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TV For Your Taste Buds – Which Vampire Show Should You Sink Your Teeth Into?

Vampires are the “it” supernatural of choice of the moment. They are everywhere you look, but which vampires taste the best? Er… I mean, which vampires are worth your time? On television, there are several shows that feature vampire characters: True Blood on HBO, The Vampire Diaries on The CW, The Gates on ABC, and Being Human on the BBC (and BBC America). So, if you like vampires, which of these vampire shows best suits your palette?

I must disclose that I am an old school vamp fan of the non-sparkly variety, but I still find great enjoyment in the vampires on TV today, even at the height of this Twilight-induced frenzy. Let me be your sommelier to this sampling of vampires on television to guide you to which show best suits your tastes by relating each of the aforementioned shows to actual beverages.

TRUE BLOOD

Arguably, the most visible show starring vampires is HBO’s True Blood, starring Anna Paquin, Stephen Moyer, Alexander Skarsgard, and more. The show revolves around a not-so-ordinary human waitress, Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin), her vampire boyfriend Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer) and an extremely colorful ensemble cast of humans/supernaturals of Bon Temps, Louisiana as they are faced by a serial killer in season one, a crazed Maenad hell-bent on bringing her god to the physical plane in season two, and now vampire politics, the secret behind what Sookie is, and the introduction of werewolves in season three. This show is very trademark HBO in its sense of no-shame sexuality, violence, and twist (quite literally this season) of the bizarre.

Even though the show is based upon the Sookie Stackhouse novels by Charlaine Harris, writer Alan Ball has taken these characters to new directions, much to fan delight. If you are comfortable with HBO’s brand of television programming and are intrigued by a modern interpretation of supernaturals living in the small town of Bon Temps, you will be at home with this series. To say that this show has a fair share of eye candy for both women and men would be an understatement.

If True Blood were a beverage (outside of the HBO brand of Tru Blood citrus flavored, energy drinks), I would say that it is a full-bodied red wine made of Spanish grapes with a very dry finish. True Blood is a show for mature audiences only. It is a bit of an acquired taste and not something shared with all members of your family. Can you imagine watching those sex scenes with your grandma? I think not!

THE VAMPIRE DIARIES

The Vampire Diaries on the other hand is aimed towards the Twilight crowd. Being on The CW, this show sells stock in the hard bodies of the incredibly hot (by both human and vampire standards), vampire Salvatore brothers played by Paul Wesley and Ian Somerhalder. Like Twilight, this series is based on the young adult book series of the same name by L.J. Smith. Like True Blood, the show takes a different and thankfully less whiney-angsty tone and more story-driven direction than the source material. Seriously, I tried to read the books and it was the most vapid, angry teen babble I’ve read in recent memory (with the exception of Twilight which absolutely cannot be called literature). The show has made significant modifications to the characters and created a riveting and seductive premise with its group of characters, human and vampire alike. It follows a human teenage girl, Elena (Nina Dobrev), and her relationship with the Salvatore brothers who arrive to the sleepy town of Mystic Falls with completely different intentions. Elena Gilbert mysteriously resembles Katherine, the Salvatore brothers’ maker and the show just keeps getting more and more juicy as the plotlines unfold. This show has a high soap opera quality, but you cannot turn away! This is the most beautiful-looking train wreck you will ever see.

If Vampire Diaries were a beverage, it would be a chocolate martini. It is sweetly geared towards a female audience and is my guilty pleasure of recent vampire shows.

THE GATES

ABC’s summer show, The Gates has a handful of vampires on it, but I will still count it in this comparison of television shows. The Gates is an exclusive gated community in which many of its residents have reasons to pay for their privacy. There are several supernatural types of characters on this show including, werewolves, witches, a succubus, and more to be revealed. Rhona Mitra (Underworld: Rise of the Lycans), Luke Mably (28 Days Later), Paul Blackthorne (The Dresden Files), and Gloria Votsis (White Collar) are the more prominently featured vampires thus far in the show’s freshman season.

Mitra and Mably play Claire and Dylan Radcliff, a married couple who have chosen to move into The Gates for the sake of a ‘normal life’ to rear their young human adopted daughter, Emily. Christian, played by Blackthorne, has entered into the equation as a reminder of their ‘old’ life and still carries a torch for Claire. Votsis’ character, Vanessa Buckley, was just revealed to be a vampire who just happens to be married to the developer of the community. In The Gates, we see what lengths these supernaturals go through to blend in and how this puts an interesting twist on the idle rich of suburban life. Many have described The Gates as Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets Desperate Housewives, but I would say that it leans significantly heavy to the Desperate Housewives side. If you would like to see rich bitches throwdown with supernatural trappings to make things more complicated/interesting, The Gates is your cup of tea.

