Eclaire Fare

Enjoying Pop Culture, One Bite at a Time

Vampire Diaries 1.2: Night of the Comet September 18, 2009

The drama was spilling over in abundance on this week’s episode of Vampire Diaries. In one corner you have Vicki, who is having hallucinations of creepy vampires in bathroom mirrors when she isn’t being glamoured by their “parlor tricks.” In another corner, you have Elena fretting about whether or not she’s ready to pursue a relationship with a brooding guy who has serious family issues and a broken heart from his previous girlfriend. In yet another corner, Aunt Jenna is struggling to maintain control of her teen charges before one of them ends up dropping out of school and going into rehab for an out of control drug habit. And finally, there’s a comet flying over Mystic Falls, which could either be simply a ball of snow and ice, or more forebodingly, a sign of bad things to come.

Stefan and Damons first confrontation over Elena, in their family home

Stefan and Damon's first confrontation over Elena, in their family home

I enjoyed this second episode much more than the pilot. I was especially drawn to Elena and Jeremy’s guardian, Aunt Jenna. We saw a more realistic view of her struggle to establish authority over Jeremy, and her feelings of inadequacy. I always like to see some family drama unfold on these shows, and between Aunt Jenna’s run-ins with Jeremy, and Stefan’s icy confrontation with Damon after Elena’s impromptu house call, there was plenty to go around. I also like Elena’s ex-boyfriend Matt. I know he’s supposed to be the dull human boy to Stefan’s mysterious and sexy vampire, but I like his rugged charm and protective attitude toward Elena and his sister, Vicki. Speaking of Vicki, she is played by Kayla Ewell, who I spotted this week on an episode of Freaks and Geeks. It’s interesting to note that she plays a high school student on both shows, since Freaks and Geeks aired ten years ago! She was 14 then, and was adorable as a fresh-faced newcomer who wasn’t ashamed to hang out with the geeks. Now look at her. She’s 24, and is somewhat annoying as a feisty high schooler who is embarrassed to let anyone know that she had a fling with younger Jeremy.

Kayla Ewell has been walking the halls of high school for ten years, since before she was Vicki on Vampire Diaries, she played a student on Freaks and Geeks.

Kayla Ewell has been walking the halls of high school for ten years, since before she was Vicki on Vampire Diaries, she played a student on Freaks and Geeks.

As for the music in episode two, I was especially glad to hear “Gravity” by Sara Bareilles. Since my main association for this song is Kayla and Kupono’s emotionally charged contemporary dance about addiction on last season’s So You Think You Can Dance, it was strange to hear the song in the context of a budding relationship. Strangely, the song works well in both situations. The concept of something/someone bringing you down can be a negative, as in the affects of a drug addiction or an abusive relationship, but in Stefan and Elena’s case, the idea of them bringing each other down was a positive one, because they were grounding each other in reality, instead of getting caught up in the drama of “what ifs” and “what abouts.” Melodramatic? Maybe. But satisfying and romantic? Definitely. I thought it was a sweet way for this “epic” couple to start their relationship.

So, am I planning to watch episode three of this supernatural teen drama? Yes, I am. I like the direction the show is headed, including:

  • Elena and Stefan’s moody relationship
  • Damon’s mysterious evil plan for the town (“it’s time for a wake-up call”)
  • The family dynamics in the Gilbert household, as well as the Salvatore home. (What’s the deal with the brothers’ guardian referring to them as “uncle”? Is he like their family protector?)
  • The music – It really does enhance the viewing experience. I already mentioned the closing song, “Gravity,” but here’s a link to the rest of the songs from the episode.
  • The Salvatore house – I loved that we got a long, lingering look at the old-fashioned and elaborate interior of Stefan and Damon’s family home. Vampire shows give us an opportunity to delve into the customs, fashions, and decorating trends of the past, and so I’m glad the props and set designers on this show have taken the time (and money) to do so. (True Blood has set the current standard in this area, but at least its teen counterpart is trying.)

What do you like or not like about this show?

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Glee and Vampire Diaries: Opposite Ends of the Teen Spectrum September 11, 2009

Somewhere in Ohio, high school misfits find a common purpose in a revamped glee club, while somewhere in Virginia, a sad and isolated high school student finds a reason to be gleeful when she hits it off with the “new boy at school” vampire. I had to think really hard to work “vamp” and “glee” into both of those sentences, which just goes to show you how far apart the worlds of these two shows are. One is all inspiration, comedy, and fun; the other is all doom, gloom, and a love that spans centuries. One is more comedy for everyone than teen show; the other is a drama mostly for teens, mostly supernatural, and not funny at all. (Well, I was amused by the cawing blackbird and spontaneous fog, but I’m not sure that’s what was intended.)

