As our forumites will know, I've been into Supernatural for some time now. And just recently, I've been attempting to get into The Vampire Diaries as well. What I've discovered are two very different contenders to Buffy's throne, so let's discuss their similarities, their differences, their strengths and weaknesses, shall we? Before we start: I'm deliberately not counting True Blood here because it's openly aimed at a different, older, less geeky demographic, nor am I considering the cancelled likes of Moonlight, Blood Ties or whatever. This is about ostensibly-at-least teen-friendly shows wherein improbably good-looking folk encounter supernatural creatures.
First of all, Supernatural. When it first started back in 2005 I more-or-less instantly dismissed it as Buffy-for-boys, a cynical attempt to remove the kick-ass ladies from the vampire slaying equation in a move which I objected to on girl power principles and rejected sight unseen. My bad. It's pretty much entirely awesome. OK, season one starts a little slow and basically always involves finding some bones, salting them and burning them to ash, but things go seriously upwards from there. It has great chemistry between the leads, the best writing this side of the Whedonverse and properly scary episodes (also, very comical ones, but more on that later). The first five seasons are pretty consistently marvellous; the sixth, while relatively weaker, is still better than most of the rest of genre TV out there, and contains the most brain-bendingly bizarre TV episode I've ever seen in The French Mistake*.
Supernatural shares quite a lot of Buffy's DNA: a small central group of characters, a wise older mentor, lots of time spent researching and wisecracking while deciding what to do next, frequent (but inventive!) use of monster-of-the-week plots, and overarching story arcs to give it all a shape. It's also got magical casting in the central group: Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki have positively Hepburn-and-Tracy / Laurel-&-Hardy levels of chemistry as the demon-hunting brothers who are the backbone of the show, but their Winchesters have Jim Beaver's gruff advisor Bobby Singer for a guide, and in later seasons Misha Collins' oddball angel Castiel to add an extra sprinkling of dry wit to the existing abundance. It's darker and bloodier and sexier than Buffy (a sort of missing link between Buffy and True Blood, if you will), and many of the best episodes are riffs on other stories (but inventive ones!), but by Whedon it's good.
Then there's The Vampire Diaries. If Supernatural takes Buffy's wit and character focus, TVD takes the bit where there were hot teens dealing with vampire love. In truth, it's more Dawson's Creek with fangs than anything Buffy ever did, and its character scenes generally come in one of three flavours:
1. "I love you, but I just don't know if I can trust you anymore." 2. "I love you, but I can't be with you until I figure this thing out." 3. "I love you, and I know that you don't love me, but I'm just going to wait right here until you do."
Seriously. That's your lot. Cast- and character-wise, it has issues. Central pair Bella and Edward Elena Gilbert and Stefan Salvatore (Nina Dobrev and Paul Wesley) are afflicted with characters who are goody-two-shoes'd nearly out of existence; "bad boy" brother Damon Salvatore (Ian Somerhalder) is largely reduced to eyerolling (presumably at his own appalling haircut) and attempting more complexity than the script allows. Even the supporting characters aren't all that: David Anders, so memorable in Alias, barely manages to make any impact here, and it's left to Matthew Davis' Alaric Saltzman (full marks for the naming there) to keep the adult end up. On the upside, Elena may be something of a blank but at least she's not a perennial victim; that's left to her unfortunate brother Jeremy (Steven R. McQueen, who interestingly looks exactly like a Ackles / Padalecki hybrid). Elena's contrasting strength, together with the fact that the town's sheriff and, latterly, mayor are women, and there's an argument that this carries Buffy's girl-power torch quite nicely.
Still, Vampire Diaries' saving grace is that it packs more plot into a single episode that most shows manage in a typical series; Big Bads that in other shows would take at least 10 episodes are dispatched in one or two, and the sheer pace of the storytelling means that it does, occasionally, manage to surprise you. Hell, the body count alone is noteworthy. In Buffy the vampires "dusted" and disappeared, and were for the most part vagrants anyway; here, respectable citizens drop like flies and are largely uncommented upon, and the supporting cast rotates in and out so fast you have to assume the studio floor is on fire. There are pretty much no laughs, aside from the ones at Somerhalder's hair (and yet, still hot), but it's compelling in the way that all soap operas are compelling; they're human emotions dialled up to 11. But with vampires (and, as of season two, werewolves as well, because every series featuring vampires introduces werewolves in season two**).
