pilots 2013

The Originals: Finally, a Vampire Show!

The Originals earns the distinction of the most ironically titled show of the year. It’s a spinoff of The Vampire Diaries, which inherently limits its originality, but many of its characters and moments would be at home on True Blood or Teen Wolf or some episodes of Supernatural, or even in a Twilight movie. Sexy vampires and sexy werewolves and sexy witches and the sexy people who love them — it’s not a particularly fresh setup.

Which isn’t to say the show is bad exactly, just deeply unnecessary. It’s tough to imagine people who aren’t already TVD fans caring much about The Originals, but the pilot labors valiantly to explain the backstory mythology: The original family of vampires once ruled New Orleans, but the sands of time have dispersed the clan, and power has shifted to a new leader. TVD’s onetime major bad guy Klaus (Joseph Morgan), half-vampire, half-werewolf, has returned to claim his perch atop the pecking order only to discover his former protégé (Charles Michael Davis) is now in charge. Also, someone is pregnant who’s not supposed to be pregnant, and there are witches. Helpfully, the characters who are brothers frequently call each other “brother,” and when someone asks, “do you know who I am?” it’s not rhetorical; the other person is obligated to explain exactly who he is and where he fits among the warring factions. The sound you hear is all the vampires of New Orleans groaning under the weight of all this exposition. It’s also all material covered thoroughly in the show’s backdoor pilot that aired as a TVD episode in April.

Somehow, the show operates with the panache and swagger of a more captivating series, making up with smoldering stares what it lacks in snappy dialogue. Every scene is ominous and sexually charged, and everyone seems as likely to stab each other as they are to kiss each other. (Both of those things are very likely at all times.) The gore works well, be it the gurgling sounds of a freshly slit throat or the borderline campiness of a human heart positioned stylishly on a cobblestone street. Every eyebrow is neatly tweezed, each tank top exactly skin tight but not too tight, every millimeter of stubble fluffed to maximum scruffy appeal. If it were any more perfectly packaged, it would be a parody of what a CW drama looks like.

As it stands, though, The Originals is a functional CW drama, one that seems to tick every box on the potential-popularity to-do list — except one. The Vampire Diaries defined itself with a psychotically addictive love triangle and sharper-than-expected dialogue. True Blood, too, embraced the inherent drama of a love triangle, but added social commentary and moments of humor. Teen Wolf goes for Ultimate Broodiness at all times. The Originals hasn’t found its thing yet, the thing that makes it, oh, original.

The Originals: Finally, a Vampire Show!