Welcome to the Weekly Binge, where we’ll be taking a closer look at the shows that are worth your time. This week, we move a little north of Treme‘s New Orleans to the fictional town of Mystic Falls, Virginia for the supernatural drama The Vampire Diaries.
What’s the premise? A teenage girl gets entangled in a supernatural love triangle with two brothers who happen to be vampires.
What’s it like? Kevin Williamson, creator of Dawson’s Creek, and Julie Plec adapted The Vampire Diaries from the book series of the same name, mixing supernatural elements with the drama and teen angst of Creek. Think of it as a much better written Twilight — in all facets — but with the thrills and WTFs of True Blood, albeit a PG-13 version.
Where can I see it? Season six begins Thursday, October 2 at 8pm. New episodes are avilable the next day on cwtv.com, iTunes, Vudu and Amazon, all of which also have past seasons. Seasons one through four are also available for Netflix subscribers.
How long will it take? With five seasons accumulating 111 episodes at around 42-44 minutes a pop, it would take a good few weeks if you’re trying to cram it in — which you will, because it’s addictive! More realistically, it will probably take a few months to get through if you exert some self control and only watch a couple a day.
What do the critics think? All five seasons are Fresh on the Tomatometer, and most of the critics agree that The Vampire Diaries provides better-than-average shockers and twists. Hal Boedeker of the Orlando Sentinel says, “The Vampire Diaries offered the most memorable cliffhanger of any series last season. The season premiere builds thrillingly on that shocker,” while Ken Tucker of Entertainment Weekly claims, “The second-season premiere of The Vampire Diaries proves once again why this series is one of prime time’s more cleverly constructed, well-acted nighttime soap operas.”
Why should I watch this? Forget everything you know about recent vampire franchises because they simply don’t compare to this one. You can tell the writers are truly passionate for good storytelling, as they’ve gone above and beyond to make this CW’s top show since its series premiere. Even if the CW isn’t your thing, look beyond the network’s stereotypes and give this show a shot. It may offer some familiar supernatural entities — witches and werewolves make appearances, too — but there are also doppelgangers, which weren’t in Twilight and were never seen in True Blood, making this a cut above the rest. To be completely honest, the first three episodes are a bit slow — you know, they gotta do all the set up and whatnot — but if you stick around until the end of episode three, you won’t be sorry! The twists will leave you thirsty for more.
What’s my next step? The show is based on the book series of the same name written by L.J. Smith, first published in 1991; the three original novels came out between 1991 and 1992. Smith then took a long hiatus until February 2009 when she started the next trilogy — The Return trilogy — for the series. Since then, two more trilogies have been written; while the third was penned by a ghost writer, the current and fourth trilogy is written by Aubrey Clark, and the most recent book came out May 6, 2014. In other words, there’s plenty of source material for you sink your teeth into. If you’re into supernatural teen thrillers, you may also like The Lost Boys, The Craft and, of course, The Twilight Saga films, while films like Interview with the Vampire and Bram Stoker’s Dracula may provide the necessary fix for more adult-themed bloodsucker fare. As for TV shows, there’s True Blood as mentioned above, as well as Supernatural or the television teen classic, Buffy, The Vampire Slayer. And lastly, you may also want to check out the Vampire Diaries spinoff series that debuted last season, The Originals.