Shows you should be watching: The Vampire Diaries on the CW
Before you nix the show altogether because of the word "vampire," just give me a chance to convince you otherwise. I mean, that's what this series is all about, right? And I have no shame whatsoever to be a 28-year-old woman in love with a show called The Vampire Diaries.
Ugh, that name really sucks, doesn't it? Pun definitely intended. Piggy-backing off the insanely popular Twilight books turned into movies, CW execs found another vampire book series for fans hungry for more broody bloodsuckers. And yes, on the surface, TVD is much like Twilight. Incredibly good-looking teenagers, love triangles and supernatural beings.
The seventh season premieres tonight on the CW at 8 p.m. and for me to sum up the show in just a few lines here is a tricky task. It's changed so much since the pilot premiered in 2009. The first episode does a great job setting up all the characters, and there are many (and more to come). TVD is first and foremost a love triangle between vampire brothers, Stefan (Paul Wesley) and Damon (Ian Somerhalder), who are both in love with a doe-eyed girl, Elena, played by Nina Dobrev. But TVD quickly became much more than that, giving us fast-paced storytelling, tearful moments, a double-dose of smoldering vampires, strong character development, and really, really bad guys. So, without giving too much away, here are five reasons to watch The Vampire Diaries:
Lightning-speed storytelling and cliffhangers
Pop culture aficionados will know the name Kevin Williamson. He's behind a lot of great movies, including the Scream franchise and I Know What You Did Last Summer. But his first project was the TV series Dawson's Creek. And TVD combines that smart teenage snark with scary twists and turns. Characters die, come back to life, change sides, save Elena, turn into other characters and murder people, sometimes all in one episode. And somehow they manage to talk a lot about feelings and stuff. But what keeps us coming back for more are the constant cliffhangers that make Netflix all judgy at us for watching a 22-episode season in one day. Most episodes end so abruptly that it's only natural to continue the binge. I usually end an episode screaming "WHAT THE EFF?" or in tears.
Tears, tears, tears
Oh, emotions. Teenagers are full of them. And especially the teen vampires whose emotions are always heightened (unless they turn off the humanity switch, which is said — and explained — all the dang time). There's not a whole lot of time for brooding, even though love, heartbreak, regret and revenge keep the plot going, and going, and going. The show perfectly weaves emotion and action that leave me breathless every episode. Just a warning, the end of the second season will empty a box of tissues.
Paul Wesley and Ian Somerhalder
But the show isn't all chaos and sadness. Somerhalder (Damon) and Wesley (Stefan), the perfectly sculpted vampire brothers, take their roles seriously, but they're fun and sexy. Damon is older, homicidal and selfish. Somerhalder is perfect as Damon, giving us amusing lines with a little twinkle in his piercing eyes. Stefan has a lot of feelings and just wants to take care of everyone, especially Elena. Wesley plays romantic very well, full of humble swagger and confidence. Stefan and Elena are an item in the beginning of the show, but quickly Damon tries to sweep our heroine off her feet. Who wouldn't want to date a violent badboy? But one as hot as Ian? Oh okay, all of us. So are you Team Stefan or Team Damon? (Team Damon, here. Paul is a little too Morrisey for my taste.)
Surrounding characters and their flashbacks
Dobrev gets a lot of credit for holding this show together. And rightfully so. It's all about loving and saving poor little Elena, but Dobrev gets to spread her acting chops by playing multiple doppelgangers (I'll get to that in a sec). But it's Dobrev's on-screen buddies that give the show impressive layers in storytelling. We've got her baby brother Jeremy, a troubled youth spinning downward into an afterschool special. Then there's Elena's friends: Bonnie, a super smart witch who constantly saves the day; Matt, her jock ex-boyfriend; and Tyler, a ragey bro with feelings. But my favorite supporting character is Caroline, who started out as a Regina George-type, and became the moral center of TVD. She's resourceful, organized and blunt, but all for the sake of love and friendship. Caroline is the best example of how the show successfully matures and changes its characters. When someone makes a questionable decision such as changing allegiances or killing another character, they are motivated by past experiences and flashbacks that make complete sense. And speaking of flashbacks, this show does them really, really well. If you like pretty people, you'll love them even more in wigs and period costumes. Because the show is centered on immortal vampires, a lot of TVD plotlines usually span across centuries, and the show is great at bringing its history to life. And the flashbacks help illustrate all those evil desires.
The bad guys
Shows about supernatural beings have the best bad guys. And the best ones turn the good guys bad and the bad ones good. Constantly. This show has so much murder, revenge plots and heinous intentions, but it's all wrapped up in fascinating character development that make it all seem plausible. Each season typically has one big bad, but side stories are also filled with other evil-doers to advance the adventures. Early in the series, Dobrev plays the big bad, but as Elena's vampire doppelganger, Katherine. The brothers fell in love with Katherine decades ago, and she comes to town just to mess with their heads, and kill a few people for funsies. But she's also running from Klaus, and the first family of vampires, who turn into the next season's big bads. And they eventually land their own spinoff series, The Originals, also on the CW. Werewolves and witches also come into play and serve up some dark and twisty developments.
TVD is still crushing it. Amid all the blood, man meat, romance and spells, the teens grow up and sometimes go to school while the adults are always useless. It's the guiltiest of all TV pleasures and serves up many satisfying binge sessions. Six seasons of The Vampire Diaries are on Netflix. The seventh season premieres tonight at 8 p.m. on The CW.