by Neal Justin on

Stefan Salvatore has bloodshot eyes, mangled teeth, terrible sleeping habits and a severe drinking problem. In other words, he has a good chance of becoming TV’s hottest heartthrob.

As the lead character in CW’s ‘The Vampire Diaries’, Salvatore may come across as just another brooding bloodsucker, developed in the shadow of ‘Twilight’ and ‘True Blood’. But the show’s premise — young girl finds love in the arms of a 150-year-old classmate — harks back to more than a decade ago, when TV viewers were first touched by an Angel.

“The current trend owes more to Joss Whedon than Bram Stoker,” said author Kathleen Tracy, who wrote ‘The Girl’s Got Bite: The Original Unauthorized Guide to Buffy’s World’. The book said that vampires “used to be symbolic of the evil in men’s souls, but Whedon made them symbolic of teen angst, this eternal monster trying to grow up”.

It’s also what makes young women want to toss out their Jonas Brothers CDs and slip over to the dark side.

“They’re bad boys with brains,” said ‘Diaries’ co-executive producer Julie Plec, who compared Stefan to past TV sulkers Jordan Catalano of ‘My So-Called Life’ and Dylan McKay on ‘Beverly Hills 90210’. ”You want to believe that they have epic amounts of knowledge and soul and spirituality and intelligence lurking behind thoseeyes. With real men, you often don’t get that.”

CW executives are hoping that formula will continue to work as well on network TV as it has in the literary world. The success of ‘Twilight’ creator Stephenie Meyer has helped spawn such bold literary experiments as ‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’, a classic romance remade with gothic bite.

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This transformation of vampires may irk purists who wonder if the genre’s pioneers, Bram Stoker and Lord Byron, are spinning in their graves. What do you think – will ‘The Vampire Diaries’ be as successful as ‘True Blood’ and ‘Twilight’? Have you read the books? Are you going to watch the series? And what’s your opinion about the attraction bad boys have to good girls?