There are plenty of reasons to watch the CW’s The Vampire Diaries: The Complete First Season, whether you’re into the whole vampire craze or not. First and foremost are the three lead actors. All three are veterans are of television series and have sunk their teeth (pun intended) into these roles with passion. Nina Dobrev (Degrassi: The Next Generation) stars as Elena, a high school student who enters a new school year still grieving over the tragic death of her parents. On the first day of classes she meets Stefan, played by Paul Wesley (Everwood, American Dreams). Mysterious, brooding and a hunk to boot, Stefan is immediately attracted to Elena.
Since this is a with the word “vampire” in the title, you figure out right away that Stefan is a creature of the night. He still has other secrets, as well, such as, how can he walk around in broad daylight without burning up to ashes, and who is that even more mysterious and even hunkier guy he’s always hanging around with? Oh, wait, that guy is his brother, Damon, played by scene stealing Ian Somerhalder formerly of Lost. Somerhalder brings to this show the same charisma and slyness that he first exhibited in The Rules of Attraction, and mixes these qualities with the kind of snake oil salesman charm that would make Tyler Durden proud.
Damon is a vampire, too. We quickly learn that the brothers once lived in the 1860’s and they both loved a woman named Katherine, who could be Elena’s twin. This complicates things as both brothers feel an attraction to Elena. While Stefan’s feelings seem to stem from love, Damon has plans to raise the long dead Katherine.
While all of these supernatural elements being plotted, The Vampire Diaries is also an excellent teenage drama. Elena has a younger brother, Jeremy (Steven R. McQueen- who must get sick of having to hear that he’s the grandson of the legendary Steve McQueen), whose way of coping with loss through acting out and getting high. Elena also must deal with the hurt feelings and jealousy of her old friends, including ex-boyfriend Matt (an excellent Zach Roerig) and Caroline (Candice Accola). Luckily, Elena has a stellar best friend, Bonnie (an excellent Katerina Graham), and her plucky, unlucky in love aunt Jenna (Sara Canning) to lean on.
The Vampire Diaries has been exceptionally well cast. Even the smallest roles seem to have been given a great deal of consideration to make the characters come alive. Of course, it helps when the people behind the cameras are working at the top of their game, too. This leads us to the second reason that The Vampire Diaries is one of the most enjoyable shows to watch and why the season one DVD is a worthwhile investment.
One of the people overseeing the production is Kevin Williamson, the prolific writer who burst on to the scene with the feature, Scream, and then went on to create Dawson’s Creek. Williamson developed The Vampire Diaries with Julie Plec, based on the book series by L.J. Smith. It melds the worlds of Williamson’s two most famous creations into a thrilling, funny and often poignant show that is more than just a guilty pleasure for adults and a fix for teenagers waiting for the next episode of Gossip Girl. Other key people include director/executive producer, Marcos Siega, who set the tone of the show with the pilot, and director of photography, Paul Sommers, who has created a specific look of the show, very dark and brooding, everything covered in shadows. This has to be one of the darkest looking shows on television.
Besides it’s strong main characters, The Vampire Diaries is thematically a show about a small town, it’s history and it’s hidden secrets. Shot in Atlanta (except the pilot, which was filmed in Vancouver), the show has a rich, distinct look that the producers might otherwise not be able to achieve shooting in L.A. or Canada. You can feel the history of the South oozing out of every scene and this only adds to the mysticism of the show and the storylines.
I could gush on about The Vampire Diaries, but I’ll stop in hopes that you’ll check it out. As is customary of the CW, they released the first season DVD just as season 2 is about to begin. Not enough time if you’re a newcomer, but I suspect that once you get drawn in, you’ll be holding a marathon viewing session and setting your DVR to have a season pass for The Vampire Diaries. The CW and Warner Brothers also have gone out of their way to load this box set with bonus features. 8 hours of additional materials, including four excellent featurettes that discuss the casting and how the show’s origins, unaired scenes, gag reels, webisodes, and a downloadable audiobook, accompany all 22 episodes from season one. In my mind, this is one of the best TV box sets available right now.