The pilot episode of the CW’s The Vampire Diaries begins with the following voice-over: “For over a century I have lived in secret. Hiding in the shadows, alone in the world, until now. I am a vampire. This is my story.” A couple drives along a highway. Mist suddenly envelopes the car. “What’s with all the fog?” the oblivious girl chirps. The car slams into a man standing in the middle of the road. When the distressed lovers stop the car and get out, the man in the road kills them.

Such begins this new drama on the CW, the house that Buffy built and a network that had great success last year with the smash hit Gossip Girl. In this teen soap opera obsessed time The Vampire Diaries has garnered hype because its being produced by Kevin Williamson, the man responsible for Dawson’s Creek and the Scream franchise. Sadly, the show debuts in a market that the likes of Twilight and True Blood have already saturated. This is unfortunate as the L.J. Smith penned series of novels upon which the series is based predates even Buffy. Of course, that matters little in this world of first seen, most remembered. The audience that this show targets won’t care that it was written prior to what they know, they will only care that they’ve seen it before.

Life is sucking the blood from Elena Gilbert (relative newcomer Nina Dobrev) as she starts a new year at Mystic Falls High and struggles to move on with her social life after the death of her parents the previous May. Elena’s brother Jeremy (Steven R. McQueen) is selling drugs and having teen-love problems. Bonnie (Katerina Graham), Elena’s friend has been having strange psychic visions. Matt (Zach Roerig) Elena’s ex-boyfriend, is jealously keeping watch over his lost love. Caroline is drooling over the new guy, Stefan, who all the while is looking at Elena. He’s a tall, dark and fangy boy who the girls swoon over. He corrects his teacher on particulars relating to the history of Mystic Falls and he can perform Jedi Mind Tricks (like hypnotizing the administration to thinking he’s a legitimate student).

Stefan has his own problems. He’s a vampire and lives with his older-looking nephew. The only thing allowing Stefan to attend Mystic Falls High is a clunky ring, which allows him to walk in sunlight. Having “lived in secret” for “over a century,” Stefan has come back to society for the ultimate prize: a high-school girl (one who happens to look like his long-dead lover).

For Elena, things begin to look up when Stefan starts to regularly startle her by showing up abruptly in many creepy places; the cemetery; the boys’ bathroom; Elena’s front porch. None of this unnerves her because she has so much in common with him – both their parents are dead and (gasp!) they both keep diaries! Truly it is a perfect love with nothing to get in the way, until Stefan’s brother Damon shows up. The upstaging and handsome Damon (“Lost” season one casualty Ian Somerhalder) has made a vow to eternally annoy Stefan, and he’s back just in time to do it. It seems that Damon has a little crush on Elena as well, and, as we all know, love triangles can keep a series going indefinitely.

Damon is arguably the best part of the show. He gets the most playful dialogue, he’s the only character allowed to talk down to Stefan, and he serves as the fangs of what would otherwise be a dull show. Somerhalder is clearly having fun with the role, yet not so much that he appears to come out of character. While the acting in the show is above average Somerhalder’s skill is clearly a cut above the rest and may be the one element that saves this show from the CW’s wooden stake.

Although it lacks both the jet-black humor of the likes of Buffy and True Blood and the raw romance of Twilight, The Vampire Diaries isn’t that bad. The pilot holds attention to a level that you would think impossible for an undead One Tree Hill. It’s not compulsive adult viewing by any means, but if you happen to be a fifteen-year-old girl then go and set your Tivo immediately. The acting is professional and convincing while the writing, except for the over-the-top diary entries, is solid, and sprinkled with some above average action set pieces.

Of course, like most other high school dramas and most other shows on the CW, The Vampire Diaries is filled with utterly beautiful people everywhere you turn and more emo/pop music than you can shake a clove of garlic at. Whether those attributes are good or bad is up to the viewer. This may not be a show to die for, but it’s definitely a show that you can watch without feeling undead.

Starring: Nina Dobrev, Ian Somerhalder, Paul Wesley

Created by: Julia Plec, Kevin Williamson, L.J. Smith (Book)

Network: The CW

Airs: Thursdays at 8pm EST

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