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The Vampire Diaries – Season 1 (Blu-ray Review)

I guess you can say that I’m a complete virgin when it comes to the world of the CW’s The Vampire Diaries.  It’s weird too, considering how much of a sucker I am for the vampire lore (and my love for HBO’s True Blood).  Heck, I have met the cast at last year’s Scream Awards (see here), seen signs for the television show plastered all over Comic-Con and even have friends who religiously watch the show, but for some strange reason, I have yet to ever check it out myself.  I know…weird, huh? Well like it so often does, the world works in mysterious ways when I opened my door last Monday morning only to fatefully find a Fed Ex envelope with a fresh Blu-ray set of The Vampire Diaries: The Complete First Season.  Ah…the smell of a brand new Blu-ray product always stirs a state of euphoria within me.  Then and there, I knew this was a sign that I was destined to see this show.  I have been selected by higher powers.  So I humbly accepted the task of checking out the first 22 episodes of one of this year’s most successful television shows.  And here are my thoughts…

The Show  

The Vampire Diaries is a supernatural-fantasy horror-like television series developed by Kevin Williamson, based on the book series of the same name by L.J. Smith.  I’m not sure what my initial hesitation was towards this show last year, but I bet you it had something to do with that horrible franchise, IMO, named Twilight.  I must have formulated a biased opinion and thought this was television’s equivalent of Twilight.  Man, was I ever wrong…but more about that later.

If you want to talk statistics, then try this one on for size.  When The Vampire Diaries premiered on the CW television network last year it attracted the largest audience of any CW series since the network began in 2006.  If that doesn’t tell you how big vampire lore in today’s society, than nothing ever will.  The show’s ratings remained strong throughout its debut season and it was received much better than the network expected by critics across the country.  The show even went on to receive two People’s Choice Awards and seven Teen Choice Awards.  Not bad for a PG-rated show on vampires.  Not bad at all.

The series follows the life of the very beautiful Elena Gilbert (Nina Dobrev).  Imagine if you meshed the DNA of Alyssa Milano and Odette Yustman, then I’m fairly certain you will yield a result such as Nina.  The show starts off with Nina’s first day back at Mystic Falls High School (in Virginia) since the tragic death of her parents mere months ago.  Under the care now of young Aunt Jenna (Sara Canning), Elena tries her best to look after her very troubled 15-year old brother, Jeremy (Steven R. McQueen).  Not even back to school for one whole day and Elena already falls for a century-old vampire named Stefan Salvatore (Paul Wesley).  However, nothing is as simple as it seems.  It becomes painfully obvious that Stefan’s vampire brother Damon (Ian Somerhalder) has it out for him and will rest at nothing to make sure Stefan’s life is a living hell.  A “living hell”…that’s kind of ironic because they are already dead as vampires, don’t you think?  Hopefully that wasn’t a really bad joke on my behalf (LOL).  One important thing I forgot to mention is the fact that Elena really doesn’t know that Stefan is a vampire.  She thinks it’s weird when his lust for blood secretly makes itself known and he disappears all the sudden, but she doesn’t question it.  Why?  I think it’s because she’s touched by the fact that Stefan can relate to her so well.  Anyway, the series also touches upon storylines such as Elena’s very much troubled younger brother Jeremy, whom I mentioned before, and her two friends Bonnie Bennett (Katerina Graham), who has some Sookie-like psychic abilities, and her other boy crazed friend, Caroline Forbes (Candice Accola).

I have to admit something before I go any farther.  I did not want to watch this television series.  I had a smile on my face when it showed up on my doorstep, but I was deathly afraid this would be as bad as Twilight.  I figured my reviewers have watched some stinkers as of late, so it’s time for me to take one for the team. My way of thinking could not have been more wrong.  I actually liked this show.  It’s not as gripping as Dexter or Spartacus is for me, but it’s nowhere close to the lameness of Twilight.  In fact, while I was writing the review above I was trading text messages with fellow reviewer Gregg Senko about how much I actually liked this show.  He responded with a text saying “Uh-oh.  If you begin liking Twilight, I’m going to encourage a full examination.”  Safe to say, that’s not going to happen Gregg. Vampire Diaries feels real to me.  I would go as far as to say it feels like a cross between old school 90210 meets True Blood with a little haunting helping of Michael Dougherty’s Trick ‘r Treat thrown in for a spicy seasoning.  It’s really not all that bad.  It’s a slow brooding show, but it can be highly addictive if you let it.  Just after the first two episodes, I actually found myself wanting more.  And with a leading lady like Nina (pictured to the left above), who can resist this show (insert big a$$ smile)?

