'Vampire Diaries' review: Teen drama has a bit of a bite

vampirediaries_290.jpgDisclaimer: Having not read the "Vampire Diaries" book series (not because I disdain teen literature, I just haven't gotten around to them yet), the following review will not have any comparisons to its source material. However, it will have a couple "Twilight" ones because at this point that's where the bar for teen vampires in love has been set.

And to put it right out there: 44 minutes of "Vampire Diaires" is way more enjoyable and entertaining than sitting through 120 minutes of "Twilight." Which bodes well for the weekly series.

Brought to television by writer/producer Kevin Williamson ("Dawson's Creek"), "The Vampire Diaries" has what CW teen dramas have been largely missing: that old-school WB feel.

Briefly, "The Vampire Diaries" centers on Elena ( Nina Dobrev), a 17-year-old high school student who was recently orphaned. Returning to school and trying to get back to having a life, she meets new boy in town Stefan ( Paul Wesley) and flirting ensues. Of course, matters are complicated since a) he's a vampire, b) she looks just like his old love from 1864, Katherine, and c) his bad-boy, also-a-vampire brother Damon ( Ian Somerhalder) has decided to make an appearance after a 15-year absence and it's hardly what one would call a joyous family reunion.

Being vampires, Stefan and Damon of course have some special powers. For starters, turning into crows and being able to conjure up a creepy ground-covering fog. As for that pesky daylight thing, it's no problem as long as they wear a magic ring.

Which is much easier to swallow than them being so beautiful that they sparkle if they get caught out in the sun.

Unlike "Twilight's" heroine Bella, Elena is not a blank canvas that imaginative young girls can project themselves onto. While the first episode doesn't imbue her with a full-fledged personality there's enough to hint that we'll be shown one later on. And at least she has the recently dead parents to fall back on if she comes across like a bit of a downer at times.

Wesley has played his share of supernatural entities, whether it was a werewolf on "Wolf Lake" or a half-angel in "Fallen." Moody and broody enough to fall into the category of mysterious high-school loner/vampire, he also appears to have finally grown into what has always been a very rectangular shaped noggin. Still, should anyone be in need of a teen Frankenstein, he's your boy.

Somerhalder doesn't show up until the last 10 minutes of the first episode, but he immediately adds to the proceedings. Oozing malevolence from his first smirk, we're completely on board to see what kind of hurt he stirs up. While we're sure the upcoming live triangle between the two brothers and Elena will not be on the same scale as the one between "True Blood's" Bill/Sookie/Eric, you can be forgiven if you're already rooting for the darker of the two to win.

candiceaccola_vampirediaries_290.jpgBut the character to really keep an eye on though is Caroline ( Candice Accola). The ditzy, insecure, willing-to-hook-up-with-any-cute-guy-who-gives-her-the-time-of-day blonde is standard fare, but Accola manages to make us especially interested in where she's going to take it. Having been dismissed by Stefan, she is ready and willing prey for Damon. Whether he makes her into a vampire or a glamoured love minion, she's bound to cause a special brand of trouble.

The one place where "Vampire Diaries" seems to falter is when it takes time out for Elena and Stefan to write in their respective journals and dialogue switches to voiceover narration. Used several times in the premiere, let's hope this is more of a series set-up -- it is called "Vampire Diaries" after all -- rather than an overused device. Should it fade away until it's entirely disposed of over the next few weeks, it won't be missed.

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