Television, Vampires on

Enlarge picture
(Left to right) Ian Somerhalder as Damon Salvatore, Paul Wesley as Stefan Salvatore, and Nina Dobrev as Elena Gilbert in the television series Vampire Diaries.

Television, Vampires on

(pop culture)

It was in the late 1940s that regularly-scheduled television programs emerged in the United States, and early programming was based on well-established radio shows of the day. The Texaco Star Theater on NBC featured comedian Milton Berle, and it was on this variety series that the vampire was first introduced to American households. A live broadcast on September 27, 1949 featured Bela Lugosi as one of the guest stars, and although not called Dracula by name, he appeared in one sketch dressed as the iconic vampire. Lugosi fared well in unfamiliar comedic territory, but after he flubbed a punch line, Berle ad-libbed, “You kill people on the screen and you also kill jokes!” In 1953 Lugosi again appeared as Dracula on the audience-driven show You Asked for It, where he performed a “weird vampire bat illusion.” Lugosi rose from a coffin, hypnotized a girl, and then, after placing her within a magic cabinet of sorts, transformed her into a bat. Afterwards he promoted the 3-D film Phantom Ghoul and a television series called Dr. Acula, neither of which ended up being produced.

Dracula on Television: Following the initial TV appearances by Lugosi, Dracula, the novel and the character, periodically reappeared in both new productions and unrelated series. The first adaptation of the novel aired live on NBC in 1956 as part of the series Matinee Theatre. This version was based on the 1931 film and starred John Carradine, who had previously played the Count on stage as well as in the films House of Frankenstein (1944) and House of Dracula (1945). British actor Denholm Elliott starred in a 1968 UK adaptation of Dracula that aired as part of the series Mystery and Imagination. Although this version began its story in Whitby, with only a flashback to the happenings in Transylvania, it did include several scenes from the novel that had been left out by previous adaptations. A year later, in what was quite possibly the first televised foreign-language adaptation of the novel, Gianni Lunadei starred as Dracula in the Argentina-produced miniseries Hay que matar a Drácula.

The Canadian series Purple Playhouse aired its version of Dracula on the CBC in 1973. It starred Norman Welsh as the Count, and like many early adaptations, this version had the look of a televised stage play. But it was also in this year that Dark Shadows creator Dan Curtis helmed a televised movie written by Richard Matheson that starred Jack Palance. This was the first adaptation to be influenced by the historical work on Vlad the Impaler by Raymond T. McNally and Radu Florescu. It also was the first to incorporate the search for lost love as a motivation for Dracula returning to England. A few years later in 1977, Louis Jourdan starred in a full-length BBC production entitled Count Dracula, written by Gerald Savory who also adapted his screenplay into a tie-in novel. It aired in the United States as part of the Great Performances series on PBS, and this lengthy two-and-a-half hour production was the first to closely follow the original novel.

Subsequently, Dracula continued to be adapted in new and interesting ways, although in some cases, only the character names remained while the stories themselves strayed far from the source material. In 1979, The Curse of Dracula aired in weekly 20-minute installments as part of Cliffhangers, an hourly series based on the format of early movie serials. In this story, Dracula lived in modern-day San Francisco, covertly as a college professor of East European History. After the series was cancelled, all ten chapters were edited together as a two-hour TV movie entitled The World of Dracula.

Also in 1979, the kid-friendly and Emmy award-winning telefilm The Halloween That Almost Wasn’t aired on ABC. It featured Judd Hirsch as Count Dracula who, in an attempt to save Halloween, seeks the help of his monster friends the Mummy, Warren the Werewolf, Zabaar the Zombie, and Frankenstein’s Monster. In 1980 Marvel Comics commissioned a TV-movie based on their popular Tomb of Dracula comic book series, which briefly aired under the title Dracula: Sovereign of the Damned. Also in that year, the Showtime Network aired Passion of Dracula, adapted from the tongue-in-cheek off-Broadway play from the late seventies.

