How viewers react to The CW's "The Vampire Diaries" will likely correlate with how they feel about, A) Teen shows, B) Vampire stories and C) "Twilight."
"Vampire Diaries" is pretty much all of the above. It's a high school-set show about a vampire student that was clearly inspired by the interest among young women -- The CW's target audience -- in "Twilight," although it's based on a book series that pre-dates that popular saga.
Viewers with a disdain for teen programming will find plenty to mock -- this is not smart teen TV along the lines of "My So-Called Life" or "Freaks and Geeks" -- but those satisfied by a supernatural soap should be sated.
- When: 8 tonight, WPCW.
- Starring: Paul Wesley.
The story begins as 17-year-old Elena (Nina Dobrev, "DeGrassi: The Next Generation") and her 15-year-old brother, Jeremy (Steven R. McQueen, "Everwood"), return to school following the deaths of their parents in a car accident. Elena tries to keep Jeremy, a would-be stoner, on a straight-and-narrow path while negotiating the social currents that come her way as the girl-with-dead-parents-who-dumped-her-nice-jock-boyfriend.
Her situation gets complicated further when a new student struts through the schoolyard wearing a black leather jacket and plenty of product in his hair. He's Stefan Salvatore (Paul Wesley, "Wolf Lake"), a vampire who's been preserved as a teenager. His relationship with this small Virginia town dates back to the Civil War.
It doesn't take long before the teen girls of Mystic Falls are texting one another to acknowledge that Stefan is a "HAWT-E" (translation: he's handsome). As luck would have it, he's a good vampire who doesn't dine on humans and he comes with the ability to influence others' minds with "these-are-not-the-droids-you're-looking-for" aplomb.
Stefan is drawn to Elena, who resembles a woman from his past, but his attempts to fit in get complicated when his bad-boy brother, Damon (Ian Somerhalder, "Lost"), shows up to mutilate the locals.
Wesley has the cheekbones and requisite poofy hair for a CW male star but he's surprisingly calm for a vampire and seems comparatively torture-free, except when Stefan sees blood. Somerhalder has only a few scenes in the pilot but he's clearly having fun as a smirking force of evil.
Written by Kevin Williamson ("Dawson's Creek") and Julie Plec ("Kyle XY"), "The Vampire Diaries" covers all the teen show bases, including voice-over narration by Stefan and Elena, who both write journals. As teen shows go, the pilot is entertaining enough; future episodes will reveal if the show truly has much bite.
Contact TV editor Rob Owen at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1112. Read the Tuned In Journal blog at post-gazette.com/tv.