BY David Hinckley – DAILY NEWS
In its unending quest for new ways to dramatize the thrills and dangers of teen romance, the CW tonight poses this question: What happens if the really hot new guy in school turns out to be a vampire?
It’s a situation where a simple “OMG!” might not seem sufficient.
For the network, though, the larger question may be whether young women, the target audience for the new “Vampire Diaries,” like their romantic drama sprinkled with bloody corpses and near-corpses.
While the producers hope the female audience for the “Twilight” films suggests that’s the case, tonight’s opening “Vampire Diaries” feels more graphic and menacing than “Twilight.”
It’s not as graphic and menacing as Showtime’s “True Blood,” a similar work, but the tension here is lethal, not just romantic.
It also would be a shame if the neck-biting part proves too discomforting because the core teen couple is a winner.
Elena Gilbert (Nina Dobrev) hasn’t been looking forward to the new school year in Mystic Falls, Va. Her parents were killed in a car crash in May, leaving her and her brother in the care of a largely clueless aunt. Despite the pleas of her best friend, Bonnie (Katerina Graham), Elena really isn’t ready to face the world again.
On the first day back, though, Bonnie spots that hot new guy, Stefan Salvatore (Paul Wesley). He has the dark, brooding, mysterious fascination that’s been quickening teenage girls’ pulses since Elvis Presley and James Dean, and he has eyes for Elena.
For reasons only he and the viewers know.
Seems that when he was 16, in 1864, he was bitten by, and thus turned into, a vampire. At that time, there was a girl named Kathleen who looked exactly like Elena. Now, Stefan is ready to get back in the game.
That’s okay up front, since Stefan is a good vampire who means no harm. But he has a brother, Damon (Ian Somerhalder), who does, and since Damon has followed Stefan to Mystic Falls, Stefan’s quest for love will create complications for some folks there.
In overall tone, “Diaries” tilts more toward menace than humor – which could create either fascinating romantic tension or the bad feeling that someone’s neck is always about to get tapped like a maple tree in syrup season.
By staking turf between “True Blood” and “Twilight,” “Vampire Diaries” hopes it has found the promised land. The danger is it could also be no man’s land.