In 1980, ABC took a similar comedic approach with Mr. and Mrs. Dracula, which had the Count and his family trying to adjust to life in America after being ousted from their castle in Transylvania. Viewer response to the pilot episode was tepid, and although a partially-recast version aired again in 1981, the sitcom wasn’t picked up by the network. A more traditional adaptation aired in 1982 on the series HBO Live! and starred Frank Langella, who reprised his role from the Dracula stage play. In Japan, the shortlived 1982 anime series Don Dracula aired on TV Tokyo, and had the titular character moving to Japan along with his daughter Chocola and their servant Igor. A total of eight episodes were produced, only half of which went to air as it was quickly cancelled after the sponsoring company went bankrupt.

Dracula appeared often as a guest villain in television shows such as Get Smart (1968), The Monkeys (1968), Night Gallery (1971), and Happy Days (1981). He also appeared in animated series such as The Beatles (1965), The All-New Popeye Hour (1978), Challenge of the Super Friends (1978), The Fonz and the Happy Days Gang (1980), The New Scooby-Doo Mysteries (1984), and Ghostbusters (1986). The 1970 series Sabrina and the Groovie Goolies, which ran for sixteen episodes on CBS, featured Sabrina the teenage witch and her cousins, the Groovie Goolies. They all resided at Horrible Hall, a haunted boarding house, run by Count Dracula. The show also featured the vampiress Bella La Ghostly, a telephone switchboard operator, and Batso and Ratso, young vampire twins who liked to cause all sorts of trouble. In 1971, Sabrina was spun-off into her own series, as were her cousins, who reappeared in The Groovie Goolies show, which ran for an additional season.

The Count was often cast alongside other classic movie monsters, such as in the 1979 cartoon series Spider-Woman. In the episode “Dracula’s Revenge,” villagers in Grumania find the crypt of Count Dracula, who rises from the grave and soon adds both the Wolf Man and the Frankenstein Monster to his entourage. Inexplicably, the Count creates other vampires by shooting a laser from his fingertips, while the Wolf Man shoots lasers from his eyes to create other lycans. The Frankenstein Monster, not to be outdone, uses the bolts on his neck to shoot lasers to create more like him. The three also appeared in Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends (1983), but this time, Dracula is aided by Frankenstein (a robot) and the “Wolf Thing.” As in all other cases, the gruesome threesome is foiled in the end. Dracula also appeared in the short-lived animated series Drak Pack (1980–82) and in The Comic Strip (1987).

Another children’s television series, the Canadian-produced Hilarious House of Frightenstein (1971), featured the adventures of the mad scientist Count Frightenstein, the thirteenth son of Count Dracula, and his green-skinned assistant Igor. This sketchbased series showcased the talents of Billy Van, who played several characters aside from the Count, including Grizelda (the ghastly gourmet cook), Bwana Clyde Batty (a nineteenth-century British explorer) and the Wolfman, most likely based on the famous DJ Wolfman Jack. Vincent Price also appeared in each episode, where he introduced sketches and occasionally recited intentionally bad (but often funny) poetry. Since its initial run, the series has aired in syndication across Canada and in some parts of the United States, and recently a few episodes have become available on DVD.

Another long-forgotten series now available on DVD is The Monster Squad, which aired for 13 episodes on NBC beginning in 1976. It featured Dracula, the Wolfman and Frankenstein’s monster, three wax statues inadvertently brought to life by Walt, a criminology student working as a night watchmen at a wax museum. The monsters, in order to atone for their past misdeeds, decide to become crime fighters. In 1988 a British cartoon series was launched, built around a leading character that was a mixture of Donald Duck and Dracula. Count Duckula became a popular children’s comedic character as a vegetarian vampire, and Count Duckula would run for sixty-five episodes. The series came to the United States and has been aired on cable channels.

