The Rise of Vampire Culture and Those Who Just Missed It

By Farrha Khan

True Blood and Vampire Diaries are shows that you are either addicted to, hate, have at least heard about or something in between. But these are not the only vampire shows to have graced the small screen over the past couple of years (after the Buffy/Angel era). But besides True Blood, Vampire Diaries, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, can you name any of the others? Or have they fallen way below the radar? If so, why?

Right now, only two recent shows come to mind. These are Moonlight and Blood Ties. Both premiered in 2007 and both did not continue to run after mid 2008.

So this is my theory: True Blood and Vampire Diaries to a large extent owe their popularity because of the global book and film sensation of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight.

Moonlight was a show based on vampire Mick St. John who becomes a Private Investigator as some form of redemption. Along the way he falls in love with journalist (and human) Beth. A little bit of Interview with the Vampire, a little bit of Angel and a whole lot of sexual tension and adult/vampy angst. It was fun, it was a different take on the vampire myth and it only lasted 16 episodes. Even with the token sexy shirtless vamp.

Blood Ties was based on a novel series by Tanya Huff. The show follows Vicki Nelson, a cop who turns to Private Investigation after she starts losing her night vision. During an investigation she runs into Henry Fitzroy who is not only a vampire but interestingly turns out to be the illegitimate son of Henry VIII. That alone makes for one of the most original and interesting vampires to grace either small or silver screen. Another token sexy shirtless vamp.

These are just two vampire oriented shows that I know of that have come out in the last 3 or 4 years. If you know of or are fan of any others, then think about this. What if Moonlight and Blood Ties (or any other good vampy show) began airing during even the promotional time of the first of the Twilight movies, would these shows have lasted beyond the one or two seasons that they had, and would they have also been a ratings success?

I would, with full conviction, say ‘yes’. Because ‘vampires’ and ‘vamp culture’ is now not only mainstream, but the IT thing for young girls/women, older women and men. Personally, most of my friends and family members have read Twilight and many more have watched the movie. Even male friends and family members of mine are big fans of the books or the movies or both. There are posters, t-shirts, key chains, jewellery, underwear, shower screens and even ‘vampire’ cosmetics and I don’t mean the kind for Halloween, I mean the style-your-smoky-eyes-and-red-lips-like-a-vampire kind.

Now both True Blood and Vampire Diaries are riding on this sudden interest in vampires. Both these series are based off of well known books by Charlene Harris (The Southern Vampire Mysteries) and L. J. Smith (Vampire Diaries) so it is understandable that much of the fan base of these TV series come from the readers of these books. In the case of these two series, there’s a perpetuating cycle. Those who watch the series might be encouraged to read the books and those who read the books may be encouraged to watch the series.

This also works with Twilight’s popularity. My local Dymocks bookstore has a whole section dedicated to vampire/urban fantasy novels. Other bookstores have a section/display of Stephenie Meyer’s books as well as other vampire novels (for example I saw stocked next to Stephenie Meyer’s books; Vampire Academy, Vampire Diaries, a few Charlane Harris’ novels alongside Alex Duvall’s books and the Anita Blake series, etc).

Now, taking this cycle of everybody jumping on the vamp-culture bandwagon into consideration, why didn’t Blood Lines become a hit? This show is also based on a series of Tanya Duff’s fairly well known, recent novels and yet not many people seem to have heard about it. And I’ve mentioned the token sexy shirtless vamp! Anyways… my answer would be that it didn’t become a hit because this show predates the Twilight phenomenon.

Moonlight too predates the Twilight phenomenon and there’s no novel or book to perpetuate its popularity. Poor Moonlight had to hope that pulling together the crime fiction genre into vampire culture would be unique and engaging enough to lure in viewers. They, I believe, saw that the majority of shows have moved from reality based to crime/mystery dramas. Moonlight through all of this together with a bit of fantasy and action. In my opinion, it worked. In my opinion it would have continued working had there been enough viewer’s that enjoyed the vampire culture at the time. Buffy the Vampire Slayer worked because it was directly targeted to the teenagers and young adult market in a time of shows like Party of Five and Dawson’s Creek. It worked because it was basically a teenage/high school coming-of-age drama in a supernatural and alluring world. Basically, Buffy kicked ass in a way that Joey from Dawson’s Creek wished she could. Mick St. John of Moonlight should have too in a world of CSI, NCIS, Law & Order, Cold Case, etc, etc, etc. As such, in a time of these shows and the vampire phenomenon, Mick St. John would become iconic just as the Cullen’s and Salvatore’s are.

Oh, the possibilities that Moonlight and Bloodlines could have had – the plot lines that could have unfolded, the icons that could have been made. Unfortunately, their time with us was cut short and we shall cherish their memories through DVD releases and repeated episodes. But whilst we watch Stefan Salvatore glower at his sarcastic brother and Sookie Stockhouse make moon eyes at Bill Compton, let us remember the shows that could have been.

Now it’s your turn to speak out – do you think that these TV shows had merit and should have been given a chance to succeed or do you think that the networks made the right call in canceling them as quickly as they did?  Join us in the forum and share your thoughts.