I highly anticipated the premiere, post-pilot episode of Glee, and I was cautiously intrigued by the approach of Vampire Diaries. Now that I’ve seen both of these shows, I am prepared to share my initial reactions and opinions.

Overall Impression

  • Glee – While the second episode didn’t have the absolute, joyous perfection of the pilot, I was still thoroughly entertained. Some stand out moments included anything involving the principal, anything involving Jane Lynch’s cheerleading coach, and the glee club’s two performances – Kanye West’s “Gold Digger” and Salt n Pepa’s “Push It.” I am not as interested in Rachel’s pining over Finn, or Terri’s spontaneous decision to fake being pregnant rather than telling Will it was a false positive. But if the show continues to find humor in the high school social strata, and if the glee club continues to grow and improve, I’ll keep tuning in.
  • Vampire Diaries – I was entertained enough by the pilot that I will watch the second episode, but I’m not yet convinced that this is “must see tv.” While I was watching the pilot, I kept thinking to myself, “I’m too old to be watching this.” I was so not interested in the melodrama of what’s his face wanting to get back together with Elena, or of Elena’s brother Jeremy being all wounded when his summer fling Vicki stopped paying attention to him. And the spooky parts weren’t very spooky. I wasn’t scared during the opening scene when the college kids had a bloody encounter with Damon, nor when Vicki was attacked in the woods. Really the only things I did like were Elena’s narration and diary entries, her friendship with possibly psychic Bonnie, Stefan’s mysterious past and desire to finally return home, and Stefan and Damon’s history as brothers, including their involvement with Elena’s Civil War-era look-alikeĀ  (Damon mentioned that he vowed to make life difficult for Stefan a long time ago, but we don’t really know why yet.).
Jane Lynch is my favorite thing about Glee.

Jane Lynch is my favorite thing about Glee.

The Acting

  • Glee – Overall, the acting is excellent on this show, which means that the casting was well done, too. The very best thing about Glee is Jane Lynch as cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester. Lynch has always been fantastic in any role, but she is so completely hilarious and spot-on here, that every expression, every glare, every word out of her mouth is golden. If she isn’t nominated for supporting actress in a comedy category at all the tv awards shows this year, then something is very, very wrong. Matthew Morrison plays idealistic do-gooder very well, and I also love Jayma Mays as germaphobic guidance counselor Emma Pillsbury. So far the teen cast are too caricaturish to evaluate, but given time I imagine we’ll see some sort of development with them as well.
  • Vampire Diaries – I observed some rather atrocious acting during the pilot. I hate to name names, so instead I’ll just give credit to those who impressed me or seemed well cast. Well, that just leaves me with the three who received top billing: Nina Dobrev, Paul Wesley, and Ian Somerhalder. Dobrev brings a quiet confidence and a no-nonsense air to Elena, Wesley plays “I’m the good one” vampire Stefan as well as one can, and Somerhalder brings some much-needed comic relief (I’m not sure it was supposed to be funny, but I laughed) and passion to the whole proceedings. Somerhalder just has that creepy, evil eye look about him, similar to Cillian Murphy, that makes him well-suited for a role such as this. He will be entertaining as Damon, and will probably be the main reason I’ll keep watching, if I do.

The Soundtrack

  • Glee – The music is probably the main reason I watch this show. I enjoy hearing choral interpretations of popular songs, plus I like the quirky, Bobby McPherrinish harmonies that provide atmosphere for many of the scenes.
  • Vampire Diaries – In the tradition of many CW shows that have come before it, this vampire love saga is chock full of barely known music from current bands. At least, it’s barely known to me. But I am all for promoting the little guys. In fact, I like how the CW often advertises the music at the end of its shows: “Tonight’s episode featured music from…” That being said, I didn’t absolutely love any of the music in the pilot episode enough to go download it. Maybe next week. Click here for a list of the songs from the pilot.
Vampire Diaries is the land of lost teens, with almost no adults to be found.

Vampire Diaries is the land of lost teens, with almost no adults to be found.

Where Have All the Grown-Ups Gone?