Despite my biased opinions, Vampire Diaries is not going to be for everyone out there so I’m going to play it safe with a middle of the road score of 3.5.  However, I’m definitely on board for the new season, which premieres September 9th this year on the CW network.  So enough talk about the show and Nina, let’s move on to the Blu-ray disc’s vitals.  Ready?

Video

The Vampire Diaries: The Complete First Season arrives on the Blu-ray format with a sometimes troublesome 1080p VC-1 presentation, framed in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1.  I say troublesome mostly because of the video presentation’s inconsistencies.  One moment the transfer will be rocking along looking all phenomenal and the next…well, it can be a quite noisy and lackluster moment or two for the Blu-ray format.  Sometimes the colors are vibrant and illuminating and then at the next minute they can become a bit washed out.  Thankfully, this is not problematic all the time, but I feel as a reviewer I would not be doing my job if I did not point this out.  For the most part, the black levels are deep and inky, just how I like them.  Probably the biggest disturbance for me is some of the nighttime shots when I swear my television screen was wearing more visible grain than the Arnold Select’s Sandwich Thins I have been eating all week.  Think about those nighttime aerial shots of the Goblin’s pad in Spider-Man 3.  That’s exactly what I’m talking about here.  Oddly enough, I also think one of their production cameras must have a stuck pixel on them.  I noticed during certain (same) camera shots a dead pixel on my screen.  I immediately panicked thinking it was my TV, but thankfully it wasn’t.  Of course, the saving grace of the Blu-ray’s video presentation is the beautiful Nina Dobrev.  You just can’t get enough of this sweetheart.  She should be onscreen all the time.  Then this Blu-ray would earn a perfect score in the video department (LOL).

Audio

Here’s a pleasant surprise.  It’s not perfect, but it doesn’t suck either.  Of course I’m referring to the dismissal of a lossless audio mix within this Blu-ray set.  Warner brings The Vampire Diaries to the Blu-ray format with a…gasp…Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track.  I know.  I know.  I know what you are all thinking.  Where’s the lossless HD audio?  Believe me, I was thinking the same exact thing when I read the back of the Blu-ray box and I thought my eyes were mischievously deceiving me.  But don’t let the lossy audio track get you down.  I tend to always dwell on the negative things first before giving them the benefit of the doubt.  That’s a very bad habit of mine that I would love to break sometime soon in life.  But anyway, I am very pleased to report that Dolby Digital audio presentation is actually quite effective.  The dialogue (a pet peeve of mine) is always loud, clear and intelligible while the LFE output was surprisingly strong at times.  The rear channel activity is what it is (don’t you hate that saying), but you got to understand that Vampire Diaries is first and foremost a drama, and like most dramas, rear speaker activity isn’t always the most important aspect of the presentation.  I can’t ding it severely just because there is no lossless soundtrack provided here, but trust me, it isn’t going to win any King Kong-like recognition from me either.  I can’t believe I’m going to use this saying again, but the audio mix here is what it is…a middle of the road presentation that is adequate of its source material and needs.  I’m going to stick with my initial gut score of a 4 here.

Special Features

I’m usually not one for special features on a disc unless I’m head over the heels about the film/show and I want to learn all I can about it, but I can’t deny that the CW has packed quite a few goodies on this first season Blu-ray release of The Vampire Diaries.  And best of all…the majority of them are in HD. You can’t beat that.  Below are all the special features you can expect to find on this four-disc Blu-ray set.  Enjoy!

Oh, before we begin, here’s a screenshot of the disc’s main menu upon insertion of it into your Blu-ray player of choice.

