Total Recall

50 Years of Vampire TV Series

With The Vampire Diaries premiering this week, we look at some other memorable TV bloodsuckers.

by | September 30, 2015 | Comments

TV vampire fans suffered a painful loss in August, when HBO’s True Blood aired its series finale after seven sudsy seasons of sharp-fanged melodrama. All is not lost, however; the CW’s The Vampire Diaries begins its seventh season on October 8, and in honor of its return, we decided to dedicate this week’s list to a look back at some of the small screen’s most noteworthy nosferatus. It’s time for Total Recall!


Dark Shadows (1966-71, 1991, 2004)

Dark-Shadows

Initially something of a Hail Mary pass for a network whose daytime lineup struggled against its broadcast rivals, ABC’s Dark Shadows added a novel supernatural twist to the nascent TV soap medium, weaving a gothic tale of monsters, werewolves, zombies, witches, and everyone’s favorite vampire, Barnabas Collins (Jonathan Frid). Always a solid hit, Shadows nevertheless fell under the axe in 1971, largely because its audience skewed heavily younger than other soaps (and therefore had significantly less buying power). But like any good vampire, it proved hard to kill, briefly resurfacing with a new cast on NBC in 1991 and again at the WB in 2004, when an unaired pilot filmed for the network. There’s also the Johnny Depp-led 2012 film adaptation, which most fans of the original would probably like to forget — and they can, since the bulk of the show’s initial run is still available, and audio dramas starring the original cast continue to be produced.

Watch Trailer

 


The Night Stalker (1972)

Night-Stalker

Years before he became part of an annual holiday tradition as the cantankerous father in A Christmas Story, Darren McGavin helped enthrall millions of viewers as the lead in ABC’s The Night Stalker, a hugely successful adaptation of the Jeff Rice novel The Kolchak Papers, about a Las Vegas reporter who slowly becomes convinced that a vampire is responsible for a series of grisly murders in the area. Originally aired in January of 1972, Stalker earned a 33.2 rating and 54 share, practically guaranteeing a sequel (which soon arrived in the form of The Night Strangler) and spawning a full-on series (1974-’75’s Kolchak: The Night Stalker), as well as a belated remake (2005’s short-lived Night Stalker). Deeply influential, Rice’s creation (initially adapted by I Am Legend author Richard Matheson) inspired a long list of writers that includes X-Files creator Chris Carter, who years later cast McGavin as Arthur Dales, the agent who essentially founded the X-Files program.

Watch Trailer

 


Forever Knight (1989)

Forever-Knight

After checking out of General Hospital, starring in 1984’s Hard to Hold, and exhausting an impressive string of ’80s Top 40 hits, reformed pop idol Rick Springfield turned his focus to his acting career. One of his first orders of business? 1989’s Nick Knight, about an LAPD detective who also happens to secretly be a centuries-old vampire. Sadly, CBS didn’t wish that they had Rick’s pilot, and ended up airing it as a TV movie instead of picking up the series — at least until 1992, when they moved it to Canada, replaced most of the cast (including Springfield), and aired the result as Forever Knight.

Watch Trailer

 


Kindred: The Embraced (1996)

Kindred
There have been lots of vampire TV shows, but only one was based on a video game, starred C. Thomas Howell, and had its plug pulled after a measly eight episodes: Kindred: The Embraced, which aired on the Fox network during the spring of 1996. Howell played SFPD detective Frank Kohanek, who’s understandably concerned when he discovers that in addition to plain old mortal criminals, his beat is also home to scores of vampires led by one particularly nasty bloodsucker who masquerades as a mobster named Julian Luna (Mark Frankel). It isn’t the worst premise — and at the time, reviews calling the show a “cross between The Godfather and Melrose Place” meant it as much more of a compliment than one might assume today — but by the end of the season, Howell was on to other projects.

Watch Trailer

 


Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003)

Buffy

The film version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, starring Kristy Swanson as the titular stake-wielder and Luke Perry as her scruffy teen paramour, seemed more likely to be buried in a ’90s time capsule than to serve as the inspiration for a long-running small-screen institution, but as ESPN’s Chris Berman might say, that’s why they make the TV shows. Starring Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy, the broadcast Slayer — adapted by the movie’s screenwriter, future Avengers wrangler Joss Whedon — served as a surprisingly flexible forum for its creator’s imagination, expanding from its supernatural teen premise to hold a broadening mythology (the Buffyverse!) that encompassed everything from spinoffs to tie-ins and even a musical episode. Few vampire shows started from less auspicious-seeming beginnings — and few have demonstrated the genre’s flexibility with its compelling verve.

