Vampires have always loomed large in popular culture, and television is no exception. Vampire-like characters appeared on early sitcoms The Munsters and The Addams Family. Shows dealing with the supernatural always seem to be prone to attracting cult followings, perhaps none more than those about vampires. That’s not so surprising; after all, charisma seems to be a requirement for membership in the fictional vampire club (along with pale skin and an aversion to crosses). Um, not that I would know anything about this. I never, ever, downloaded and printed out a Spike paper doll. Honest!
Let’s take a look at TV vampires from the past, present, and future.
This long running daily soap opera had a gigantic leap in popularity when the character Barnabas Collins, a 200-year-old vampire was introduced in 1967. There was a short-lived prime time remake in 1991. Johnny Depp was fascinated by the Barnabas Collins character growing up, and rumor has it that he may be starring in a film version of Dark Shadows in the near future.
When Buffy the Vampire Slayer premiered on the WB in 1997, nobody thought it would last. Featuring snappy writing full of witty pop culture references and a fantastic supporting cast, Buffy defied the odds, running for seven seasons and becoming a flagship show for the WB. (And was the subject of controversy when it moved to UPN for seasons 6 and 7.) Although Sarah Michelle Gellar’s Buffy and the Scooby gang were a major draw for viewers, the series owes much of its early popularity among young women to David Boreanaz’s angsty vampire, Angel. When the character was spun off, Buffy got a new "regular Joe" (or at least human) boyfriend in Marc Blucas’ Riley, but it was Spike, played by James Marsters, who became the real new male sex symbol for the show. Spike remained one of the most popular characters on the show through the series finale.
After three seasons, Angel’s angst-ridden romance with Buffy was more or less played out, from a storytelling point of view. The Angel character was transported to L.A., where he continued to fight supernatural evil under the mantle of a private detective agency. Although it was never quite as successful as Buffy, Angel ran for a solid five seasons.
Based on the popular series of books by Tanya Huff, Blood Ties runs on the Lifetime network. It revolves around Vicki Nelson, a former cop turned private detective, who solves crime aided by Henry Fitzroy, a 500-year-old vampire who is supposedly an illegitimate child of Henry the VIII.
A Very Special Vampire Episode:
In addition to shows that feature vampires as main characters, episodes featuring vampires or possible vampires are a television staple. Vampires have been featured on memorable episodes of The X-Files, Crossing Jordan, CSI, and Supernatural.
A new drama premiering on CBS this fall, Moonlight is about Mick St. John, a vampire who works as - you guessed it - a private detective. (Why is crime fighting the standard vampire occupation? Wouldn’t you love to see a show that features a vampire who runs a convenience store?) Angel co-creator David Greenwalt was briefly involved in the project as showrunner. Whether Moonlight will have the staying power of Buffy or Angel remains to be seen, but its very existence on the fall schedule is a testament to the continuing popularity of vampires on television.
Moonlight may or may not do well. There was bad buzz about the pilot and almost all the principal roles were recast. On the other hand, it will be paired with Ghost Whisperer on Friday nights, which is a good thematic match. This series has inexplicably avoided cancellation, so maybe a little of that luck will rub off on Moonlight. But whether it's a hit or not, it's clear that vampires are such a popular television staple that they'll be around for a long time. You might say their appeal is immortal. (What? You didn't think I could get through this whole article without making some sort of a corny joke like that, did you?)
* * *
Amy Kane spends as much quality time with her television as possible, when she's not busy at her day job as a cube dweller.