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'The Vampire Diaries' holds no secrets, other than how to be a terrible show

BY CAROLYN KLARECKI
TV/New Media Editor
Published September 13, 2009

“The Vampire Diaries”
Thursdays at 8 p.m.
The CW
1 out of 5 stars

“Twilight” has our country split more than it was during the last presidential election. Girls from ages 12 to 18 absolutely love it — most everyone else, not so much. But hopefully everyone can agree that The CW’s “The Vampire Diaries” has accomplished what most “Twilight”-haters must've never thought possible: It makes “Twilight” look good. Next to "Vampire Diaries," “Twilight” looks like a brilliant piece of Pulitzer Prize-winning literature, and the movie seems like a contender for an Oscar. Yes, the show is that awful.

Elena (Nina Dobrev, “Degrassi: The Next Generation”) is a small-town girl recently orphaned by a car crash of which she was the sole survivor. On her first day back at school she catches the eye of the hunky new guy, Stefan Salvatore (Paul Wesley, “Army Wives”), who also happens to be a 170-year-old vampire. Their budding romance may never pan out, however, because Stefan’s brother Damon (Ian Somerhalder, “Lost”) has vowed to ruin everything. Throughout the season, Damon and Stefan will compete for Elena’s affection, and hints of some plot-thickening supernatural happenings are already sprinkled everywhere.

Almost immediately, the horrendous acting is evident. The actors utter already-cheesy lines in hushed tones as if everything they say is the most important thing anyone in their audience will ever hear. But the majority of the hour-long show is taken up by the characters staring forlornly into the distance — usually accompanied by music from The Fray — while contemplating how sad they are and wondering if they’ll ever find happiness.

Stefan is clearly fashioned after “Twilight” heartthrob Edward Cullen, as all of his facial expressions give that trademark look which says: “I can’t reconcile my love for you with the fact that I want to eat you. And the script says to give a ‘pained expression!' ” Elena, meanwhile, is the new Bella. She has one expression that’s supposed to say “I’m shy and nobody understands me.”

When the characters aren’t half-whispering their thoughts to their friends or staring away from the camera, they’re writing their trivial motivations into their diaries. Elena just wants to be able to smile again, her ex-boyfriend (Zach Roerig, “Friday Night Lights”) just wants to win her back, Stefan just wants to exist peacefully in the small town (and win over the girl) and Damon just wants to wreak havoc by pursuing Elena too. It’s not really clear why all these boys/vampires are after the girl, but it’s a little exhausting to watch a bunch of characters who all have only one goal in mind. Unsurprisingly, it makes for a painfully one-dimensional plot.

Many people have called “Vampire Diaries” the next “Twilight,” or at least its TV analog. It’s neither. “Twilight” was certainly not classy by any means, but it was a phenomenon that sparked a revival in the vampire sub-genre and turned it into a bizarre adolescent trend. Stupid? Perhaps. But powerful? Definitely. Because of the success of this new vampire movement, the premiere of “Vampire Diaries” became the most viewed program in the history of The CW. “Vampire Diaries” does what it can to imitate the “Twilight” series, hoping success will quickly follow. But it does so with an inadequate cast, meager writing and shallow characters. And — lets be honest — “Twilight” really wasn’t worth imitating in the first place.


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