Like HBO's True Blood
, the CW's Vampire Diaries
proves there's always room for more good-looking bloodsuckers. Cocreated by Kevin Williamson (Dawson's Creek
) and based on the young adult series by L.J. Smith, the show revolves around Elena (Nina Dobrev), an orphan who lives with her aunt Jenna (Sara Canning) and her underachieving brother, Jeremy (Steven R. McQueen), who has a thing for bad girl Vicki (Kayla Ewell). As the school year begins, Elena meets Stefan (Paul Wesley of the smoldering stare) and sparks fly. With the aid of a special ring, he can go out during the day, thus keeping his true nature a secret. After he returns to Mystic Falls, his ancestral home, Vicki gets bit, and Elena's best friend, Bonnie (Katerina Graham), has strange premonitions (Jasmine Guy plays her grandmother).
Upon uncovering Stefan's secret, Elena learns that he and his brother, Damon (Lost's Ian Somerhalder), once loved a woman who looks just like her (their Civil War past plays out through flashbacks), while Elena used to date Vicki's brother, Matt (Zach Roerig), a football player with a flaky mother (The O.C.'s Melinda Clarke). As more citizens turn up dead, the town council sets out to stop the culprits with help from Elena's uncle John (Alias's David Anders) and his ex, Isobel (The L Word's Mia Kirshner).
It's easy to take a cynical attitude toward a supernatural soap like The Vampire Diaries, but it gets more things right than wrong. There's moping, goopy ballads, and mumbo jumbo about crystals, but the story lines are compelling and the writers are smart enough to anticipate the Twilight comparisons. When his girlfriend Caroline (Candice Accola) asks why he doesn't sparkle, Damon quips, "Because I live in the real world." Extras include deleted scenes, featurettes, and commentary on the pilot. --Kathleen C. Fennessy