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Thursday Notebook: "Vampire Diaries," Songs in My Head

By admin Published: September 10, 2009

First, you can find this week's mailbag column here. Now tunes: Marianne Faithfull sings "Solitude," the Duke Ellington tune. You can also find her performing it on "Easy Come Easy Go: 12 Songs for Music Lovers."

And some Maxwell, from his latest. Excellent stuff, although, uh, distracting. If you know what I mean, and I think you do.

But my favorite tune of the moment is "Cat & Mouse" by Nikki & Rich, which reworks the Shangri-Las' "Give Him a Great Big Kiss." Nikki has serious pipes. If you watched the "90210" season premiere, you've heard it. If not, there's a taste in the trailer below.

After the jump, some thoughts about "Vampire Diaries."

In the opening minutes of the new CW series, which premieres tonight, we get an isolated, wooded road; fog; an innocent and happy couple; more fog; an accident that gets the guy out of the car; violence; the woman getting out of the car (don't you hate when that happens?), and more violence. In sum, "Vampire Diaries" is not afraid to embrace horror-movie cliches -- or even to admit that's what they are. (Later, a character will look at one element and name-drop Alfred Hitchcock.)

Of course, we are in the land of Vampire Chic these days ("Twilight," "True Blood"), and "Vampire Diaries" is reminiscent of both in its blend of young-people angst and carnage. Then again, at times it also recalls the earnestness and tragic-life style of "One Tree Hill." It's as if the show was designed as a one-show-fits-all-time-slots for The CW. I mean, most of the actors are model-pretty enough to put it with "Top Model," and the soapy side is sudsy enough not only for "OTH" but "90210." And it plays adult -- lots of teen drinking and allusions to teen sex in the premiere -- like "Gossip Girl." Of course, CW has put it with "Supernatural," which is fine conceptually. But all it does is make "Supernatural" look -- and I use this word very advisedly -- smarter. That show (when I used to watch it, anyway) didn't simply use horror cliches; it thought about them, and could twist them around some. On "Vampire Diaries," it's window dressing for the soap side.

But I meander. And I do so because the show meanders, too. As the pilot went on, I grew more and more impatient, the plot elements becoming more numerous but no more interesting. Here's the gist: Teen girl trying to get over the death of her parents, attracted to a mysterious new high-schooler who is A Lot Older Than He Seems; but he is drawn to her, too, because of A Loss In His Past.

It would be a total bore were it not for the fact that diary-writing teen girl (Nina Dobrev) and diary-writing hot vampire (Paul Wesley) bring the heat when working with each other. In fact, one reason the rest of the show feels so uninteresting is that there's considerable intensity whenever those two are onscreen together. It's not enough to make me watch every week, but it is enough to convince me that they have star power. Sort of like seeing "Dark Shadows" for the first time and thinking, yeah, well, it's a vampire story -- but tell me more about that guy playing Barnabas...

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