If The Gates were a beverage, it would be a Diet Coke. It is lower in caloric intake with flavorful gossip and no-she-didn’t moments but, light on actual character development.

BEING HUMAN

This British show is actually so popular that SyFy is developing an American version of the show. Stateside, we are behind as the second season aired earlier this year in the UK whereas we are just now getting into the thick of it now. The premise for Being Human sounds like a joke, but it is a serious drama about a vampire, a ghost, and a werewolf living together, struggling to live amongst humanity. Starring Aidan Turner as Mitchell the vampire, Russell Tovey as George the werewolf, and Lenora Crichlow as Annie the ghost, this show can make you gasp, cry, laugh, and scream at the television all in the same episode.

Being Human looks at how each of the characters fights to retain their humanity over their individual supernatural conditions concurrently with attempting to find their place within humanity. The characters’ supernatural conditions can be read as metaphors for real human conditions (addiction, social dysfunction, and lack of identity.) The first season addressed a supernatural threat whereas this season, the threat is of a human origin. The special effects are of a lower budget than Americans are used to, but the writing and performance of the actors more than make up for the lack of spectacular special effects. I am greatly impressed by what this show has accomplished in a mere six episodes for its first season and am riveted to my seat this second season.

If Being Human were a beverage, it would be a fine glass of delicious port with long legs, a marathon of flavor, and a soul-gripping, warming sensation. I heart this show so very much. You can read my review of the Season One DVD here.

So there you have it, folks. I hope you find this guide useful in choosing which vampire show you may want to sink your teeth into. Whether you choose True Blood, Vampire Diaries, The Gates, or Being Human (or any combination of the four), I hope you enjoy the vamp course for your television taste buds.

And that, ladies and gents… is the Shakedown on vampire shows on in 2010.

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14 Comments

  1. Rex says:

    I agree with “azrael the cat.” I think you stopped watching “The Gates” after the first couple of episodes. It was slow to start, but character development starts to rocket off afterwards, and the Desperate Housewives vibe falls away to a much more darker tone and a greater volume of action.

  2. Emma says:

    Very well written article! I must agree with everyone who has already commented: Being Human is by far the best show of the bunch. It’s quirky, dark, funny, sad, dramatic and *gasp* original! The special effects do leave something (and by something I mean a lot) to be desired, but the writing, acting and directing more than make up for it. A seriously fantastic show.
    I do feel a little uneasy about the remake. I’m sure I’ll watch it when it comes out, but I just really don’t see the need to remake something that was good in the first place.

    • Thanks for the comment, Emma! I have to agree with you on your thoughts on the American version of Being Human and we know our track record for American remakes of British shows! They just don’t translate well and I fear that the American appetite for the number of serial shows in a season may dilute the quality of story-telling that we expect from the original Being Human.

  3. Azrael the Cat says:

    Incidentally, as for the other shows, I agree that Being Human is the pick of the bunch. It stays strong into the second season and has been renewed for a third. My only complaint is that too often for a supposed 3-lead show, it ends up riding on George’s back. See my earlier comments about characters needing anxieties, fears and vulnerabilities – George has them in spades (so does Annie, but the show just seems uncertain about what to do with her – solid character, but often left out of the major plot arcs). When George’s problems get the better of him, he slides from likeable ponce to a very convincing and authentically frightening nasty streak, that’s a believable feature of his personality despite so different to his usual demeanour. We get a taste of it in the Tully episode of season 1, but it’s nothing compared to the ferocity and underlying threat of violence with which he tries to push Nina away early in season 2. By comparison, Mitchell’s character seems unable to move or grow, with the plot coming to and from him instead. It’s surprising because his changes in situation and behaviour are much bigger than George’s – going to and from the vampire community, and to and from killing, but he seems to be the same person throughout, just pushed by the plot into a different situation. Minor complaints though for an excellent show.

    I probably rate The Gates a bit higher than you. I quite liked the class dynamics, with the vampires as the colder, slightly repressed 1950s-esque upper middle class and the werewolves as the mob mentality but somehow warmer working class. Putting aside the cynicism of a device that plays on class conflict while using a setting where everyone is rich, it’s not a bad use of fantasy metaphor. The metaphor is most obvious in the episode where one of the werewolf characters, a rather nasty wife-beating alcoholic, is put into a coma. It’s an episode where the main vampire characters try to balance their obsession with social appearances against left over problems from a recent affair, while the werewolves chafe at the perceived lack of respect from authorities compared with that given to the more respectable vampire half of the community. I don’t really get a ‘Desperate Housewives’ feel to it, aside from the first few episodes. I’m wondering if the comparisons to DH have come up because The Gates introduces us to the vampire characters and their concerns with fitting in and appearance first, and only starts to bring in the werewolf characters later.

