Dear Diary, Today I Met the Greatest Guy…and then He Ate Me

So, I know that all of you out there have been waiting with bated breath for my take on the CW’s new series Vampire Diaries because:

a) I am basically a 14-year-old girl
b) I am virtually a PhD-level scholar of the current vampire Zeitgeist
c) You knew there was no way I wasn’t tuning into something set in a high school.

It’s all true.

And let me tell you: Vampire Diaries did not disappoint. In fact, I almost wished it wasn’t about vampires. The moody lighting and great cinematography set the show apart on their own; the fact that the soundtrack rivaled most Noxema commercials didn’t hurt either.

And: it was creepy. It was a little scary because people actually died in the episode, which sets it way far off from (barf) Twilight and most episodes of Buffy and True Blood. And the kids in the show are a little messed up. And it takes place in this creepy little New England town. So a lot of factors are coming together and making it work.

It does read a little on the Dawson’s Creek side, though, thanks to writer Kevin Williamson. But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing; it just means the kids talk a lot like grown-ups, which teenagers have the capacity to do (they just often choose not to).

The two vamps on the show are, of course, very Louis and Lestat in terms of their viciousness. One is your typically assimilationist loner who wants to be human while the other, the vicious killer, would rather eat his neighbors than have them over for coffee. And like oil and water, they really don’t mix. Ah! Conflict. Plus, they kind of have eyes for the same girl, who looks strangely like a girl they once knew a couple centuries ago…

While the tropes are getting tired, the delivery isn’t, and that’s what ultimately sets this show apart from absolutely horrifyingly bad drivel like Twilight (don’t even give me that crap that “it’s a good story even though the writing’s bad.” Folks, have you even read a book before?).

Plus, you know, like high school. It’s all, like, evil and stuff.

Glee is Joy

Last night’s “preview” episode of the fall TV series Glee was awesome.

It was fun, was well-written, had some compelling characters, and was–yes–a little moving.

It’s created by Ryan Murphy, who also brought us Nip/Tuck and Popular. Glee builds on a lot of the genius that was Popular, is savvy about high school power dynamics, both faculty and student.

If you never saw Popular, it was the show that developed Sara Rue, Tammy Lynn Michaels, Christopher Gorham, Leslie Bibb, and Wentworth Miller. It took place in a smallish high school where the rift between the haves and have-nots seemed irreperable until…the most popular girl’s dad marries the most “non-conformist” girl’s mom and the two mortal enemies are forced to share a house, a life, and worst of all–a bathroom.

Who didn’t love Tammy Lynn Michaels’s dastardly evil Glamazon cheerleader Nicole Julian, whose persecution of the less fortunate was as inspired as it was horrifying? Or Texan pageant queen Mary Cherry, whose slow murder of the English idiom was rivaled only by her enormous bee-stung lips and hypnotic eyes? And Lily Esposito (recently appeared in a “your butt called me” Blackberry commercial), whose impassioned activism for liberal causes encouraged her to briefly flirt with the liberal cause of lesbianism?

Popular was brilliant for its fearlessness and its willingness to upset the entire reality of its universe again and again. It was sincere and campy above all else. The mighty fell over and over, the meek inherited the earth (and had it taken from them a few episodes later). Bridges were burned and tentatively reconstructed, then burned again. It never failed to be enjoyable.

I have these same high hopes for Glee when it returns full-time in the fall.

Why We Can’t Help But Love Lauren Conrad

It’s Lauren Conrad’s last season on The Hills, they’re saying, and it seems to me a good opportunity to self-examine why I can’t seem to feel anything but love for her.

She’s pretty much everything we should hate: fabulously rich, dubiously famous, amazingly beautiful, and accepting hand-over-first the extraordinary opportunities presented to her. But despite the outward appearance and definitions, she’s also exceptionally down to earth, hard working, and sane.