The Count continued his reign in 1990 as Alexander Lucard in the short-lived TV series Dracula: The Series. Here again Dracula is in the modern world, this time as a billionaire businessman whose real identity has been discovered by three teenagers and their vampire-hunting uncle. In 1991 the FOX Kids channel’s animated adventure Little Dracula featured a younger protagonist in his quest to become a great vampire just like his Dad. In that same year, the animated adventure Draculito, mon saigneur aired on French television for twenty-six episodes.

In 2000, the CBC aired Dracula: A Chamber Musical—a Shakespeare Festival production with no bats or blood, but a lot of singing. In another updated version of the novel, produced in Italy in 2002, Count Vladislav Tepes relocated to modern-day Budapest in an attempt to leave the superstitious world of Transylvania behind him. In 2006, a German adaptation with Marc Warren as Dracula certainly had a unique take on the story. Arthur Holmwood, soon to be married to Lucy Westenra, desperately seeks a cure for his syphilis infection. He summons Dracula to London, having heard that the Romanian Count possesses extraordinary powers, but of course Dracula has his own agenda, and soon begins to wreak havoc on the local population. In that same year, the British series Young Dracula aired on CBBC (the BBC’s channel for kids) and lasted two seasons. The story followed the Dracula family as they relocated to a small town in Britain, and was loosely based on the children’s book by Michael Lawrence.

More recently, the very loosely-based British series Demons (2009) followed the last descendent of the Van Helsing line, Luke Rutherford, as he fights against the dark forces of the world with the assistance of Mina Harker, a blind concert pianist wellversed on demons, zombies, werewolves and vampires.

Vampire Television Series: It was in the 1960s that vampires first became featured in a continued leading role, with two of the most famous and successful series having launched in 1964. ABC brought Charles Addams’s New Yorker cartoon series to television as The Addams Family, which featured Carolyn Jones as the vampiric Morticia Addams. CBS also created a new oddball family, The Munsters, with characters based on the classic monsters from early Universal Pictures horror films. This series featured two vampires, Yvonne de Carlo as Lily Munster, and Al Lewis as Grandpa (who, over the course of the series, was revealed to be, in fact, Count Dracula). Both series were similar in tone, with each family believing they were typical suburbanites, not quite understanding why everyone around them found their habits so peculiar. Both ran for two seasons, yet proved popular enough to spawn several progeny.

In 1973, NBC took an animated version of the Addams family on the road in a haunted RV, a series that ran for two seasons, although the second simply re-aired the original 16 episodes. The Munsters Today, essentially a 1988 sequel to the original series, updated the cast and the time period, with the characters remaining the same. The premise: back in the 1960s, one of Grandpa’s experiments with a sleep machine went horribly wrong, and the entire family ended up in suspended animation.

Twenty years later, a developer looking to turn the house into a parking lot accidentally awakens the family, who now find themselves in similar comedic situations in a new era. After the success of the 1991 Addams Family feature film, ABC brought the family back to television in 1992 for a new animated series that ran for three seasons. Both this and the earlier animated Addams Family series were geared toward a more youthful demographic, with much of the macabre nature toned down for a Saturday-morning audience. In 1998, the clan returned to a live-action format in The New Addams Family, a Canadian-produced series that updated the original story into current times. It ran for a successful two seasons, and two episodes featured John Astin, the original Gomez Addams, as Grampapa Addams.

Audiences in the year 1966 said good-bye to the Addams and Munster families, and hello to the Collins clan, in a show that was to become a television enigma. Producer Dan Curtis sold ABC on a gothic daytime soap opera that he called Dark Shadows. But the original show did not do well, so in an attempt to boost ratings and avoid cancellation, Curtis introduced a supernatural element, and ghosts soon began to inhabit the Collinwood mansion. But with the introduction of vampire Barnabas Collins nine months into the show run, Dark Shadows finally became a huge success. It ran for more than 1,200 episodes, and found many viewers among teenagers who rushed home from school to watch it in its afternoon time slot. The series ended its network run in 1971, and during that time the Collins family also faced werewolves, witches, and warlocks, with stories taking place in parallel dimensions and even different time periods. Truly a ground-breaking series, the popularity of the original Dark Shadows has since been kept alive through fan clubs, fanzines, and annual conventions.

