The Vampire Diaries

I don’t watch much television these days, but one of the four or so shows I make time for every week is The Vampire Diaries.

It’s not edifying, sophisticated entertainment, but it is a textbook example on how to do the vampire thing properly. Picture: a group of executives sat around a table, talking. “OK, so we all loved The Lost Boys as kids; we thought Buffy season 6 rocked whenever it wasn’t drowning in waterworks; we think Twilight would be a good idea if it wasn’t so bloody ridiculous; so why not take the best bits from all of the above and leave out all the whiny crap?”

The Vampire Diaries works because it took notes while watching other shows. It even takes pointed digs at the likes of Twilight, because it knows perfectly well what doesn’t work about that series, and resolves not to make the same mistakes. It’s learned those lessons well, and is much the better for it.

1. Lesson from Spooks: “No character is safe”

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I remember when Fred was written out of Angel, and I wasn’t remotely moved by it because I didn’t believe that they would kill a character off like that. There had been so many false moves before that – moments when you believe a character has died, only to see them a few episodes later, that the series had cried wolf one too many times. The moment had lost its impact.

When Spooks set up its leading cast in the opening episode and then – in episode two – had one of those main characters’ heads plunged into a deep fat fryer, it shocked the audience in a way that polite BBC drama just hadn’t done before. If no character is safe, then the danger becomes real. They really might kill off that character you like in any episode, so suddenly that tension and drama is increased.

I’m not expecting them to kill off Elena or Stefan any time soon, but as for the others, all bets are off.

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