So, as is probably clear already, I have a favourite. It's not that Vampire Diaries is bad - because despite some of the acting it isn't - but more that it just lacks that extra spark that would take it from soapily interesting to essential viewing. And for all that they try, Vampire Diaries' Salvatore brothers can't compare to the Winchester brothers.
But don't let me sway you: what do you see as the successor to Buffy's throne?
*It is a profound mind-frak of an episode wherein lead characters Sam and Dean Winchester are transported to a universe where they are TV characters played by actors called Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles. The levels of self-spoofery are quite, quite astonishing, dwarfing even this shows previous forays into (consistently funny) navel-gazing in The Monster At The End Of The Book and The Real Ghostbusters. It's not the ability to navel-gaze that impresses, so much as the ability to be funny while they're down there.
**This holds true for Buffy, True Blood, Supernatural, and Vampire Diaries itself. It even holds true for the Twilight series, assuming you accept wolf shapeshifters in the same category as werewolves. Technically, in True Blood we don't see the werewolves until season 3, but they do kidnap Bill at the end of season 2 so I'm counting that.
Truebloody Posted on Tuesday September 27, 2011, 11:13
Spot on Helen, enjoyable read. I currently watch both shows and whilst I love the body count and vamp action in Diaries, Supernatural wins my vote. Ackles and Padalecki's demon escapades are hilarious and thrilling. But they should have called it a day at the end of Season 5.
DarbyDaresYou Posted on Tuesday September 27, 2011, 11:59
I may only be a 17 year old girl but honestly, Supernatural just didn't keep my interest. I'm not a big fan of Twilight and the first episode of series 1 of TVD was based entirely on Twilight's success, but the introduction of evil vampires and family members swayed me towards TVD. I have tried to watch Supernatural, I guess I'm the exception to its charm.
Rocket 3000 Posted on Tuesday September 27, 2011, 12:03
Supernatural every time!
"Do you think it's 'cos we're so awesome?"
"I think it's 'cos we're so awesome".
beebs_ Posted on Tuesday September 27, 2011, 13:14
Well I'll start off admitting I'm totally into TVD. I've never watched Supernatural. I wanted to, but it started while I was getting totally pissed off with the CW's then flagship show Smallville :cringe: I vowed to stay away from their stuff after that. I heard good stuff about supernatural, but I just couldn't.
When TVD started I avoided as Twilight ::pukes:: & CW. But, then I had to make up a promo disc with the first 5 episodes for work. I thought why not. The first few eps were a bit Meh. But then... The body count started mount. The twists, the brutal killings by key characters and the pace of the plot got me hooked. I watched the test of the first season in a week. I was finished just in time for the second season starting up. I've been hooked ever since.
Season 2 wasn't as great storyline wise for me, but it did allow characters like Caroline and Jeremy improve. Hell Tyler is my favourite right now. I would not have guessed that at the start of the show. If you can ignore the Elena/Stefan stuff for a bit I think this show is great, fun, addictive viewing. S3 is already kicking True Blood's add right now.
tejrai Posted on Tuesday September 27, 2011, 13:26
Always always Supernatural! that is by far the best show out there. Ive watched it religiously. they are funny, sexy and theyre not afraid to make fun of themselves and others in the genre. Also it doesnt have the annoying 'teen talk' seen in Buffy.
Youshouldberunning Posted on Tuesday September 27, 2011, 13:47
It's not really a battle at all. Vampire Diaries is dire. Supernatural is ridiculously entertaining, despite the fact that Sam's brand of nostril-flaring acting can get a little wearing in the latter seasons (sorry team Sam). As you say though Helen, they are funny and sometimes genuinely scary: something VD could only dream of.
Hellers Posted on Tuesday September 27, 2011, 14:01
Supernatural! It's an awesome show, and Ackles and Padlecki always deliver. Their chemistry is spot on. It’s great fun, very quotable and occasionally scary. The classic rock sound track (more in earlier seasons) also helps to set it apart. I love the episodes where they break down the ‘fourth wall’ – it doesn’t always work, but it is at least a show that’s willing to try new things and have fun whilst doing it! Yes, they should have stopped after five seasons, but I’m still watching!!
twoggs Posted on Tuesday September 27, 2011, 14:04
Yeah Supernatural wins my vote hands down as I've stuck with it through all 6 seasons so far and barely made it through one episode of TVD.
For me, it's the character arcs of the brothers themselves in Supernatural that keep it so compelling - I've recently revisited the first few seasons [as you say season one is just a variety of ways to dispatch a ghost] but the change in the brothers brought on by their consistently worsening circumstances, seen with Dean especially, is remarkably believable throughout. And plus, the writing is definitely the best out there, even through the dodgiest parts of seasons 5 and 6.