Although the immortal Count Dracula made several appearances on television over the next twenty years, it wasn’t until the early 1990s that other vampires would once again be featured in a continued leading role. Fitting, then, that the decade that saw the beginning of a resurgence of vampires on television was initiated by the same creature that popularized them twenty-five years earlier. In 1991, Dark Shadows reappeared on network television in a new lavish prime-time series that starred Ben Cross as Barnabas Collins. While hailed by vampire enthusiasts, and especially the still organized Dark Shadows fans, it failed to find a sufficient audience and was cancelled after only one season.

In 1992, the Canadian-German-American television series Forever Knight made its debut, and told the story of 800-year-old vampire Nick Knight (played by Geraint Wyn Davies), a Toronto police detective trying to hide his vampiric nature while seeking redemption for his past misdeeds. It was an early example of the vampire-as-romantic-hero, seen so often in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. The series originated as a 1989 made-for-television movie that starred Rick Springfield as a vampire cop in Los Angeles, and although meant to be a pilot for a television series, it was never optioned at the time. However, the show was recast and the story relocated to

Toronto, and found a home at CBS as part of their new Crime Time after Prime Time lineup, which aired each evening as an alternative to NBC’s popular The Tonight Show. The series, although popular with fans, had trouble staying on the air during its three-season run, and ultimately ended in 1996. In that same year, the popularity of White Wolf Game Studio’s Vampire: The Masquerade role-playing game led to a loosely-based television series called Kindred: The Embraced. Produced by Aaron Spelling, some called this FOX series a cross between The Godfather and Melrose Place, and failing to find an audience, it was cancelled after eight episodes.

The daytime soap opera Port Charles, a spin-off of the long-running series General Hospital, debuted in the summer of 1997. Initially focused on doctors and interns at a medical school, it ultimately took a page from Dark Shadows and began to include some gothic and supernatural elements, such as vampires and life after death. About half way into its run, it abandoned the standard open-ended writing style of most soaps, and adopted thirteen-week story arcs much like those found in the Spanish telenovelas. Ultimately these changes weren’t enough to pull in high ratings, and it was cancelled in 2003, unintentionally ending the series with a cliffhanger episode.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, by far the most successful vampire-oriented television series to date, aired on the WB and UPN networks from 1997 to 2003. Developed from the 1992 movie that met with decidedly mixed reviews, the series featured Sarah Michelle Gellar as a high school cheerleader selected as the chosen vampire slayer for her generation, fighting supernatural creatures with the help of several classmates and her librarian “watcher.” Airing for 145 episodes over seven seasons, Buffy has since become a cultural phenomenon; it spawned the spin-off TV series Angel, inspired hundreds of novels, magazines and comic books, and has even graced the halls of academia, becoming a hot topic of discussion amongst scholars of popular culture. Development began in 2001 for an animated series based on the live action show, however no network was interested at the time. Yet FOX still tried shopping it around even as late as 2004, when a pilot was produced that included the voices of most of the original cast members. Buffy’s love interest Angel (David Boreanaz), the vampire-with-a-soul, was a regular on Buffy the Vampire Slayer until the end of season three. In 1999 the spin-off series Angel premiered, where the titular vampire relocated to Los Angeles in search of redemption, vowing to “help the helpless.” Darker in tone than its precursor, Angel had a successful run over five seasons, but was unexpectedly cancelled in 2004.

The Buffyverse proved so popular that in 2007, four years after the show completed its original network run, Dark Horse Comics began publishing Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight, a canonical continuation of the original television series in comic book form, which itself has also spawned several limited-series spin-offs. Much like Buffy, the Angel universe proved so popular that it inspired a number of books, comics and other merchandise, and recently found renewed life in the canonical comic book series Angel: After the Fall from IDW Publishing.

