Review by Craig Byrne – VampireSite.net Webmaster
The Vampire Diaries Season 1 will be available on DVD and Blu-ray on August 31 (only two weeks away!), and thanks to Warner Home Video, we’ve been able to take an advance look at the set, which collects the 22 episodes of the show’s first season. This review will be split into sections, and hopefully will be in-depth enough for those of you who just can’t wait for the end of the month.
Packaging/Design: The first thing you’ll notice with any DVD set is the packaging, right? Well… the first thing I noticed here was how thin the packaging for this season set is. It’s much slimmer than comparative sets forSmallville and Supernatural and about 1/4 the size of the X-Files DVD sets of old. Just because it takes up less space, though, doesn’t mean it’s packaged in a way that is inferior. Discs do not overlap each other and are easy to get out.
Individual disc art isn’t as cool as what we had with something like Smallville, nor are there any fancy menus, really… most title screens look like the front cover. The time not spent on disc art, however, is better spent on extras, which I’ll get to in a moment.
When you slide out the set, there’s a photo of Ian, Nina, and Paul on the back cover.
The Episodes: Hate to keep going back to Smallville, but that’s how this site network started and a lot of people have asked me what else I’d recommend, and this is definitely it. The pilot might start off a bit… well… Twilight-y (sorry Julie and Kevin), but as soon as Ian Somerhalder showed up as Damon, throwing a wrench into the dynamic, it became something else entirely. Episodes #2 and #3 actually also reminded me a bit of early Smallvilles (I felt I’d seen the “super powered guy and the football team” story before, and I’ll surely see it again), but then around episode 4 or 5, something fantastic happened. [Beware of spoilers from here on out] We learned about the history of Mystic Falls and that people knew about the Salvatores and their true nature. Kevin Williamson joked at the Paley Festival that TVD is actually more Dark Shadows than Twilight, and he’s right.
That’s not all that TVD Season 1 pulled off. A rarity in TV this day and age, instead of losing its way in the back half of the season, the show actually got better and better. Every other episode seemed to have a new revelation, connection, or surprise. New characters such as Alaric or Anna came in and were quickly embraced. Other new characters like Jonathan Gilbert came in, just asking for themselves to be stabbed a few times. I think I could actually have a weekend marathon of The Vampire Diariesand not get bored, and I can’t say that for many series.
If you haven’t seen The Vampire Diaries, this is the perfect way to get sucked in. But if you feel the same way I did about the first 3 episodes or so — give it a chance. You’ll thank yourself. There’s a reason this is one of The CW’s top shows ratings-wise – it has elements and characters that can just draw anyone in.
One “hook” for the series with me – or three hooks, actually – is that I had been a fan of the show’s three lead actors prior to seeing the show. Nina Dobrev was fantastic as a single teenage mother “Mia” on Degrassi, and I still get a chuckle when I remember the name of Mia’s daughter on the show, “Bella.” (Fortunately, Edward and Jacob are far, far away) Paul Wesley I had first seen on Smallville as Lucas, the half-brother of Lex Luthor, and I’d been hoping for a return appearance from him ever since. It’ll probably never happen now, though it would be a great way to get some of the Vampire Diaries fans to watchSmallville again. And then there’s Ian Somerhalder. I first saw him in the movie The Rules of Attraction and quickly he entered my brain as someone that, if I were a casting director, I’d totally go after for a role. Funny enough, in 2004 I suggested him for “Barnabas” in the WB’s Dark Shadows remake… instead, they went with the less charismatic Alec Newman. I also thought he would have made a terrific young Bruce Wayne if Smallville would have gone that route. One might argue they sort of did, when they cast Ian as “Adam Knight.” Of course, before Damon, people now know Ian for his role as Boone on LOST as well.
The supporting players are just as solid, with every one of them bringing something unique to their roles. I was surprised when watching the DVD extras to see how young Sara Canning is… not that she looks any different on the show, but the manner in which she carries Aunt Jenna is a totally different beast. The DVD extras also reminded me of how I hope we see Bonnie, Matt, and Tyler more in the coming season. Finally, it’s so weird to see the pilot again to see how much Steven R. McQueen has changed since they shot the first episode!
The creative team also drew me to this project. Dawson’s Creek made me fall in love with The WB, though I admit I kind of fell out of it when Kevin Williamson left the show. (He did, however, return for the series finale which I am not too embarrassed to admit made me cry like a baby. Curse you, Williamson!) I still intend to see more of Julie Plec’s work from Kyle XY; it’s always been on my “to-watch” list but I haven’t gotten to at this point.
The Extras: Why, oh, why can’t most big-studio sets be this packed? My favorite extra feature on this set, of course, is the look at fans of the show and the fandom surrounding The Vampire Diaries. Carina Mackenzie of the L.A. Times (aka @cadlymack) is interviewed as is Vee from the excellent Vampire-Diaries.net, and it really reminded me about how – at least for now – it’s a really great fandom to be a part of. All of the principal cast is interviewed in addition to the producers. Other special features include a look at the development of the series and a separate feature on the casting; commentary on the pilot with Julie Plec, Kevin Williamson, and Marcos Siega; unaired/deleted scenes; BLOOPERS!!!!; the “Darker Truth” webisode series; and even a downloadable audiobook of L.J. Smith’s Vampire Diaries novel, “The Awakening.” The front cover boasts “8 hours of extras,” and I am so pleased.
In Conclusion: This set is definitely recommended. Looking for something to watch before all the shows return, or if you’d even just like to catch up on this one before Season 2 begins on September 9… either way, you’re in luck. 5 out of 5. A great set. Even if you claim to hate the “vampire” genre, it’s a solid watch, and there’s surely something you’d like.
The Vampire Diaries Season 1 is available on DVD August 31. Pre-order your DVD’s and support this site: