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'The Vampire Diaries': Slowly but surely crawling out of 'Twilight's' shadow

September 18, 2009 |  8:11 am

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The second episode of “Vampire Diaries” had a lot of hype to live up to. Not only did last week's "Diaries" boast the CW's most-watched premiere since the network's 2006 debut, but the episode was followed by a minor scandal when details of four cast members' arrests leaked. The arrests were more misunderstanding than misdemeanor (and the all-smiles mug shots looked more like head shots -- did they think it was a photo shoot). But otherwise the press was mostly positive, stirring up plenty of free publicity for the show.

I'll admit it – I like my entertainment as soapy and cheesy as it gets. I still watch “One Tree Hill,” and I'm ashamed to say that my DVD collection includes at least one movie where Paris Hilton dies. So when the CW announced “Vampire Diaries,” I salivated. Broody guys with dark secrets and perfect hair! Mean high school history teachers! Love triangle angst!

Thursday night delivered all the gooey first-kiss melodrama I'd been hoping for, as well as a healthy dose of the good old-fashioned horror. The series has guilty pleasure written all over it.

Yeah, yeah, we all know the “Twilight” phenomenon is undeniably what got this show on the air. But if anything is going to pull it out of Edward Cullen's sparkly shadow, it's that there are two hot vamps on the loose: Stefan and Damon, (Paul Wesley and Ian Somerhalder). The chemistry between the estranged brothers is palpable: Stefan's every move is calculated and careful, and Damon's reckless, bloodthirsty antics seem all the more dangerous. 

Their showdown on the roof Thursday night was, as the kids say, pretty epic... 

Damon tried to tempt Stefan into feeding on the high school's hot stoner chick, Vicki, but in the end, Stefan was the master manipulator. He may be the strong silent type, but he's got his brother wrapped around his finger -– he not only made Damon let Vicki go, but he got Damon to happily wipe Vicki's memory of the incident. I'm looking forward to seeing how their relationship plays out -- sibling rivalry probably gets a little intense after a couple of centuries.

By the way, how chilling is Somerhalder's devious little smirk? I was way more uneasy when he smiled than I was when he jumped out of the shadows with bloodshot eyes and bared fangs. 

VD101b_0335b The good guy vs. bad boy thing could have been overdone, but there's something refreshingly different about this one: While Stefan would love to date Elena, Damon would love to slaughter her and drink her like a nice Chianti.  

Speaking of Elena, I'm still undecided on our heroine (Nina Dobrev).  She’s recently orphaned and that's really sad and all, but writing in your diary about how no one sees your inner pain while sitting alone in a foggy graveyard is a little melodramatic, even for my tastes.  

Still, Executive Producer Kevin Williamson has a pretty good history when it comes to his dark-haired ingénues. Sidney Prescott toughed it out through the entire “Scream” trilogy, and who didn't love Joey Potter's wordy banter? So I'm willing to stick it out with Elena for now (but whether she’s worthy of sharing a network with Blair Waldorf? That remains unclear.)

The show hasn't yet addressed the creep factor of a centuries-old vampire lusting after an emotionally vulnerable teenage girl. She's talking to her friends about texting as an "important milestone in any relationship," while he's haunted by grisly memories of the Civil War. When Stefan and Elena shared their first kiss, I was half enthralled and half waiting for Chris Hansen to pop out from around the corner.  "Hello, Mr. Vampire, why don't you have a seat right there…"

Thoughts? Think I'm being too hard on Elena? Prefer Damon over Stefan? Let me know below. And check back after next week's episode.

--Carina MacKenzie

Photo credit: CW

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