Thanks to the popularity of Buffy and Angel, networks soon expanded their lineup of vampire television series, but most haven’t garnered the same critical praise as their predecessors, with many lasting only one season. In 2006, a short-lived spin-off of the Blade movie trilogy featured Kirk “Sticky Fingaz” Jones in the role made popular by Wesley Snipes. Blade: The Series had the vampire hunter teaming up with a veteran of the Iraq war as she investigated her brother’s mysterious death. The year 2007 would be a banner year for new vampire television series, including the animated Blood + as well as the gay-themed Dante’s Cove and The Lair. Also in that year, two new series featured a mixture of vampires and crime drama, two genres seeming perfectly suited for one another, as shown by the previous success of both Forever Knight and Angel.

The series Blood Ties, based on the novels by Tanya Huff, had private investigator Vicki Nelson teamed up with vampire Henry Fitzroy, as she investigated supernatural events in Toronto. The equally-popular Moonlight starred Alex O’Loughlin as Mick St. John, a vampire and private investigator in Los Angeles, who falls in love with a mortal woman. But as with many vampire series, these were both cancelled even though they had quickly established an avid fan base, many of whom are still crying for more from their beloved bloodsuckers.

HBO’s True Blood, loosely based on The Southern Vampire Mysteries series of novels by Charlaine Harris, has quickly rivaled Buffy in terms of popularity and cultural impact. The premise is that after the creation of synthetic blood, vampires are now “out of the coffin” and live freely and openly among humans. One such vampire, the 173-year-old Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer), soon finds himself in the company of telepathic barmaid Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin), and they become romantically involved as the series progresses. The show was a runaway hit for HBO, who greenlit a third season that began production in late 2009. Hot on its tail and aimed toward a younger audience, The Vampire Diaries, based on the series of books by L. J. Smith, made its debut in the fall of 2009. The series premiere was the most-watched launch ever on the CW network to date, with an estimated 4.8 million viewers in the United States.

The resurgence in the popularity of vampires on television has not been limited to North America. In 1991, the Brazilian soap opera Vamp began its run, telling the story of the invasion of vampires into a pacific town called the Bay of Angels. In late 1992, serial opera The Vampyr: A Soap Opera aired for five episodes on the BBC, an updated version of Der Vampyr (1828), a German romantic opera that itself was based on “The Vampyre” (1819) by John William Polidori. Other series included the German production Der Kleine Vampir (1993); the Cantonese series Vampire Expert (1995); the British series Ultraviolet (1998); the Japanese series My Date with a Vampire (1998); the Brazilian production O Beijo do Vampiro (2002); and the Korean series Hello Franceska (2005). In 2008, the British series Being Human followed a vampire, a ghost, and a werewolf as they shared a flat in modern-day Bristol. Having achieved strong ratings since its premiere, the series has been greenlit for a second season.

Over the past decade, the Japanese television market has seen a major increase in vampire-themed series. Although some have been live action, most are anime series based on manga publications, the most popular of which have also been translated into English and have aired in North America. These include: Vampire Princess Miyu (1997), Descendants of Darkness (2000), Hellsing (2003), Lunar Legend Tsukihime (2003), Tsukuyomi: Moon Phase (2004), and Karin (2005). A more adult-themed manga publication, Negima! Magister Negi Magi, has inspired the anime series Negima! (2005), an alternate retelling called Negima!? (2006), and the live-action series Negima!! (2007). Other titles available on DVD that have not yet been televised in North America include Rosario + Vampire (2008) and Vampire Knight (2008). The series Trinity Blood (2005) and Black Blood Brothers (2006) were both based on novellas that also inspired popular manga adaptations. Other anime series not directly based on manga include NightWalker (1998), Vampiyan Kids (2001), and Legend of Duo (2004).

