Vampire shows have had a good, healthy run on television, but lately, the landscape for them has seemed anemic.
“The Vampire Diaries” ends its impressive eight-year run on Friday, coincidentally the 20th anniversary of TV’s iconic “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (and the moment that Buffy Summers arrived at the Hellmouth).
This convergence of events is a reminder that only a few years ago, vampires were the hottest trend on TV. Even when “Buffy” and its spinoff “Angel” ended, “The Vampire Diaries” and “True Blood” were there to take up the bloody mantle. But with those shows also gone, the vampire genre appears to be an endangered species.
But not so fast. While it’s true that the biggest undead shows have left us, a few are hanging on. “The Vampire Diaries” spin-off “The Originals” is still on the air and may have some life in it yet. On IndieWire’s “Turn It On” podcast with Michael Schneider, “Vampire Diaries” producer Julie Plec said, “I do think there’s opportunity… to continue telling good stories of the Original family…[and] between the two shows, there’s roots and little seedlings planted for future ideas and ways that the franchise could live on outside of even these two shows.”
Also, a few other shows, such Syfy’s “Van Helsing” and Freeform’s “Shadowhunters,” have been flying under the radar but earned second seasons. And while FX is wrapping up Guillermo del Toro’s “The Strain” after a fourth and final season, other networks already have a more vampire shows in the development queue.
Vampire shows may not be dying off altogether, but the genre doesn’t seem to be generating the same excitement or longevity that it once did. It could it be a matter of “fang-tigue” – in which the usual vampire tropes, especially the kind that brought about the “Twilight” and “Vampire Diaries” mania, are just far too familiar by now.
Plec thinks that fans may need a change of pace: “I think it’s just a matter of, what’s the new, fresh take on it? Or take the old familiar horror pass at it? I think the moody, broody, sultry hero-hair vampires might have to take a break after Edward [the ‘Twilight’ character], Stefan and Damon [from ‘Vampire Diaries’] have filled up the last decade of our lives. Maybe there will be a beat taken there, but maybe not. You never know.”
Indeed, during this vampiric era, a full head of lustrous hair and a smoldering gaze seemed to be the criteria to be fan favorite bloodsuckers. Instead of inciting fear, these vamps were primarily seen as bad boy heartthrobs who were inevitably part of love triangles.
Even author Charlaine Harris, the author behind “True Blood,” had alredy created her share of romantic vampires in her 13 Sookie Stackhouse novels, and was ready for something new. As she conceived her latest book series, now being adapted by NBC into the supernatural drama “Midnight, Texas,” she decided to go in a different direction.
“I was sick to death of the other kind of vampires,” Harris told IndieWire at the “Midnight, Texas” set in New Mexico last month. “I thought, I just can’t go back to that, especially after the ‘Twilight’ books became big. I thought, ‘If I ever have another vampire, it’s going to be a different kind of vampire. I just can’t do that again.’”
Fans who have read Harris’ books know what twist sets her “Midnight, Texas” vampire Lemuel apart. He’s still attractive and desirable, especially since NBC has cast the impressive Peter Mensah in the role, but he is definitely a different beast from the hemoglobin-hungry Heathcliffs that we know and love.
Another series diverging from the typical vampire fare is ”Let the Right One In,” TNT’s upcoming show based on the entrancing Swedish horror film of the same name (which also inspired an American film adaptation). Everything about the film — from the vampire’s identity to the cinematography, pacing and story — feels fresh and strangely realistic despite the fantastical elements. If the TNT series captures even a portion of that brilliance, it could have a hit on its hands.
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Other shows also in development include The CW’s “The Lost Boys” adaptation from “Veronica Mars” creator Rob Thomas and a series based on Anne Rice’s novels that the author is attempting to develop herself after she regained the theatrical rights to her work. Both could do well in this age of nostalgia revivals and reboots.
Whether any of these vampire revamps thrive remains to be seen. Vampire shows are easy to come by, but so many have disappeared after one season — “Moonlight,” “Dracula,” “Blade: The Series” and “Kindred: The Embraced,” among others — it’s clear that vampire TV is a tricky genre.
Still, when a vampire show hits, it can hit big. “The Vampire Diaries” is perhaps the most long-lived of them all, with eight seasons, while “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “True Blood” both hit seven seasons. The 1960s soap “Dark Shadows” lasted six seasons and delivered over a thousand episodes, and the “Buffy” spin-off “Angel” lasted a respectable five seasons. Beyond that longevity, those shows impacted pop culture and brought a unique distinction to their respective networks.
For the next generation of Vampire TV, it’s just a matter of figuring out how to freshen the bloodlines.