Plus, they win for the best use of music with the Don't Fear The Reaper moment.
Dr Quinzel Posted on Tuesday September 27, 2011, 14:34
The Vampire Diaries wants to be Twilight.
Supernatural spent an entire episode taking the piss out of Twilight.
(Also, one episode featured a human-size teddy bear having an existential crisis. What's not to love? The entire show is like one big, wacky Angel series 5-style blow out.)
Trubie Posted on Tuesday September 27, 2011, 14:34
The Vampire Diaries should be renamed the Vapid Diaries...
Supernatural is excellent though you do need to push through the first series it does get better....
The best however is True Blood.... it has the best cast and the best music...and the best vampire stand off since Spike and Angel...
piccolo135 Posted on Tuesday September 27, 2011, 15:15
Was wondering when this blog post would pop up Helen! Your right though, whereas The Twilight Diaries (as I so often call it) has some good plot movements, it doesnt hold a candle to SPN. Agreed, season 1 is slow, and season 6 is relatively un-engaging, but for those who've seen episode 1 of season 7, you'll know that SPN looks to be very much back on form. Especially Castiel's character arc. Wowser.
beardyphysics Posted on Tuesday September 27, 2011, 16:45
Supernatural wins hands down every time. Great chemistry between the leads and the supporting cast are also always excellent. It is light hearted enough to be fun but at the same time can still be dark enough to be scary. TVD just can’t hold my interest, to much like Dawson’s Creek with the undead. As for True Blood, what a disappointment. S01 was amazing but it has steadily declined since then. I was glad when S04 ended and I don’t think I’ll be back, so many complaints I just don’t have time.
beebs_ Posted on Tuesday September 27, 2011, 17:32
I knew I'd be the lone supporter! :) hey, I don't hate Supernatural, it just came up at the wrong time. I shouldn't like TVD but hey, I do.
Oh and Jeremy on TVD does so look like a mix of those winchester bros... Odd?!
Gretzky Posted on Tuesday September 27, 2011, 18:01
Steven R. McQueen (who does also look reminiscent of his grandpa - yes, *that* McQueen) has been nicknamed "Baby Jared" in our household...
Another good article by Helen on one of, if not the most underrated show on TV - Supernatural. I'm sure if it were fronted more X-Files style or not by two ridiculously good-looking men it'd be taken more seriously in the TV world. As it standa, it's still a bit of secret for people to find and really appreciate. Some of the best writing and dialogue since Buffy, absolutely. With added "Eye of the Tiger" moments.
Hils1979 Posted on Wednesday September 28, 2011, 00:05
This article could easily have been written by me. I've been watching Supernatural since it started airing and have only just started trying out The Vampire Diaries
Your description of both is accurate. I'd say Supernatural is a lot closer to Buffy than TVD in terms of the dialogue and plot. There's a reason a lot of the Buffy cast have guest starred on the show
Thanks for shining the spotlight on Supernatural. It's a much overlooked show
monstakarotte Posted on Wednesday September 28, 2011, 13:23
I watch both shows and I really enjoy TVD, but my vote will go to Supernatural. The chemistry between the boys, the absolutely kick-ass guest stars, the music and the funny moments are unbeatable. TVD is only drama and high school lovestory, I miss the fun in the whole story...
carzed_fairy Posted on Wednesday September 28, 2011, 15:33
I agree with this wholeheartedly! Though the last series of Supernatural left me disappointed and put me off it a little bit. My vote for this reason have to go to TVD, its just so damn addictive.
Jensenfan1978 Posted on Wednesday September 28, 2011, 16:07
I have watched both shows. The Vampire Diaries is cute, but kind trite. In many ways it is too similar to Twilight, which I detest. The only Twilight like episode or show I have enjoyed was Live Free or Twihard on Supernatural Season 6. Don't get me wrong. I love Vampires. Blood Ties and Moonlight were the best on television, but they are cancelled. I love Supernatural and it has my vote, totally. It's not afraid to make fun of itself. It has great horror, drama, comedy, and the support of family is deeply ingrained in the story. Without the brothers' relationship, there would be no Supernatural. Thanks for this great article. For me there really is no choice. You pick, the best. Supernatural is exactly that.
beebs_ Posted on Wednesday September 28, 2011, 16:17
Carzed_fairy! A fellow fan!