  4. Azrael the Cat says:

    One or two writing flaws in True Blood that took a while to develop but which I now find repeatedly irritating:
    (1) This is a setting where we’re repeatedly told how much different vampires are to humans. It’s the basis of more than a couple of plot lines and strains in the character relationships. Yet in almost every episode – especially in some of the scenes that seem intended to show us how different the vampires are – the opposite occurs, as the vampires are (like the humans) obsessed with little else than sex, money and political power. That’s fine, fantasy and horror are often at their best when used to mirror real human traits, but it just jarrs when we’re simultaneously told how different they are supposed to be. It’s as though the show is utterly unaware that sex is the centrepoint of almost all media and the focal point of pop society – instead, it proceeds on the basis that we’re Victorian era conservatives, where overt sexuality (Dracula in the infamous, though pulpy, novel) is still seen as monstrous. The effect is not dissimilar to the writing in Torchwood (the ‘adult spinoff’ of Dr Who that – with the magnificent exception of the Children of Earth miniseries – manages to feel less mature than the family friendly flagship program) – by shouting ‘look at THIS! people having SEX! Aren’t we NAUGHTY!’ it it feels a bit like the perspective of a young teenager, who isn’t quite as comfortable with the adult world as his/her brashness would have you believe.

    (2) Speaking of teenagers in an adult world, it seems to be making the same mistake that comic book companies and writers have long had to grapple with. By basing not only plotlines, but character sexuality and attraction upon an ever-increasing array of supernatural creatures and powers, the show is running into ‘power inflation’, where a seemingly irreversible trend of jacking up the characters’ supernatural powers starts to undermine both earlier plotlines and future character drama. Bon Temps is supposed to be an ordinary little town. Yet it’s starting to seem like you can’t take 5 steps without tripping over a supernatural creature of some kind. But if shifters, vampires, werewolves and more are everywhere, why would a certain character in series 2 go to such lengths to capture Sam, as though he’s a once in a lifetime opportunity that she wouldn’t have encountered (and used in the same way) many times before? Moreover, this is a series that is trying, and mostly succeeding, to attain a higher quality than the page-turning-but-trashy vampire erotica that insipred it. But characters that will work in pulp won’t work in a serious TV series – a central character needs room to grow, anxieties, uncertainties and vulnerabilities. Too often, the vampire characters in the books lack that – and the TV series is starting to be weighed down by the same problem. I’m interested to see whether they complete the same jump from Bill to Eric as the sexual interest, as in the books. I suspect not – with the wider TV view of the characters (without following a sole central perspective) it’s harder to make that jump and still keep Sookie sympathetic enough to lead the show, whilst Eric’s character is simply too fearless and invulnerable to be half of the show’s main love drama. It’s the difference between a quick shag and a relationship – the stretched out commitment required for a TV series just demands a little bit more character.

  5. Jake Moore says:

    OK if I have to make a choice all have their merits. True Blood is a tasty Southern Gumbo of gore,horror & just good campiness. The Vampire Diares with its beautiful cast is a nice served dish written with great delight. The Gates is another easy on the eyes cast just starting to find it’s pace.(I hope not too late)The major action is yet to come in a very Dark Shadows wannabe fashion. Being Human is the most dramatic of the four & with it’s cast I really enjoy the storytelling,gore,Horror the kicker is it’s also the most original by far. I sort of have a passion for Vampire entertaintment ,and all things considered my choice has to be Being Human.

    • Thanks for your comments, Jake! Glad to see that we’re on the same page here. There’s a vampire show for everyone now it seems. I gotta say that there are good things about every single one of these shows. I didn’t even mention the great costuming on The Gates yet. I think The Gates is still trying to find its rhythm. Being Human has more story in 6 eps in its first season than most other shows have in twice that many eps! :waves Being Human flag:

  6. Jake Moore says:

    Call me a glutton but I want them all a long with reruns of Buffy & Angel!

  7. Being Human is absolutely the most powerful of the bunch. The characters and story are fantastic enough to make up for the horrid special effects. I do, however, dread a US version as we have a history of ruining shows that way!

    • I must agree with you. It is a fantastic show! I am uncertain about how the American version of Being Human will turn out though. Toby Whithouse isn’t involved in it so who knows what will happen with it? You know, Being Human actually won an award for its special effects across the pond!

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