Watch Trailer

 


Port Charles (1997-2003)

Port-Charles

Unlike the other shows on our list, Port Charles didn’t always have a vampire theme; in fact, when it debuted as part of the ABC daytime lineup in 1997, it was a straight spinoff of General Hospital that focused on interns at the medical school across the street. Over time, however, in an effort to cut costs and lure younger viewers, the show adopted quicker, finite telenovela-style arcs while incorporating an extreme supernatural element that eventually saw the town of Port Charles overrun by a passel of vampires that included Caleb Morley (Michael Easton), whose sinister obsession with Livvie Locke (Kelly Monaco) proved so popular with viewers that not even multiple deaths could put an end to the character. Port Charles was canceled in 2003, seemingly ending Caleb’s story for good, but he returned a decade later when Easton, then playing his One Life to Live character John McBain on General Hospital, took on a dual role to solve the mystery of Caleb Morley once and for all. Maybe. This vampire stuff can get complicated.

Watch Trailer

 


Angel (1999-2004)

Angel

Few spinoff series are ever truly taken seriously in their own right, and when Buffy the Vampire Slayer debuted in 1997, few could have guessed that it would ever be able to weave the sort of robust, sprawling mythology that could support a brand new show, let alone one that would last for five seasons and attract a passionate fanbase of its own. But then came Angel, starring David Boreanaz as the titular vampire first introduced in Buffy‘s debut episode. With a rich backstory that stretched back hundreds of years and included a gypsy curse that restored his human soul (as well as a bottomless, brooding guilt for all the heinous things he’d done during his evil days), plus a setup that found Angel moving to L.A. and fighting evil as a (what else?) P.I., the character proved more than capable of telling plenty of stories in his own corner of the broadening Buffyverse, and despite the show’s surprisingly premature cancellation in 2004, those tales continue to be told in the comics, where Angel, Buffy, and assorted other characters from the shows live on.

Watch Trailer

 


Blade: The Series (2006)

Blade-TV

Initially planned as a Showtime series that would have brought big-screen Blade Wesley Snipes back to the role he played in the Blade film trilogy, Blade: The Series was temporarily derailed when Snipes sued New Line, the studio behind the movies — but not even legal action was enough to stop the idea of weekly vampire-huntin’ action, and the show was eventually greenlighted by Spike TV with Kirk Jones, a.k.a. former Onyx member Sticky Fingaz, in the lead. Blade: The Series pulled healthy numbers for the network, scoring the most-watched original series premiere in Spike TV’s history, but the channel simply wasn’t equipped to sustain the kind of budget that an open-ended show about the struggle to purge the world of vampires requires. After one 13-episode season, the plug was pulled, sending Blade back to the comics… for now.

Watch Trailer

 


Moonlight (2007-2008)

Moonlight

Your wedding day is stressful enough without having to worry about having your neck tapped after the guests go home, but that’s the cross that Mick St. John (Alex O’Loughlin) has to bear; before he and his new bride (Shannyn Sossamon) could even get the honeymoon started, she revealed her vampirism to him — and passed it along. Moonlight picks up decades later, when Mick’s working as a P.I. who collars bad guys while battling his bloodlust, staving off attraction for a human woman (Sophia Myles), and renewing his turbulent acquaintance with his former bride, who was assumed dead but is actually lurking around claiming to have a cure for vampirism. In spite of that rather loaded premise, Moonlight was a critical punching bag during its brief run, and in spite of fairly healthy ratings, a hiatus prompted by the writers’ strike of 2007-08 put the final stake in the show’s heart.

Watch Trailer

 


Being Human (2008-2013)

Being-Human

There were two Being Humans, with one broadcast by the BBC and its North American remake on Syfy, but thanks to the wonders of the ever-expanding cable dial, they both aired here, so we’re flipping a coin and focusing on the original here. Certainly one of the more critically lauded series on our list, Human starred Russell Tovey and Aidan Turner as a werewolf and vampire who have somehow managed to become best buds; as part of their ongoing effort to fit into human society, they work at a local hospital and room together — although as the series opens and they’re moving onto their new place, they discover that it just so happens to be inhabited by a ghost (Lenora Crichlow). Taken another direction, Being Human might have been laugh track-worthy, but it used its outlandish setup as the springboard for a thoughtful treatment of weighty social themes — and didn’t skimp on the action, either. The Syfy version, while not quite the award-winning sensation the original was, still earned healthy ratings for the network; perhaps best of all, both shows had the good sense to tell their stories within a relatively compact framework, with the original bowing out after 37 episodes and its successor bidding farewell after 52.