Made-for-Television Movies: During the last three decades, feature-length movies produced specifically for the television audience, rather than being released to theaters, became a growing portion of all movies produced. Among the first such movies was The Night Stalker, produced by Dan Curtis in 1972. Much like his Dark Shadows series, it became the highest rated television show aired to that date. The story followed reporter Carl Kolchak (Darren McGavin) as he investigated a series of gruesome murders, ultimately discovering and then killing a vampire. The success of the movie led to a second telefilm, The Night Strangler (1973), followed by Kolchak: The Night Stalker series in 1974; it pitted the intrepid reporter against a variety of supernatural elements. One of the first episodes had Kolchak following the trail of a vampire in Las Vegas, herself a victim of Janos Skorzeny, the vampire from The Night Stalker telefilm. The series lasted for one season, and was “reimagined” in a short-lived 2005 series that bore little resemblance to the original story.

Dan Curtis worked with Richard Matheson on the script for both Kolchak movies, as well as his version of Dracula (1973). In 1976, the two teamed up once again for Dead of Night, which dramatized three of Matheson’s stories. One of them, “No Such Thing as a Vampire,” told the story of Professor Gheria who tried to kill his wife by creating the impression that she was wasting away due to a vampire’s attack. This story was first adapted in the UK as part of the “Late Night Horror” BBC television series in 1968.

Even before The Night Stalker, the popular series The Munsters led to the production of a made-for-television movie in 1966. Munster, Go Home! was made on the heels of the cancellation of the original series, and was intended as a pilot for a new series featuring the family in England. Ultimately the networks weren’t interested, so instead it was released theatrically as a stand-alone film. A second television movie, The Munsters Revenge, reunited most of the original cast members, and aired on NBC in 1981. Similarly, NBC had earlier attempted to revive the Addams Family franchise in 1977 with Halloween with the New Addams Family, again reuniting most of the original cast members, but it also failed to recapture the magic of the original series.

The 1970s ended with a handful of noteworthy movies, some of which were pilots for series that were never picked up by the networks. One of these was The Norliss Tapes, produced for NBC and directed by Dan Curtis in 1973. It told the story of David Norliss (Roy Thinnes), an author researching a book aimed to debunk supernatural occurrences, yet he ultimately crossed paths with a group of modern-day vampires. A second pilot, Vampire, aired on ABC in 1979, and starred Richard Lynch as the vampire Prince Anton Voytek. Not so much a blood-and-fangs story as it was a tale of revenge, the movie concluded with an open ending, but was never picked up as a series. In that same year, Tobe Hooper directed the dramatic version of Stephen King‘s early vampire novel Salem’s Lot for CBS, where vampires invade a small town in New England. An unrelated sequel, A Return to Salem’s Lot, was briefly released theatrically in 1987, while an updated version of the original story was produced for television in 2004.

More recent made-for-television vampire movies include: Desire, the Vampire (1982), The Midnight Hour (1985), Nightlife (1989), Daughters of Darkness (1990), Shadow Zone: The Undead Express (1996), Dracula 3000 (2004), Bloodsuckers (2005), and The Librarian: The Curse of the Judas Chalice (2008). One of the most unique telefilms to date was London After Midnight, a 2002 reconstruction of the lost 1927 Tod Browning film. Director Rick Schmidlin utilized some 200 still photographs to recreate the movie, and based the intertitles on the original shooting script.

The cable channel IFC teamed up with Lionsgate Entertainment Corporation to produce a made-for-television movie based on the Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter series of books by Laurell K. Hamilton. Produced as a pilot for a potential series, the film will air in 2010.

Other Vampire Productions: In addition to the vampire-oriented series and made-for-TV movies, the undead proved popular enough to be written into non-vampire series. Many early appearances played for humor and usually had the supernatural element explained away, as found in such series as Get Smart (1965), Gilligan’s Island (1966), and F Troop (1967). Among the more notable episodes that treated vampires a little more seriously were those that were part of: Adventure Inc., Blue Murder, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Diagnosis Murder, The Dresden Files, Dr. Who, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Nash Bridges, Nip/Tuck, Quantum Leap, St. Elsewhere, Starsky & Hutch, Superboy, Supernatural and The X Files.