And now…the special features:

  • Into Mystic Falls: Bringing Vampire Lore and the High School Experience From Page to Screen (HD) – This 25-minute documentary is sort of a behind-the-scenes look at the cast, the pilot episode, the adaptation of the books to the screen, the special effects and much more.  I would say this is a must-see for the fans of the show.
  • When Vampires Don’t Suck!: The Popularity of Vampires and the Fans Who Love Them (HD) – No, this 19-minute featurette is not an advertisement for the spoof Vampires Suck, but rather it is just what the name implies…a retrospective look at the appeal of vampires in our current culture and the phenomenon that seems to be sweeping the nation.  Naturally, I gravitated towards this special feature first.  Gee, I wonder why?
  • The Vampire Diaries: A New Breed of Vampires – Casting the Series (HD) – This one is pretty brief for such an important topic.  It contains some short auditions and a quick discussion on the selection of the cast.
  • Unaired Scenes (SD) – Sadly these are all in standard definition, but we come to expect that from deleted scenes on a Blu-ray disc, don’t we?  If Mr. Lucas were in charge, he would never let that happen (LOL).  Anyway, there are somewhere around 12 deleted scenes or so to go through here.  As you can probably tell, I’m usually not one for deleted scenes, especially those in standard definition (insert smile).
  • The Vampire Diaries: Vampires 101 – The Rules of the Vampire (HD) – Here we have a 7-minute look at the rules of Williamson’s vampires.
  • Creators/Director Pilot Commentary – Kevin Williamson, Julie Plec and Marcos Siega engage in a chat about the pilot episode and its production.  You get the idea.
  • The Vampire Diaries: A Darker Truth Webisodes (HD) – This contains four episodes of the online miniseries.  I’m never a fan of these.  Just give me the shows.
  • Second Bite: Gag Reel (HD) – This is a 4-minute reel of you guessed it…cast and crew gags.
  • Downloadable Audiobook of the Bestselling Novel The Vampire Diaries: The Awakening by L.J. Smith – Here’s a special feature that I’m most impressed by.  You can download the entire audiobook of the novel.  That’s a whole 390+ minutes.  What a value!

Final Thoughts  

This one is obviously going to be your call as to whether or not you want to invest in the first season of The Vampire Diaries.  I would recommend that anyone who had the same initial thoughts as I did to immediately erase those bad vibes and give this one a chance.  Who knows, you may find a diamond in the rough.  Either way, whether it’s a rental or a purchase, I recommend giving the first season of The Vampire Diaries a spin in your Blu-ray player.  And if you are a fan of the CW show, then you already know that there’s no better way to experience the it television show than on the Blu-ray format.  Thanks for reading!

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Pre-order The Vampire Diaries: The Complete First Season on Blu-ray!

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Owner/Writer/Reviewer/Editor, Dreamer, Producer, Agent of Love, Film Lover, Writer of Screenplays and a Devoted Apostle to all things Ford Mustangs (the real ones with V8's!). Some of my favorite films include FIGHT CLUB, MOULIN ROUGE, THE DARK KNIGHT, STAR WARS alongside television shows such as SEINFELD, 24, SANFORD & SON and even the often loathed in the geek community BIG BANG THEORY. Outside of my three lives I live I also enjoy spending time with my girlfriend and our three girls (of the furry kind).

10 Responses to “The Vampire Diaries – Season 1 (Blu-ray Review)”


  1. Tom

    Thank you for your review 😉
    I’m French and I would like to order the blu ray set but I would like to know if there’s french subtitles please ? 😉

  2. mak75231

    Thanks for recapping the special features. Can’t wait for mine to arrive!

  3. Brian White

    Hey guys. Thanks for the comments. When I get home today I will let you know Tom about the French subtitles.

  4. Sanne

    I’d like to know if there’s dutch subtitles on the blu-ray.

  5. Brian White

    Thanks for your comment Sane. I will list all subtitles here later on today. Stay tuned!

  6. Brian White

    Alright, the subtitles included on this Blu-ray set are the following: English, French and Spanish. No Dutch, sorry Sanne.

  7. BAFNANAS

    Bri…some truly compelling comments. Glad to hear the review was a success. Glad you enjoyed the first season. I think the suspense continues into the following season’s viewing. Are you going to check out season two when it hits your mailbox?

  8. Brian White

    You can bet I am B!

  9. Gregg

    I’ll give a few episodes a shot and try it out. True Blood is going to be in my head the whole time though.

  10. merlyn

    The US blu-ray release has English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Norwegian and Swedish subs.