12 and probably a dozen times after that through my middle teens (when I started writing what I wanted to read because it didn't EXIST back then--thankfully the gap is being filled now), and I loved them. I actually like The Secret Circle trilogy and Dark Visions better, but that aside, I adored these books.

    When I heard that they were making them into a TV show I was skeptical. Even more so when I heard the changes that they were making. Now hearing your comparison of the two, I'm afraid to go back and reread the books for fear that I will find them lacking in whatever it was that so drew me in the first place. It's like...finding out that your hero is fallible, you know? Going back to books you loved and wondering "why did I like this?"

    Since Lisa came back to publishing after a decade long absence, she's put out more sequels to the Vampire Diaries to tell Damon's story. I have a couple of friends who were big fans of the originals as well and we've all been afraid. The current books don't match up with the originals. I haven't read more than a few pages from the amazon preview but...well I haven't been able to bring myself to read them.

    In any event, because there has been a dearth of fun paranormal since Buffy ended and Supernatural is going off on weird religious tangents, I will watch the Vampire Diaries. I'll just look at them as their own thing apart from the books.

  2. I am so there! Thanks for posting this. I hadn't seen anything about this.

  3. I think the good thing is that we already know the story stretches beyond one book. That's why I'm keeping my fingers crossed that Elena will grow on me. NOT to compare (although I am), Bella was really EveryGirl, while Elena is closer to Queen B Blair from Gossip Girls. I like Blair, but she shows a lot of vulnerability. I haven't seen that from the Elena in the books yet, but I have to finish reading.

    You'll hear from me again!

  4. So ... you totally rock at writing reviews of tv shows. Did you know that? Now you do.

  5. Ooh lucky you! Wish I could attend the pilot preview at Comic Con! That last comment from your friend just cracked me up! :D

    For my part, I've always looved Elena from the start - "bitchy" or not :)

    I don't think that you (not you, Myra - just readers in general ) can say you've read The Vampire Diaries when you've read only one or two books from the series. You must have read at least the first three books before reviewing it imo. It was originally a trilogy and I personally see it as one book/story instead of three. I know a lot of people who stopped at book one only because they didn't like Elena, and that's a shame because it does get better afterwards.

    According to the TV show's official plot, Elena's parents died four months ago and in the books, it's years ago. So, this might account for TV-Elena's sorrow feeling more authentic as you describe it. That's probably also a deliberate change so as to "tone down" Elena's character... which is understandable, I guess. To make her "more likeable"... Meh. :|

    Not so thrilled about TV-Elena and a few other changes, but am still looking forward to watching the show though :)

  6. I got really drawn into the show and I have to say its really good. And I also agree with you with Elena in the book. I don't like her. But in the show she is much more compelling and Nina Dobrev plays her character spot on. Since the show is on halt for now i've been going through the first book, and the show is definitely more interesting. Or maybe its the fact that Elena in the book has a crappy personality.

  7. This comment is really late but a just read the post. I agree with Rashel here. Readers in general have to read at least the first trilogy before reviewing. I like the TV show but I see it as something apart from the book, and I always miss the show. And I personally love the books.

  8. TOTALLY agree. I can't believe I prefer the TV series to the books either. I was really disappointed when I first started reading as Elena is not a likeable character. However, in the TV series, she was likeable from the beginning.


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