Watch Trailer

 


True Blood (2008-2014)

True-Blood

Unlike a lot of vampire-themed productions, Alan Ball’s HBO hit True Blood didn’t fall back on “hey, vampires” for its supernatural drama; instead, inspired by author Charlaine Harris’ Southern Vampire Mysteries books, it imagined a hypothetical near future in which the development of synthetic blood leads to vampires “coming out of the coffin” and revealing themselves to humanity — and then splitting themselves into factions over whether it’s better to assimilate or maintain separate societies. If that makes the show sound like a lot of high-minded speechifying, don’t worry — as any True Blood viewer will eagerly tell you, it’s a lot darker and sexier than that. Revolving around the small-town Louisiana adventures of a telepathic human-faerie hybrid named Sookie (Anna Paquin), it explores weighty themes like equal rights and substance abuse while leaving plenty of room for sexytime and sanguine fluid.

Watch Trailer

 


The Vampire Diaries (2009-present)

Vampire-Diaries

Execs at the CW may have offed Angel before fans (and/or series creator Joss Whedon) were ready to let it go, but that didn’t mean the suits in the building were entirely blind to the appeal of a vampire series; in fact, five years later, it was bloodsucker season once more, when the network debuted The Vampire Diaries, a suitably soapy adaptation of the bestselling L. J. Smith book series about young Elena Gilbert (Nina Dobrev) and her teen embroilment in a vampiric love triangle that just happens to be the tip of a very large, incredibly dramatic superantural iceberg in her small Virginia town. Six seasons and running, Diaries is enough of a signature hit for the network to deserve the place of honor on this week’s list — and it now boasts its own spinoff series: The Originals.

Watch Trailer

 


From Dusk Till Dawn (2014-present)

From-Dusk-Till-Dawn

Writer-director-producer-El Rey network exec Robert Rodriguez is an entertainment industry unto himself, and when you hold all those cards, you get to write your own rules — hence From Dusk till Dawn: The Series, the small-screen continuation of the 1996 film that starred George Clooney and Quentin Tarantino as a pair of hoods whose journey toward a Mexican safehouse is complicated when they stumble into a strip club that just happens to be full of vampires. After spawning a video game and a pair of sequels, Dusk dawned on Rodriguez’s network in 2014, with D.J. Cotrona and Zane Holtz stepping in for Clooney and Tarantino.

Watch Trailer

 


The Strain (2014-present)

The-Strain-TV

Guillermo del Toro is overflowing with ideas, and he’s got plenty of tenacity, too: After initially conceiving The Strain as a TV show but failing to find a buyer, he teamed up with author Chuck Hogan to turn it into a novel trilogy — and then, after the books spilled over into a comic series, took the story back to television, where The Strain made its FX debut in July of 2014. A grimly compelling look at the grisly rise of a horrific vampire army, it continually tests network TV’s ability to give del Toro’s freakshow imagination free rein, and so far, audiences can’t turn away.

Watch Trailer

 