As comic books expanded into the television medium, so too did their vampire characters. Marvel’s fourth animated Spider-Man series (1994–98) had several episodes featuring Morbius, the living vampire. However, due to restrictions in place by FOX, no traditional vampires were to be part of the series. So the creators had to include a modified Morbius character, one who subsisted on plasma rather than blood, and who drained his victims through the suckers on his hands. This is reminiscent of the pseudovampire episode “Man Trap” from the original Star Trek series, where a creature uses suckers on its hands to drain the salt from the bodies of its victims. Other vampires eventually appeared on Spider-Man in name only; none were ever shown biting their victims on the neck. The animated HBO series Spawn (1999) featured a vampire during the third season, while on the WB network Batman: The Animated Series (2004–08) showcased the DC character Man-Bat on several occasions. In 2009, Marvel’s psychic vampire Selene, a sorceress and mutant, appeared in the season one finale of Wolverine and the X-Men that aired on the Nicktoons Network.

Television anthology series, which ran a new story each week, also had a tendency to air episodes that featured vampires. These series included: Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Are You Afraid of the Dark?, Friday the 13th, The Hunger, Mystery and Imagination, Night Gallery, The Ray Bradbury Theater, Tales from the Crypt, Tales from the Darkside and The Twilight Zone. The most well-known female vampire in literature, Carmilla, has also made rare appearances on television. The British series Mystery and Imagination first dramatized the story in 1966, and in 1989 “Carmilla” was updated and presented in the Showtime series Nightmare Classics. The late 1980s also saw television movie adaptations in both Spain and France.

Prior to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, with few exceptions, the vampire tended to remain just on the edge of television culture, not having the strength to hold a continuing spot on prime-time television. But that has all changed. Over the past decade, vampires have experienced a population explosion like none other. From the horrific to the romantic, the undead are now firmly entrenched within our television airwaves, much to the delight of their avid fans.

The Internet: Over the past decade, broadcasters have increasingly used the Internet to create awareness for new vampire series, leading up to the official television launch. A rising trend has been to produce webisodes that feature new content created solely for the Internet. These video clips, usually two to four minutes in length, often feature character back stories, prequel scenes, and other tales falling within the canon of the show.

The most successful viral marketing campaign to date is for the HBO series True Blood. Several hilarious videos released to the Internet were often fake news segments pertaining to the premise of the series, where vampires are “out of the coffin” and living freely among human beings. Leading up to the launch of The Vampire Diaries, the CW produced a four-part webisode series entitled A Darker Truth, where vampire hunter Jason Harris followed the trail of Stephan Salvatore, whom he believed was responsible for his sister’s death. The MTV show Valemont began as a short series of webisodes that aired on both MTV and MTV.com, while the Canadian series Sanctuary started out as eight webisodes in 2007, and was subsequently picked up as a traditional television series by the SyFy channel.

Hammer Films also used this medium to return to feature film production, releasing Beyond the Rave in 2008 as a series of short video installments. Two short films based in the 30 Days of Night universe, Blood Trails, and Dust to Dust, were released as a series of webisodes through FEARnet. Emerging filmmakers as well as everyday fans of the genre are also using the Internet to broadcast their vampire stories. Early Web series included Vampire Trucker and Too Shy To Be a Vampire, and more recent series include Bleed, 3 Vampires, Vampire Killers, Bleeder and Transylvania Television.

Sources:

Jones, Stephen. The Illustrated Vampire Movie Guide. London: Titan, 1993. 144 pp.
Muir, John Kenneth. Terror Television, Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2001. 675 pp.
Terrace, Vincent. Encyclopedia of Television. 3 vols. New York: New York Zoetrope, 1985.