OriginalscoverGrade: B+
Entire family: No
2013-14, 929 min. (22 episodes), Color
Warner Bros.
Rated TV-14
Aspect ratio: 1.78:1
Featured audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Includes: Blu-ray, DVD, UV copy
Bonus features: B

The Twilight novels and films opened the floodgates for a vampire resurgence, and in The Originals: Season 1—a spin-off from the popular CW series The Vampire Diaries—we get more vampire drama . . . and violence.

Like The Vampire Diaries, this spin-off is rated TV-14, which means that the ratings board thinks American 14 year olds are cool with seeing heads lopped off, hearts ripped from chests, and vampires biting off fingers and pieces of flesh. It’s an ultraviolent show that will probably still give young teens more than a few nightmares. So don’t let the TV-14 label fool you. While there isn’t nearly as much sex in this first season of The Originals as we saw in the original series that inspired it, it seems as if people (or vampires or werewolves) are constantly being brutally butchered and tortured.

At least it’s not as soapy as The Vampire Diaries. There’s melodrama and stand-and-talk monologues, but the situations aren’t nearly as cheesy—maybe because romantic entanglements are deemphasized.  

The Originals was nominated for a Favorite New TV Drama People’s Choice Award, and while it didn’t win, you can see why it’s appealing. If you look at all of what Universal did with monster movies and horror, then fast forward to The Lost Boys and later vampire flicks . . . and if you consider how our society itself has become ultraviolent, with all 50 states allowing concealed weapons, The Originals seems like a natural progression. Put it this way. It’s no Dark Shadows, where vampires lurk with the understated presence of icebergs. In The Originals, the pace and background music are thumping techno, the action is split-second enough to where campy or cheesy dialogue doesn’t seem half bad, and the special effects are as good as what you’d see on the big screen.

OriginalsscreenIn this series, we learn about “the original” vampires, who were created by black magic. Who dat? Well, “original” vampire Elijah (Daniel Gillies) goes to New Orleans to seek out his half-sibling, Klaus (Joseph Morgan). Their sister, Rebekah (Claire Holt) is also part of the plot, as is the werewolf Hayley (Phoebe Tonkin) who is carrying a hybrid child, impregnated by Klaus, who himself was a hybrid werewolf-vampire. All three end up in the city their family built for the first time together since 1919. But things have changed. A vampire named Marcel (Charles Michael Davis) now runs the city like a tyrant, and Klaus is willing to work with his brother to take down his former protégé. You never knew New Orleans had so many witches, werewolves, and vampires, did you?

That’s the basic plot, though the scenes are mostly geared toward special effects and slick, super-cool violence. Because this show is “fantasy” and because the vampires whoosh here and there with super speed, they can get away with it. But it still stuns me somewhat how cable-like network TV has become. Then again, if your teens are playing teen-rated shooter games, there’s probably nothing here that they haven’t already seen (or done). And it’s such a stylish show that, despite a fairly simple plot trajectory, it’s pretty easy to get hooked.