Tag Cloud

Countdown Disney Biopics Premiere Dates Watching Series Arrowverse Spectrum Originals Red Carpet Infographic kids toy story crime Mary poppins Winners TCA Awards criterion Holiday Photos Starz unscripted Amazon Prime Video Valentine's Day television ESPN hispanic police drama war Mary Poppins Returns all-time witnail scary movies Bravo game of thrones The CW CBS Trailer Black History Month satire Marvel Television Oscars remakes Podcast spain fast and furious renewed TV shows Awards teaser Freeform supernatural finale A24 Western cancelled festivals HBO Go biography adventure Logo Drama Peacock diversity TNT Christmas adaptation Teen Super Bowl 2019 SundanceTV Emmys Creative Arts Emmys child's play 45 VICE christmas movies Endgame video Funimation President movie Stephen King USA Heroines psychological thriller anime Interview political drama The Purge DGA venice ABC cancelled TV series tv talk ABC Family parents Disney Plus Nominations New York Comic Con WGN talk show name the review Rock harry potter SDCC 2020 die hard Ghostbusters WarnerMedia Disney streaming service Set visit social media Television Critics Association Winter TV twilight FXX CBS All Access Best and Worst 72 Emmy Awards superhero Food Network justice league Family 2018 GLAAD OWN TBS Opinion australia politics Apple TV+ Hallmark Disney+ Disney Plus The Walking Dead Mudbound LGBT Anna Paquin documentary YouTube joker 2015 TLC what to watch Showtime cooking dramedy Polls and Games streaming cartoon YA richard e. Grant Sundance Now elevated horror Adult Swim children's TV zombies Spike Awards Tour Tubi Rom-Com spider-man news MTV Trivia Sundance casting Lifetime Christmas movies Shondaland BET Awards Cartoon Network NYCC franchise San Diego Comic-Con Pop archives Chilling Adventures of Sabrina batman halloween Quiz halloween tv italian comiccon The Witch 2017 cats First Reviews TruTV latino free movies Country 24 frames Marvel book National Geographic theme song mission: impossible Star Trek directors Extras YouTube Red Rocky zombie Turner Classic Movies Summer comics FX on Hulu screen actors guild series cancelled television ratings Epix Pixar DirecTV stoner game show Comedy natural history sag awards E! best Musicals dceu Warner Bros. BAFTA Pet Sematary ITV NBC FOX Masterpiece strong female leads GoT spanish nature TV science fiction transformers Superheroes Travel Channel reboot Sony Pictures Binge Guide romantic comedy mutant aliens indie BET Spring TV facebook Mary Tyler Moore ghosts MSNBC cancelled TV shows rotten movies we love TV Land Dark Horse Comics Baby Yoda worst movies serial killer Reality Competition breaking bad 71st Emmy Awards Election GIFs BBC E3 Ellie Kemper nbcuniversal space LGBTQ dogs composers CMT Shudder Year in Review comic emmy awards Pirates hist Lucasfilm dc Cannes 007 historical drama cars TCA 2017 Turner singing competition Film foreign Lionsgate sitcom Chernobyl Trophy Talk Crunchyroll technology black Paramount Network dark American Society of Cinematographers award winner DC Comics zero dark thirty First Look canceled TV shows PlayStation sequel TCM critics true crime Writers Guild of America cults Grammys period drama Black Mirror Reality 4/20 Comics on TV revenge See It Skip It scorecard Lifetime vampires Paramount laika romance slashers PBS Sundance TV Thanksgiving CW Seed Netflix doctor who Pop TV FX crime drama Acorn TV Brie Larson Walt Disney Pictures Nat Geo Song of Ice and Fire jamie lee curtis Video Games Film Festival Apple Academy Awards Mystery 20th Century Fox Columbia Pictures miniseries Holidays french The Arrangement cinemax discovery Action Tumblr IFC crime thriller green book Discovery Channel nfl south america video on demand Disney Channel DC Universe movies Esquire Box Office Vudu APB Classic Film CNN toronto Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Horror Superheroe indiana jones Avengers asian-american boxoffice Fantasy blaxploitation canceled screenings 2016 comedies DC streaming service obituary History docudrama Fox News IFC Films TV renewals reviews Pride Month AMC Marathons The Academy travel Schedule mockumentary VOD classics a nightmare on elm street Star Wars concert MCU Rocketman hollywood Hear Us Out SXSW El Rey Television Academy thriller OneApp quibi Kids & Family football Amazon golden globes TCA rotten PaleyFest Tomatazos RT History Apple TV Plus psycho Netflix Christmas movies 21st Century Fox Crackle Women's History Month Comic Book TIFF Hulu ID stop motion Comedy Central anthology Universal Syfy films festival Sci-Fi Calendar Amazon Studios cops based on movie A&E spy thriller Amazon Prime Britbox Toys versus Marvel Studios Nickelodeon Tarantino documentaries BBC America TCA Winter 2020 Character Guide BBC One Emmy Nominations Fox Searchlight Cosplay crossover medical drama independent HBO Max dragons japanese HBO USA Network chucky robots Animation spanish language sports Music universal monsters Certified Fresh Elton John Musical Hallmark Christmas movies Sneak Peek spinoff Martial Arts YouTube Premium X-Men animated Captain marvel sequels blockbuster RT21 VH1 Ovation werewolf worst Mindy Kaling Fall TV comic books disaster stand-up comedy binge