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7 Best Vampire T.V. Series

Increasingly digital technology allows us to record and re-watch our favorites from the past. With this in mind, consider now a list of the seven best vampire t.v. series available for viewing.  Keep in mind lots of other shows feature vampires in one way or another, such as Supernatural or The Night Stalker or even Superboy.  To make this list however vampire must regularly feature in the ongoing stories in some central way–most often (but not always) including vampire characters.  It is also, by its very nature, personal.

penny.dreadfulPenny Dreadful  This Showtime series focused on a vampire hunt in season one, while insights into the possible origins of the undead formed an essential clue of events in season two. More, several characters from Bram Stoker‘s pivotal novel have been feature–including Mina Murray, her family, Professor Van Helsing, and season three is now known to include a female mental doctor named Seward! The show takes place in a kind of “literary London” in some ways not unlike that of Kim Newman’s Anno Dracula stories, in which Victor Frankenstein meets Dorian Gray for example. The show, headed by a superior cast (including Eva Green) delves deep into the darkness of the heroes, up to and including Mina’s father and an actual American Werewolf in (Victorian) London.

strainThe Strain This FX show, also renewed for a third season, derives from the trilogy of novels by Chuck Hogan and Guillermo del Toro (the man behind Blade 2). Essentially it tells about the start of a vampire apocalypse, as a particularly disgusting type of blood sucker reaches epidemic purportions in New York City. A meticulous backstory for both the supernatural creatures as well as an array of characters (many of them original to the t.v. series) as well as a very good cast results in an extraordinarily dramatic and tension-filled arc which is nowhere near ending.

tumblr_mnk3nmYhLK1rgs59qo2_r1_500Buffy the Vampire Slayer  Joss Whedon’s first big hit remains an iconic standard for many t.v. shows, not just the ones that feature the supernatural. Indeed, one consistent critique aimed at the WB’s Vampire Diaries is how it remains Buffy Lite.  Apart from genuinely frightening villains, a feminist point of view that never devolved into mere preaching, BTVS never stopped treating its supernatural aspects as metaphors for real life, starting with the most obvious–High School is Hell. The show’s spinoff Angel followed suit, albeit approaching issues more common to an older crowd (such as vampire-with-a-soul’s realization he remained damned for his previous crimes).

615caa74919d1076de00609f08c9c1b3.jpgBlood Ties This LIFETIME show, based on a series of novels by Tanya Huff did a refreshing take on the vampire detective trope. The detective was a human woman, aided by a 400-year-old vampire (and illegitimate son of Henry VIII) who’s fallen for her.  The show all too often wandered into Charmed territory, but the central three characters–female detective, former partner/love interest cop, vampire assistant/possible love interest–had a dynamic fascinating to behold. That it barely lasted one season remains a real tragedy.

dark.shadowsDark Shadows  The 1960s gothic soap opera famously turned the character of Barnabas Collins into a kind of Halloween version of Star Trek‘s Mr. Spock, at least in terms of popularity. He was the outsider, the antihero who longed to fit in, the avatar of every lonely kid watching t.v.  Likewise the show took chances, sometimes by accident (creator Dan Curtis hadn’t wanted the vampire to be played like Hamlet, but the actor and writers went forward anyway) but enough success a new version was made in 1991 and another almost got made in 2004. Tim Burton’s film version eventually followed, but meanwhile audio dramas from Big Finish set in the same universe continue. The original daily soap opera runs over a thousand episodes, ranging from the silly to the sublime. I myself wouldn’t bet we’ve seen the last version.

tumblr_inline_mowxbsoLfG1qz4rgpTrue Blood Vampire fans sometimes argue quite a bit over this HBO series based on the Southern Vampire novels by Charlaine Harris.  Some call it a fun show with vivid, compelling characters and plot twists that kept viewers on the edge of their seats season after season.   Others call it a meandering mess that lost its way very quickly, in part due to a desire to put as much sex and violence on the screen as could be managed.  Either way, seven seasons of episodes remain proof of its popularity overall. More even when the plots become their most convoluted, vampire characters such as Jessica, Godric, Eric the Viking (no, really), etc. still grabbed the imagination.

young.draculaYoung Dracula  At least three t.v. series based on the character of Count Dracula have found their way to the small screen.  CBBC’s children’s show about the Count’s reluctant son and heir Vlad actually turned out to be the best. Yes, it was very often silly in the extreme, deliberately so. But amid all the gags (some of them very infantile) stood out genuine stories exploring things like identity, racism, sexism, more than a few sparks of tragedy, and a startling array of interesting characters (like Vlad’s older sister Ingrid). Its only real flaw was an uneven theme, so that its final season didn’t quite match the build up. Still a rightfully beloved program much better than anyone probably expected.

David MacDowell Blue blogs at Night Tinted Glasses.  He graduated from the National Shakespeare Conservatory and is the author of The Annotated Carmilla. and Your Vampire Story (And How to Write It) as well as a theatrical adaptation of Carmilla.
best vampire t.v. showsBlood TiesBuffydark shadowsPenny DreadfulThe StrainTrue BloodYoung Dracula

david • December 2, 2015


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