Vampire Tales that Belong on Cable TV

Consider. “True Blood” is a bona fide hit, as is the network television series “The Vampire Diaries.” Now consider the huge success of various other cable shows–from “Dexter” to “Weeds” to the epic “Game of Thrones.”

Might we not ask cable television to give us some more undead-themed television, especially since cable allows generally higher quality and less restrictions on the subject matter? From a purely business POV, might not such be a wise and profitable investment? Here is one list of possible sources. Feel free to add your own!

Carmilla” by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu. Originally published in 1872, a quarter-century before Bram Stoker’s more famous vampire classic, this atmospheric novella has been filmed for American television exactly once before, back in the 1980s for Showtime’s “Nightmare Classics.” Ione Skye and Meg Tilly were the sapphic victim and vampiress respectively. Might it not be time for another version? Keep in mind this was the story that for all intents and purposes created the trope of the lesbian vampire, as well as introducing the image of a woman being fed upon in her sleep yet remembering it as an erotic, frightening dream. Casting note–if you can get Amber Benson (Tara on “Buffy” as well as Lenore on “Supernatural”) as the title character, the fan SQUEEE that follows will spike your ratings to un-dreamt-on heights!

Going back to the classics, “Varney the Vampyre (or the Feast of Blood)” was a huge runaway hit in its day. Essentially telling of how one sinister yet melancholy vampire haunts the Bannerworth family, aristocrats living in genteel poverty following generations of rogues and wastrels, this ‘penny dreadful’ was published one chapter at a time and continued only so long as an audience willingly purchased each one. In the end it had over two hundred chapters! The potential for an epic on a similar scale as “Rome” simply waits for adapting! Casting note–now that “The Tudors” is complete, Jonathan Rhys Myers might be available and would make a magnificent Sir Francis Varney, mysterious figure of terror and desire to the young Flora Bannerworth (and you might want to consider Felicity Jones or Rachel Hurd Wood for her).

Then there is “The Silver Kiss“, which predated “Twilight” by years and years with its tale of a lonely teenage girl looking at her mother’s slow death by cancer, the emotional void of her father’s despair, the loss of her only friend–and of how she meets Simon, the eternally sad young vampire seeking out his evil brother and who falls in love with this girl so much like himself. The two bond, each helping the other, and comes to a bittersweet end (unlike the frankly saccharine conclusion Stephanie Meyers chose for her love story between the living and undead). Casting note–the role of Zoe could really bring some unknown actress on the map. Think someone the likes of Amber Tamblyn (“Joan in Arcadia”), Evanna Lynch (“Harry Potter”) or Lauren Ambrose (“Six Feet Under”).

For sheer over-the-top scale, one could hardly go wrong with Brian Lumley’s “Necroscope” series of novels. Harry Keogh is the necroscope, a man born with the ability to communicate with the dead, who in turn love him for keeping them company. They also prove his greatest allies when recruited by E-Branch (not unlike a UK version of the Fringe Division) in battling an growing menace by among the most disturbing vampires ever conceived–the Wamphyri! Imagine if you will “The Sopranos” plus “24” but laced with supernatural horror a la the original “Hellraiser” and vampires worthy of Japanese anime. Wamphyri are shape-shifting giants who enslave and corrupt with their bite, and whose lusts are pretty much insatiable. Casting note–Jason Mamoa (from “Stargate Atlantis” and the upcoming “Conan the Barbarian”) showed his stuff in “Game of Thrones” as Khal Drogo. He’d be a magnificent Wamphyri!

Lastly, who doesn’t want to see “Vampirella” given her own series? The 1960s icon has only ever been filmed once (and that not very well) but all the material is there for wonderful set of adventures. Blind Conrad Van Helsing and his son Adam, who falls in love with Vampi much to his father’s disapproval. The aging stage magician Pendragon, for whom Vampi works and who remains her best friend/confidante/father figure. The mystery of her past (because the origin in her memories simply cannot be true–’tis far, far, far too silly). The dread demon lord CHAOS who plans to mate with her, aided by the his chief disciple Count Dracula! All good stuff, and frankly begs for the blending of action-adventure, comedy, actual human drama and horror not seen since “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” Casting note–Adrianne Palicki is free now that the “Wonder Woman” pilot remained unpurchased, but she clearly looks good in an almost-similar costume!

By david

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.


  1. With Carmilla being such a short story I can’t really picture it stretched out into a show. It would be a hell of a show though, if it were made. I would love Natalie Dormer as a lead, I have such a huge celeb crush on her after her role as Anne Boleyn. Every interview of hers I watch I am amazed by how charming and articulate she is, I adore her.

    I love Jonathan Rhys Myers! He is hands down my favorite actor, his performance in The Tudors was astounding. He would be amazing as a vampire. Too bad he is dealing with so many personal issues right now, we probably won’t see him on screen for a while with him going in and out of rehab so often :(

    As for The Silver Kiss, I can see it being a movie but not a show. Shows need the potential to go on for many seasons, but with this book they would have to completely re-write the ending in order to make it into a long lasting show. It would work as a mini-series though, just not as a full on TV show. It’s an incredibly touching and powerful story, so I do agree that it would be fantastic on screen.

    It would be great to see more vampire TV shows, but for them to succeed the timing would have to be right and they would need to be well done. Take Blood Ties for example, the show ended SO quickly, even though it was a great show based on a hugely popular book series. I bet if it had come out a few years later it would have lasted much longer.

  2. Vampire Tales that Belong on Cable TV gets my vote. To me, there appears a large void here. Same goes for adult themed vampire stories. With cable’s more relaxed rules, this type of programming could be a big hit if given the chance.

    What we really need is someone with money and interest to start their own vampire cable channel!

    Great article.

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  6. +1 for Necroscope, this could force French publish to publish all the books of the serie (they stopped to the 3rd one, so I switch to untranslated ones). And I’m really a big fan of the serie.

  7. you know we shouldn’t be to greedy, while yes the more vampire stuff on tv the better, but the truth is tv executives think fads like this burn out fast and as soon as numbers on a vampire show drop a little they drop the show, it’s what’s happening with space travel type scince fiction, numbers dropped and almost all space based science fiction has been dropped as well. so while these would make great shows and everything lets hope they don’t make them untill one of the other vamp shows giving right now concludes its run (not that i hope that is anytime soon)

  8. Greg, I suspect you’re right.

    Moonlight, I was including the idea of mini-series when listing “Carmilla” and “The Silver Kiss”. But I didn’t say so explicitly, so my bad.

    Halek, you can find the entire Showtime “Carmilla” on YouTube.

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    1. I change my mind for the TV Movie for Carmilla, they could cast Selena Gomez as Carmilla for the TV Movie.

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