  • Glee – Well, all the grown-ups are hanging out in the halls of the high school, because most of them are teachers and faculty. The only parent we’ve seen is Finn’s mom, when he flashed back to their fun times on the front lawn with the lawn care guy. And the only spouse we’ve seen is Will’s crazy, self-centered wife Terri (played very well by Jessalyn Gilsig. And for a show about a high school, this is as it should be. Since most of the action takes place at school, there’s no reason to develop the parents at this point.
  • Vampire Diaries – Now that is a good question for this show – where are all the grown-ups? We saw one older teacher, who was put in his place by Stefan when he gave the class some misinformation about Mystic Falls’ civil war civilian casualties. And then there was that secretary who Stefan glamored into enrolling him at the school without proper paperwork. But Elena and Jeremy live with their grad student aunt, who doesn’t look much older than 25, and none of the other kids seem to have any sort of parental guidance. (Am I forgetting anyone?) I haven’t figured out the relationship between Stefan and his “uncle.” I’m guessing that’s just a living descendant of the family who is aware of his family’s bloodsucking past. It seems awkward to just ignore all the parents. I mean, a simple mention would do, or a wave goodbye as Bonnie and the gang head to their coffee shop hangout. I am surprised that we aren’t seeing more parents since this show is from Mr. Dawson’s Creek himself, Kevin Williamson. I always enjoyed the parents’ subplots on that show, since real teenagers’ lives are usually mixed up, rather than totally separate from, their moms and dads, grandparents, guardians… Maybe the show will introduce more adult characters in the coming weeks. If not, I’m calling this out as a flaw.
Vampire Diaries reminds me of Roswell, specifically Max and Lizs relationship.

Vampire Diaries reminds me of Roswell, specifically Max and Liz's relationship.

Reminds me of…

  • Glee – It’s hard to think of any shows like this one. It reminds me more of Christopher Guest movies, such as Best in Show or A Mighty Wind. Unlike most of what comes on tv these days (lots of revivals, remakes, and spin-offs), this one seems very original.
  • Vampire Diaries – This show has nothing in common with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, except that a vampire falls in love with a teenage girl. But I don’t see Elena picking up a sword and vanquishing Damon in the season finale. No, Vampire Diaries is more reminiscent of Roswell. On that show, alien Max Evans fell in love with Liz Parker, and Liz wrote in her diary about how her world was turned upside down the moment she got involved with him. Like Elena, Liz had a friend with psychic connections – as I recall, Maria was somehow in touch with that kind of thing. Aliens, vampires… while there are many differences, both Liz and Elena are drawn to Max and Stefan because they aren’t like the other boys.

In the Great Scheme of Things

  • Glee – I am thrilled to have a musical comedy on tv. Amidst all the melodrama of teen romance, the mystery of criminal investigations, and the depressing cases of medical shows, Glee is a breath of fresh air. I just hope the showrunners and cast can keep up with audience expectation for a long time to come.
  • Vampire Diaries – This, my friends, is no Joss Whedon show. Buffy or Angel it will never be. The love triangle was always just a part of the story on those shows, with a more epic story arc taking center stage. I’m not sure this show will ever rise above the Stefan-Elena-Damon love triangle and the mayhem that Stefan will try to prevent Damon from inflicting on Mystic Falls. Do I sound skeptical? Well, I am. Perhaps if I continue watching, then after several episodes I will compare Vampire Diaries to other vampire shows of the past, to see how it stacks up. I should at least give it a chance.

So obviously, if I were forced to choose between these two shows, I would immediately select Glee. Vampire Diaries pales (pun intended) in comparison to the more magical, zingier Glee. What did you think of these two shows?

 

Fall 2009 Television: What I’ll Be Watching September 6, 2009

Now that I’ve completed my preview of the networks’ new shows, it’s time to reveal my weekly viewing schedule. I have a feeling this list is going to overwhelm me. In the following rundown, all times listed are central, and I’ve also given the season premiere dates.

  • Sunday – Actually, I won’t be watching anything on Sundays. It will be nice to have one tv-free night. I watched the first seasons of Desperate Housewives and Brothers and Sisters, as well as one season of The Amazing Race, but I’ve long since stopped watching all of them.
  • Monday – I am starting off very reasonably. No shows on Sunday, and since I gave up on Heroes early last season, only one show on Mondays. (I enjoy House, but since it is “my husband’s show,” I only watch it when I’m passing through the room or folding laundry. I prefer Dr. House in small doses.)
    • How I Met Your Mother (7-7:30 on CBS, beginning Sept. 21) – I enjoy this CBS comedy, especially Barney’s character, but it’s not necessarily “Must See TV” for me. I typically watch some first run episodes, and catch most of the rest in reruns. (I have yet to see last season’s finale.) One question before I move on to Tuesday – why is One Tree Hill still on? Shouldn’t it have ended like three years ago?! Who watches it?