Lauren Conrad and her stints on Laguna Beach and The Hills represent a few typical American fantasies. First, the obvious: that we have all the resources we need to live a lifestyle of decadence and leisure. It’s true; she does. She eats out at the hottest LA restaurants, goes out to bars and clubs regularly, and has a flattering luxurious wardrobe. She jets off to Cabo–becase, why not? Or plans an impromptu trip to Hawaii with the girls because hey, girls need to get away sometimes too.

But her narrative arc on The Hills is really a rags-to-riches story turned upside down. If all our material needs were met and all we had to focus on were giving our lives meaning, what would we turn to? Work and love, the only things missing. Lauren’s career Cinderella story found her working a highly-coveted internship at Teen Vogue, where she will forever be known as “the girl who didn’t go to Paris” when she could because she wanted to live with her alcoholic deadbeat boyfriend instead (but she went to Paris the next year, so don’t worry). She scored a hot job at fashion PR firm People’s Revolution with Kelly Cutrone, one of the best reality TV personalities ever. She works hard, she makes tons of mistakes, she learns from her mistakes, and she keeps working toward her dream.

This makes her a singularity among the rest of her friends in LA, which is the second fantasy Americans hold for themselves: that we are the sane harbor in a sea of totally fucked up people around us.

Two words: Heidi Montag. Nice girl, but whoa. She gots problems. Well, problem: Spencer Pratt. Lauren’s pal Whitney was pretty down to earth–but then again, we never saw Whitney’s life beyond Teen Vogue and People’s Revolution. On The Hills, she existed solely as Lauren’s sounding board and sage advice giver. Audrina, also a nice girl, can’t seem to stop falling for the wrong guy, and can’t say shit when she has a mouthful. Pile on Brody Jenner, with his penchant for douchbaggery, getting thrown in jail for fighting, and chickenhawking young ladies and you’ve got quite a mix. Oh, and Stephanie Pratt, who, like a mosquito, knows exactly what to buzz in people’s ears.

As she mixes with everyone, Lauren is our touchstone, generally unflappable, her eyes bulging out at the antics around her the same way ours were. She flatly confronts the lunacy around her to the people she has issues with, and she avoids gossiping beyond the harmless or inane. She’s also a great friend, always there when people need her–even Heidi sometimes.

Ah, Lauren…what will I watch when you’re gone? Here’s to hoping you’ll follow Whitney to Diane von Furstenberg in NYC, where you can bitchslap the smarm off Olivia’s face and take your rightful place: on my television and in my fashion fantasies.

Digging Up Bones

While Beau’s been here, I’ve not been blogging as much because I’ve been taking some vacation time…and watching season 1 of Bones with him.

Beau likes watching shows about forensic scientists, so I thought he’d like this. I watched Bones when it first came on because, you know, the David Boreanaz thing (see also Buffy), but somehow my DVR misbehaved during season 2 and we lost touch.

Bones, set in DC, follows the teamwork of the FBI’s Special Agent Seeley Booth and “Jeffersonian” Institution’s forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan. Booth and Brennan collaborate on murder investigations where bodies have been torn, spindled, or otherwise mutilated beyond recognition or identification, or sometimes just when cause of death is nearly impossible to determine. Like Moonlighting meets CSI, the show tends to work because of the banter/chemistry between the leads. I also enjoy the supporting cast of Brennan’s Jeffersonian scientists, who realistic representation of life in the workplace includes frequent discussions of who’s-dating-who and other titillating types of gossip.

Watching Bones with nearly a year of DC under my belt has been interesting. Although Medium was set in Phoenix, it never even featured shots of Phoenix, so it wasn’t interesting on that level. Bones tries hard to capture DC life, namedropping neighborhoods, restaurants, streets, suburbs, and organizations. I see familiar shots of the landscape and cityscape, and I fill Beau in on what it means when someone lives in Chevy Chase versus Anacostia.

What I really love about this show? Booth’s ties! They are beautiful. I want to know where the costume designer shops. Booth has this hip, Dragnety clothing vibe, and his ties all feature asymmetrical or non-patterned designs on them. They tend to be on the thin side, too, which I like, because it makes you look a little broader-shouldered. Plus, he’s not so bad to look at. Right?