Vampire Diaries; or, In Appreciation of the Fog Machine
A new show premiered last week that I chose not to write about, and then a million bazillion people watched it and swooned. There will be another new episode of it tonight, and if you’re one of the twelve people who have not already seen Vampire Diaries, allow me to give you a guided tour of the pilot so that you can make an informed choice about watching tonight. To protect anyone who wishes to guard themselves against teenaged vampires, there are images after the jump.
Also, a note: I’ve been looking over the past few weeks’ worth of blog posts, and other than the weekly Mad Men post, I feel it’s necessary to reassure you. I promise, next week I’m going to write about really good television and not let myself get angry about Jay Leno.
Meet Elena and Stefan, the protagonists of this little shindig. She’s a high school student whose parents recently died. He’s a vampire with centuries of baggage. As will become immediately obvious and despite the fact they have never met before, they love each other.
This? This right here? This is about eighty percent of the episode. He looks at her. She looks at him. Frequently, their whole faces fill the screen, making it impossible to look away from their sad, brooding foreheads and pouty, “can-you-tell-I’m-emotionally-damaged” lips. During these long scenes of nauseating close face shots, we quickly learn that Elena and Stefan feel strange, overpowering passion for each other, which for the most part expresses itself in Stefan’s inability to say an entire sentence without several Shatner-esque pauses.
But alas, Stefan is a vampire. Which means he has a hard time with doorways, blood, and a nasty eye allergy problem. It also means he’s been alive for a really long time, and it turns out, he used to date a girl who was a dead ringer for Elena! Heh, dead ringer…
A few other things happen in the episode, and the most significant event is that this other, much less broody vampire shows up, Stefan’s brother Damon, and he has none of his brother’s disdain for human blood. There’s also a wild and crazy back to school party, and apparently one of the students gets attacked and there’s some kind of drug dealing plot, but all I remember is the above shot of someone who appears to be making out with a mirror image of him- or herself.
A week after the pilot, though, the one thing that has really stuck with me is the dedication and enthusiasm of whoever works the fog machine. It was like watching a high school production of Phantom of the Opera crossed with the ghost scene from Hamlet played over and over. It is really tricky to make that transition from sunshine to Danse Macabre, and Vampire Diaries does it so…quickly.
So that’s the pilot. There will be a new episode tonight on the CW, and although I almost want to watch in order to cheer on that awesome fog machine operator, I have a feeling I might pass. My focus on that fog machine is silly, but I also think it’s a reasonable indicator of what’s actually going on with this show. As anyone in the target audience knows, Vampire Diaries is trying desperately to capitalize on the success of Twilight, but rather than take that formula and make something interesting out of a well-worn scenario, it cribs from the popular series and adds clichéd atmosphere to sell creepiness. Without thoughtful writing or fresh ideas, what was meant to be creepy instantly devolves into campy. Maybe if I could believe the fog without immediately thinking about the fog machine, the show might have a chance. But probably not.