  • Tuesday
    • So You Think You Can Dance (7-9 on Fox, beginning Sept. 15) – We meet again so soon! It seems like we just crowned Jeanine the winner of season five, and it’s already time to welcome in a new class of hopeful dancers. I wasn’t very excited about it until I watched last week’s “Top 15 Routines” episode, which showed the best dances from all five seasons. I’ll continue blogging about the performances and results show, but it may be toned down from my rigorous summer schedule, since I’ll have quite a bit more tv shows to keep up with.
    • V (7 p.m. starting November 3 on ABC) –When I first heard about this remake of the ’80s movie/miniseries/series, I laughed. But after watching a preview, it actually looks pretty good. I look forward to it.

  • Wednesday
    • So You Think You Can Dance Results Show (7-8 p.m. on Fox, beginning Sept. 9)
    • Glee (8-9 p.m. on Fox, beginning Sept. 9) – I watched the pilot again this weekend. What a fun show! It’s a nice break from the more intense one hour shows that I watch.
    • New shows on Wednesday that I may watch, if they hold my interest
      • Modern Family (8-8:30 p.m. on ABC, beginning Sept. 23) – This will probably be a “catch in reruns” show for me.
      • Eastwick (9-10 p.m. on ABC, beginning Sept. 23) – This show will have to be really impressive to earn a permanent spot in my weekly lineup.

  • Thursday – This is where things get ugly, or at least technologically challenged. (I may have to put both my Tivos to work.)
    • The Office (8-8:30 p.m. on NBC, beginning Sept. 17) – Even though this comedy is still funny, it has nothing on 30 Rock. If I had to choose, it would be “goodbye, Michael” and “hello, Liz Lemon.”
    • Community (8:30 p.m. on NBC, begining Sept. 17, until 30 Rock premieres, at which time it will move to 7 p.m.) – I am especially looking forward to this show since I teach at a community college.
    • 30 Rock (8:30-9 p.m. on NBC, beginning Oct. 15) – How hilarious was the season finale with the celebrity song about donating a kidney? If Tina Fey and the gang can keep it up, they have more Emmys in their future.
    • Fringe (8-9 p.m. on Fox, beginning Sept. 17) – Oh, how I’ve missed Walter, Peter, and Olivia this summer. Can’t wait to welcome more creepiness into my living room!
    • New shows on Thursday that I’ll be watching until they lose my interest or I run out of time:
      • FlashForward (7-8 p.m. on ABC, beginning Sept. 24) – A show with an intriguing premise and an impressive cast
      • Vampire Diaries (7-8 p.m. on CW, beginning Sept. 10) – Vampires and teenagers: will that be an interesting or bad combination?
    • Shows that I’ve been watching that will likely be dropped because of the ridiculous number of good shows on this night:
      • CSI (8 p.m. on CBS, beginning Sept. 24) – I watched most of last season, and enjoyed the addition of Lawrence Fishburne to the cast. However, there are simply too many shows in this prime hour of primetime. As in seasons past, it will be pushed aside and saved for rerun season or syndication.
      • The Mentalist (9 p.m. on CBS, beginning Sept. 24) – I was rather entertained by this show last season, catching most but not all of the episodes. Since it is the only show airing at 9 p.m. that I’m interested in, I will watch it occasionally.

  • Friday – Now that we’re done with Thursday, let’s move to the more manageable Friday
    • Dollhouse (8-9 p.m. on Fox, beginning Sept. 25) – I’ve been catching up with season one on DVD, so now I’m ready to watch season two as each episode airs on Fox. Hopefully this one will make it through the end of its second season, but if not I’ll just enjoy it while it lasts.

Breaking it Down

  • Returning show I’m most looking forward to: Fringe
  • New show I’m most looking forward to: Glee
  • Number of shows I will definitely watch: 6 (This includes Glee, the only new show that is a shoo-in to join my regular lineup.)
  • Number of additional shows I may watch: 9
    • 3 of these are shows that I only watch sporadically
    • 6 of these shows are new, out of which there are only two that I’m pretty sure I’ll want to keep watching (V and Community)
  • Number of shows that I’ll watch when they return at mid-season: 2 (24 and Lost)
  • Number of shows that I can realistically handle: 10 (With the approach of mid-season shows, this means that I’ll have to cut some others from the starting rotation.)
  • How many shows from each network I’ll be watching this fall
    • FOX: 4 definitely’s
    • NBC: 2 definitely’s, 1 maybe
    • ABC: 4 maybes
    • CBS: 3 maybes
    • CW: 1 maybe

Based on these figures, it seems clear that Fox is my network of choice. And to think, I don’t even watch American Idol, if I can avoid it! NBC is the network that makes me laugh, ABC is the network whose new shows most intrigue me, CBS is the network that has trouble holding my interest, and the CW is the network barely hanging by a thread. Which shows (and how many) are you planning to watch this fall?

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