At the risk of exposing myself as a helpless vampire junkie, I'd like to take a moment to explain why I'm hooked on The Vampire Diaries.
To preface: I have not read the books, and honestly from reading the breakdowns on the back of each novel, I'm not terribly tempted. There's something about this series that, for me, requires seeing people enact the ridiculous premise... and it's worth it. Yes, it's cheesy, though it has improved over time (not as quickly or to the level that some would have you believe. I make no allusions that it's a great show, or even a solid show. It's a good show most of the time, and holds more eye candy than a Halloween trick-or-treating pumpkin holds mini jawbreakers). Yes, it's obvious most of these actors couldn't pass for college students IRL much less high schoolers. Yes, the show is often great one moment and terrible the next -- and home to some spectacular overacting. However, all of this is surpassed by the following: it's sexy, it's actually scary sometimes, it's paced extremely well, it's sexy, it's funny, the cast is obviously enjoying themselves, it's sexy, vampires are actually villains who kill people and even the good guys -- vampire or human or other -- are all flawed... and did I mention it's sexy? Yes, I am partial to the naughty Salvatore brother (aka Damon, aka Boone from LOST) and he's by far the driving sexual force in the show, but really there's someone for all tastes (or was until they started killing off the Asians, but hopefully they'll repopulate).
For all The Vampire Diaries' silliness and wacky antics, why do I return week after week? I wish I could claim my love for vampire-related media causes an inherent drive to continue viewing, despite knowing there are far better ways to indulge in vampire 'culture.' I mean, that's what obsessions are for, right? *sigh* No, my obsession with this show ties into something far more primal. It's Damon.
From about the midway point of last season, after I'd already accepted that my addiction to this show would not be abating anytime soon, I pondered what kept me coming back. Every time I contemplated this, I got the same answer: Damon is the new Spike. There, I said it. I've been saying it for several months now, just not so publicly. Damon's character is selfish, manipulative, calculating, unpredictable, violent, unstable, insanely good looking... and yet capable of deep emotions -- deeper in most cases than those of who he's chosen to associate with -- sound familiar? He's the bad boy, but he's the bad boy you want to have screw you, then screw you over, and if he ends up killing you, oh well -- at least you had a go with him a few times. He's deliciously evil in every sense of the phrase. I want Damon to develop a bit more of a conscience, but not much, because if he becomes too self-aware and involved emotionally in the torment he wreaks on other people he'll turn into an emo-vamp (like Edward Cullen or Angel or Louis) and there's no fun in that. The fun is in the unabashed, unapologetic nature of a vampire who is just as likely to kill you as kiss you -- unless he really loves you. Following the analogy this might seem to equate Elena/Katherine to Drusilla, but sorry ladies, you're just not that interesting. Though an argument could be made for Elena equating to Buffy. She's got her hunk of remorseful love Stefan (Angel), and the badass who starts out gunning for her and end up falling for her in Damon (again, sound familiar?).
With such a comparison one might be tempted to yawn themselves away from what may be seen as a retread of better vampire shows. I'm not here to argue that The Vampire Diaries ranks at or above a show like Buffy, and I never will. The fact remains, however, that it's been a long time coming (especially with the Anne Rice-inspired Twilight insanity) since we've had a vampire character capable of being good when it suits him but at his core is not a good man -- and yet the audience still loves him. I didn't even vote in the Entertainment Weekly poll for best 'sexy beast' (and in a poll that included David Tennant's Doctor I would not have voted for anyone BUT him) yet Damon topped everyone. Everyone. He surpassed Hugh Jackman, Taylor Lautner AND RPatz. So it ain't just me loving on the evil hotness, or expressing a modicum of shame at admitting to preferring (at least fictionally) the bad boy to the good one, but momma needs her Spike fix, and Damon as Spike 2.0 feeds that addiction very well.