I'm not sure it's a good idea to read all five books in a series just before watching the pilot for their small-screen adaptation. It kind of leaves you feeling a bit too immersed in a fictional world. And it tends to encourage the kind of silly "That's not how it happens in the book!" exclamations you'd expect coming from our fanboy brethren over at Splash Page (no offense, guys).
But last night I sacrificed myself for you, dear readers, and watched the first episode of the CW's "Vampire Diaries," based on the novels by L.J. Smith (which I discussed in this week's Book Report).
SPOILER ALERT! After the jump, details on the "VD" season premiere.
The skeletal plot of the show (which premieres Thursday, September 10 at 8 pm ET) seems much the same as the book: It's the first day of Elena Gilbert's senior year, and she's worried that everyone will still think of her as the girl whose parents died. But her attention is soon diverted by the hot new kid in school, Stefan Salvatore, who seems to have an amazing ability to persuade grownups and sneak up behind people. Of course, he's actually a vampire whose masochism extends beyond just denying himself human blood, which he doesn't necessarily have to kill to drink — he wants to go high school. (Really, if all he wanted to do was live like a human, why not pretend to be one who's already graduated?)
"Dawson's Creek"/ "I Know What You Did Last Summer" mastermind Kevin Williamson's signature blend of clever teenage dialogue and creepy, watcher-in-the-woods tension is present from the start. To sustain viewers throughout a season, he seems to know that for every suspenseful scene in the dark fog, you need a minute of light-hearted banter in the local hangout accompanied by a hip, upbeat soundtrack.
There are, of course, a couple of fundamental differences from the books, not just the fact that Elena (Nina Dobrev) has dark eyes and hair (she's a blue-eyed blond in the book) and she lives in Mystic Falls, not Fell's Church. Instead of hailing from Renaissance Italy, Stefan (Paul Wesley, above left) appears to be from Civil War-era Mystic Falls (are we veering into "True Blood" territory now?). But the change makes sense: If they didn't cast an Italian, it'd be annoying to hear an actor's fake Italian accent throughout the show. In the book, Elena has a 4-year-old little sister, Margaret, who's very peripheral to the story. For the show, she has a far more interesting teenage little brother, Jeremy, who has turned to drinking and drugs to deal with his grief.
I'd say I was upset that one of Elena's best friends in the book, Meredith, is completely absent from this first episode, but fan site Vampire-Diaries.net has word from producers Williamson and Julie Plec that she'll show up eventually. Psychic friend Bonnie, meanwhile, is African-American instead of a redheaded Druid descendant, which hardly matters as long as she still knows how to channel spirits.
After a bit of high school drama, we finally get to meet Stefan's brother, Damon. Ian Somerhalder is every bit as smoldering and mischievous as his character in the books, though he hardly gets to do much in the first episode, other than tease him about how much Elena looks like Stefan's long-lost love Katherine. We also learn that Stefan lives with a completely new character, a human relative named Zach — whose irritating admonition to Stefan when the newspaper starts reporting mysterious animal attacks makes him my least favorite character so far. Where's kooky boardinghouse matron Mrs. Flowers when you need her?
Have you read "The Vampire Diaries"? Do you think these changes from the book will bother you? Sound off below!