That being said, the pilot didn’t make me go all wobbly (and this from a girl who last night waxed rhapsodic about Ten Things I Hate About You). There’s some definite potential buried under the typical-twilight–buffy-girl-meets-vampire story, including a possibly very dark male-lead back story and some very witty dialogue, but thus far it’s not congealing for me.
The story goes like this: Elena is a typical teenage girl, except three months ago her parents and she went off a bridge and into the depths below, and only she emerged. Now she, along with her stoner brother, live with their aunt, and Elena spends all day every day fending off the well-meaning inquiries of her classmates. Then, she meets glowering, pale Stephan, who is oddly obsessed with her and bumps into her in both the boy’s room and the cemetery.
Stephan is, as we have been well-trained to notice by now, a vampire. But unlike the practically defanged Edward Cullen, he’s got a hint of danger to him and a badass brother vampire (played by Ian Somerhalder, yay!) who’s out to ruin his life. He’s also got a strange, semi-epic connection with Elena, who looks remarkably similar to his dead girlfriend from the 1800s, Katherine, who it is quite possible Stephan murdered in a fit of blood lust. Or at least that’s the explanation I’m hoping for.
Along the way, we got a helping of teen drama straight out of the teen fantasy/horror playbook, like the bland, but well-meaning other love interest replaced by the dreamy, mysterious, dangerous new boy (see also: Kyle in Roswell, Mike in Twilight, even to a certain extent Xander on Buffy, definitely Riley on Buffy), the slutty, but soulful female we’ll grow to like (hey, Cordy, I’m looking at you!), and a cadre of other good-looking, thinly sketched characters that I know will blossom into more promising sidekicks as the season progresses.
My number one problem is the lead girl. Although tortured and brunette, there really wasn’t much to recommend her in the pilot. Most of the choicest dialogue got put into other mouths, and on top of that she was forced to repeatedly use the phrase “Dear Diary” which isn’t okay outside of an SNL-style parody of such monologues.
Number two is the tone. The show needs to strike the right balance between melodramatic, Gothic cheese and the witty dialogue, because in the pilot it just feels a little lost.
Despite these caveats, and because I know that pilots are rarely if ever indicative of the final show they will produce, I’m keeping Vampire Diaries on the DVR rotation. Kevin Williamson has provided some choice entertainment in the past, and I’m confident that he’ll continue to do so here. Or maybe it’s just that True Blood is ending this Sunday for the season, and I need some other gratuitous vampire ab shots to carry me through the long winter.