I didn't want to say anything bad about Supernatural, but I had heard rumblings that it had gone off the rails recently. Hey, its been around a lot longer than TVD, so its probably gonna bit dodgy compared to 4 years ago I guess.
It seems most people are hanging onto the angst of TVD, but I do find the show to be fun. How is Katherine not fun? Or Damon actually...
The Vampire Diaries is my TV crack right now. They love a cliffhanger...
padaleckifan86 Posted on Wednesday September 28, 2011, 16:18
Supernatural all the way!!! Nothing against VD, I just couldn't get into it and I will never be dedicated to another show as much as SPN. The characters, story lines, actors. It's all good and nothing hurts. LOL Plus, I love me some Jared Padalecki! I've met him before at conventions and he's one of the nicest guys on the planet, so down to earth and that just makes me love Supernatural even more. <3
timofeja Posted on Wednesday September 28, 2011, 17:32
After reading this post yesterday I decided it's time for a new show - 'Supernatural', that is - and now I read that it's "like one big, wacky Angel series 5-style blow out" - well, what could be better, I'm starting with s01e01 in ten minutes. As for Buffy's throne, maybe not a real successor, but Veronica Mars was a decent regent for a while.
murf888 Posted on Wednesday September 28, 2011, 18:36
Only started watching Supernatural recently and I really think it's more of a successor to X-Files. The loss of a family member as a child being the motive for the brothers and Mulder. Also it isn't set in one location as Buffy was. Also some very similar episodes. Wendigo was basically Detour or even Jersey Devil. But hey, I'm only on the first series so what do I know.
The Running Man Posted on Wednesday September 28, 2011, 19:25
I love both shows, but I've been recommending Supernatural to people since it started, so I guess I would have to give it the edge, Mainly I was just writing to give Helen props for the article.
sagart Posted on Wednesday September 28, 2011, 23:09
Supernatural is my favourite show on TV at the moment. Nuff said.
mightyhypnotoad Posted on Wednesday September 28, 2011, 23:59
Supernatural FTW. My wife and I got into the show at the tail end of the first season when it was being shown on ITV and have been serious fans ever since. I did feel that announcing season 6 mid way through season 5 deflated all sense of urgency or danger to the culmination of that particular story arc however I really enjoyed season 6 and season 7 is off to a flying start. As for TVD I think I managed about 10 minutes and even that was truly awful. Plus several of the Supernatural crew and writers previously worked on both Firefly and Angel which gives it pedigree over TVD
shakensilence Posted on Friday September 30, 2011, 00:49
I'm very sorry but I think you're mistaken. Neither show deserves to be Buffy's successor. I've watched everything there is in Supernatural and the show just consistently goes down hill after season two. I'll forgive season three its shortcomings since it was a short season because of the writer's strike, but they have no excuse for season 4 or season 5 which with both the only saving grace were a couple of gags and the chemistry between the two main actors. The writing started to get terrible... I mean come on.. C-block? If you can't use the word the c stands for then you shouldn't try to use the term because it was so obviously a lame stand in for something they couldn't say on network television. (And that is just one of the easiest things to point out... there are billions more.) Take the entirety of season 5... that was the discount apocalypse.. all small letters that I found for 50 cents at the dollar store. There were no major deaths (they chickened out with Bobby in a move that by their own laws should have killed him and Ellen and Jo hadn't been seen in years but once so to kill them meant absolutely nothing to me.) and there was nothing on screen that made me feel like it was a dire season. We'll just skip season 6 entirely because it is beneath me to even talk about it. I'm holding out my judgement for season 7 until I see where they are going with the Castiel being taken over by giant sea monsters thing which on its face sounds lame but I've seen Supernatural do things well on occasion that don't sound good when you describe them. I won't even go into the fact that nothing in the show is poignant like Buffy was and the writing is so clearly inferior from the start.
The Vampire Diaries are technically written tighter with fewer on the face flaws but they are also not poignant. But in the Vampire Diaries defense the books are older than Buffy the show and thereby cannot be a Twilight ripoff. (It is the other way around.)
doodles49 Posted on Friday September 30, 2011, 20:41
Have to say that I agree with the overall choice on this one. When it comes to watching TVD, I tend to get slighty bored and my mind wanders so I might skip through the slower moments of the show. Where as, with Supernatural, I have to sit and watch every second of the show. I do kinda miss the episode styles for the first couple of seasons where it was; there's a deamon, research, near death experience then kill it but having the larger overstory also brings a lot more focus onto the characters and how they move and interact through each episode. TVD does the overall story very well but they do put a lot into one episode and sometimes it can be hard to concentrate on all aspects that are going on with all of the characters and how it all interrelates. All that, and the Winchester brothers are my fav's by far :)
DarbyDaresYou Posted on Monday October 3, 2011, 13:04
And because of my biased comment about supernatural, I have just ordered the first and second series. Hope you guys are right about this.
