The Vampire Diaries: Season One (Blu-ray)

January 28, 2012 7 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

If anything is en vogue now it’s got to be vampires. Yes, vampires. You know, those fictional (no matter how much some folks want to believe otherwise) blood-sucking beings that can live forever by drinking blood. Yeah, those. To be sure, vampires have always been a staple of both film and television but in the last few years, namely since Stephenie Myers’ “Twilight” has come out, it seems you can’t turn around without seeing a pair of fangs. To the best of my knowledge, and I could be mistaken, there are currently two major television series that focus on vampires. One’s good and one’s, well this one. I admit that I’m a fan of HBO’s “True Blood” as it’s another in the long line of brilliant HBO original programming. The characters are dynamic and interesting, the plot keeps you guessing and since it’s on HBO they get to curse and you occasionally see them sans clothes. Then you have “The Vampire Diaries.” This isn’t on HBO, it’s on the CW, so we lose the adult portion of things and to be honest, it’s much more complicated plot that makes it pretty hard to follow. But anything with vampires does manage to follow a certain set of rules and though those rules are bent here, they do still apply. If you were like me, you’d seen the ads for “The Vampire Diaries” but really never acted on the urge to sit down and watch it. Should you?

For the uninitiated, like myself, here’s the basic plot of the first season. We meet two handsome brothers: Stefan (Paul Wesley) and Damon (Ian Somerhalder) who are, of course, vampires. They’re centuries old and have learned to deal with their agelessness much like the characters in “Twilight” have ? they move on before it really becomes noticed that they don’t age. However, they’ve now come full circle and are back in Mystic Falls, Virginia where it all started. Stefan, the “good” brother tries to live somewhat of a normal life by enrolling in high school. However Damon takes the opposite approach and causes as much pain as he can. Add to this that Stefan’s girlfriend, Elena (Nina Dobrey), is at the heart of the feuding brothers and it adds up to some trouble. Elena has just lost her parents in a tragic accident and finds herself unknowingly thrust into this century’s old sibling rivalry. And in a nutshell, that’s it. There’s a lot of downtime in the series and it tends to drag on a bit. Unlike “True Blood”, whose ensemble cast is what makes the show work, “The Vampire Diaries” seems like more of a gimmick than anything else. This is like a dark, supernatural version of “90210” to be honest. Kevin Williamson, who you might recall from the “Scream” movies, is behind the scenes here and it does show, but not too much. I’m sure this show has legions of fans, but given the choice between this and “True Blood”, I’ll stick with that.

Video: How does it look?

“The Vampire Diaries” is shown in a 1.77:1 VC-1 HD transfer that’s undoubtedly better that the HD broadcast. I say “undoubtedly” because I’ve never watched the show as it aired, I might watch one now just to compare it. The palette used is very dark, obviously complimenting the tone of vampires. Flesh tones are a bit washed out in some scenes, though the overall clarity of the image is very good. One good thing about television shows being shot in widescreen is that they do look exactly like a feature film, and in my book that’s good. Fans will certainly love this Blu-ray release as the image is near flawless.

Audio: How does it sound?

The soundtrack has benefited from a DTS HD Master Audio mix that will surely sound better than that of a broadcast episode. The rule used to be that anything on television would never sound nearly as good as a feature film and this is still somewhat true, but I have to say that a few scenes in “The Vampire Diaries” did impress me. Granted, the meat of the series is dialogue-driven and we do get some help from the surrounds here and there. I really can’t say this left a lasting impression on me in terms of audio, but like the video, it’s a higher scale version as opposed to watching it over the air.

Supplements: What are the extras?

“The Vampire Diaries” comes with a slew of extras starting out with the commentary track by the series creators on the pilot episode. Unfortunately, that’s the only commentary track we get, but still better to have than have not. Some featurettes are included starting off with “Into Mystic Falls” which focuses on bringing some of the mystique of the vampire “life” to the screen. “When Vampires Don’t Suck!” shows a bit of the current allure of the fans and the overall popularity of the subculture that are vampires. We also get “The Vampire Diaries: Vampires 101” as they explain the rules of a vampire (and evidently how they differ from each show or movie). Some deleted scenes are also included as are some webisodes. There is an audiobook of the novel “The Vampire Diaries: The Awakening” by L.J. Smith as well as some outtakes.

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