MissPurple5 Posted on Monday October 3, 2011, 16:33
I guess I'm another exception. I watched Supernatural from the start, all first four seasons completely and then season five on and off, mostly on. I saw the end of season five and I haven't watched any since. I liked it I just didn't love it. However, I love TVD. I just prefer the storytelling, and I love shows with a lot of characters. Whereas TVD packs a lot of story into one episode and has a lot of characters that are rarely safe from dying, I always felt that all the characters in Supernatural would be fine and I never worried for them. I constantly worry that a favourite character will be killed on TVD and I like not knowing what could happen to one of them. I really think that these two shows are quite different in their genre and a lot of people love both or really love only one, it entirely depends on the person.
jillian101 Posted on Thursday October 13, 2011, 02:30
ok so I started watching Supernatural when they first started showing it on terrestrial TV in the UK where it was stuck in a late night slot that meant even my parents didn't stay up themselves to watch it, let alone allow me to do so. but we duly recorded it every week and it quickly became one of my favourite shows. however i am only at the end of season 4 due to a lack of digital TV at home which means i have been receiving season box sets for birthdays and xmas and then having to share with mum and dad (i'm 18). but i was immediately struck by the mixture of genuinely creepy stuff and humour. because of this and the slow pace of the Vampire Diaries in comparison, Supernatural wins hands down. however i would like to point out that as a fan of the original series of books, the Vampire Diaries i had expected to love the show.
jammyemma Posted on Thursday October 13, 2011, 13:51
Supernatural every time. "Dude, I totally swayzeed that mother!"
aerosmillie Posted on Thursday October 13, 2011, 16:41
No contest........hands down winner is.....TRUE BLOOD!!
Muchacha Posted on Thursday October 20, 2011, 12:57
I have a hitlist of TV shows to spend the rest of my life attempting to view. As I cross one off I add another on so the list doesn't really get smaller. Anyway I crossed of Miranda and Sons of Anarchy recently (watched series 1 of both and didn't get excited about them) so I'm done. I'm adding Supernatural to my hitlist NOW. My mates Calamares and Wesley love the show, they say it's funny and mad. Sounds good to me.
I've seen a few bits and bobs of The Vampire Diaries and it didn't interest me. It looked too glossy, I like some dirt in my TV shows. Aside from the glimpses of Damon being a slightly camp in the hammy sort of way but kind of deliciously naughty villain, it just doesn't float my boat. Therefore I never bothered to watch a series.
Supernatural I will most definitely track down though. Cheers :-D
random441 Posted on Tuesday February 14, 2012, 20:51
supernatural wins, definitely. buffy is hands down, the best show ever, and nothing can ever, ever beat it, but i have watched every single episode of supernatural and the vampire diaries. the vampire diaries is so boring, god. damon's all right, season one was okay and so was season two, but season three is terrible. get rid of this show already. so slow, boring, i fall asleep while watching it. supernatural on the other hand, is intriguing. two brothers going through the motions experiencing the most ridiculous moments of their lives? now that's interesting.
again, nothing can ever match up to the shows buffy or angel, but supernatural is close.
true blood on the other hand, deserves a completely different category. it's unlike buffy, supernatural, and the vampire diaries aside from the mystical portion it's suitable for a more mature audience.
MaxRide94 Posted on Friday October 5, 2012, 20:19
I think Vampire Diaries is aimed more towards the Twilight crowd who is too 'cool' to like Twilight. The plot, as the article mentioned, revolves around romantic relationships a lot more than SPN or Buffy. Supernatural appeals, in my experience, to the Buffy crowd because it focuses more on family and friendship. It's a type of show that isn't on tv right now because stuff of tv is more into the 'let's get a boyfriend/girlfriend' plot. Supernatural is more 'let's save the world'. While battling PTSD and other emotional/physical trauma'. It's just more compelling tv to watch. Supernatural is also really funny and witty and has loads of pop culture references, just like Buffy. That's actually one of the main reasons I can't stand watching the Vampire Diaries (which is a perfectly good, well written show). It's not just that it isn't funny. TVD just takes itself way too seriously for me to take it seriously.