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Scott D. Pierce: 'Vampire Diaries' doesn't copy 'Twilight'

Yes, they're both about teenagers and the undead, but ...

Paul Wesley, left, Nina Dobrev and Ian Somerhalder star in "Vampire Diaries," which debuts Sept. 10 on The CW.
Paul Wesley, left, Nina Dobrev and Ian Somerhalder star in "Vampire Diaries," which debuts Sept. 10 on The CW.
Andrew Eccles

You can almost hear it already. When "The Vampire Diaries" premieres on Thursday, Sept. 10, charges of plagiarism — or, at least, copycatting — will be flying.

"The Vampire Diaries" revolves around a teenage girl who lives in a small town. She's strangely attracted to a mysterious boy she meets at the local high school.

He, in turn, seems to be attracted to her, as well. But he's fighting that attraction.

And — gasp — it turns out that the mysterious boy is no boy at all. He's a — gulp — vampire!!!

If you're thinking, "Geez, that sounds an awful lot like 'Twilight,' " I can't disagree. Particularly when you toss in a couple of things like the vampires in "Diaries" being able to go about in the daylight and how their eyes can give them away as preternatural.

But here's a couple of facts you need to know before you start thinking that "Diaries" is some kind "Twilight" rip-off:

Both "The Vampire Diaries" TV show and "Twilight" are based on books with the same titles.

L.J. Smith's "Diaries" was first published in 1991; Stephenie Meyer's "Twilight" was first published in 2005. (And Meyer has said that the idea for the book came to her in a dream in 2003.)

Soooo ... rabid "Twilight" fans won't want to start any discussions about who copied whom.

Actually, nobody copied anybody here. Once you get past the basic premise — teenage girl and vampire fall in love — "Diaries" and "Twilight" aren't all that similar.

They are a bit more similar to one another than either one is to, say, "True Blood," the HBO series about a woman in love with a vampire. It's based on Charlaine Harris' series of Sookie Stackhouse novels. The first of Harris' vampire novels was published in 2001, by the way. And four were published in the years before "Twilight."

I've read all four of Meyer's vampire books. (I have daughters, and I was curious about what they found so interesting.) And I've read the first two of Smith's "Diaries" because, well, it's a dirty job being a TV critic, but someone has to do it.

Again, they're not that similar. Well, they aren't any more similar than all vampire stories.

"The premise is the same — girl meets vampire," executive producer Kevin Williamson ("Scream," "Dawson's Creek") told TV critics earlier this month. "When you read the first book, I was like, 'No way. This is "Twilight." ' But when I got to the second book, you start to realize — boy, this is a fork in the road. It really does separate.' So we're getting to that fork in the road really quick.

"And we're really sort of telling the story about a small town and all the sort of evil (and) this darkness that sort of lies underneath this town. And how this vampire comes to town and sort of stirs it all up."

(The "Vampire Diaries" books are essentially one story divided into separate volumes. The "fork" Williamson refers to actually comes in the first volume, "The Awakening.")

At this point, it's pretty much impossible to write a vampire story that doesn't in some way echo previous works. And it would be hard to find one that doesn't owe a lot to Bram Stoker's "Dracula" — which was published in 1897, by the way.

That doesn't stop people from getting all hot and bothered about this, however. When "Moonlight" aired on CBS in 2007-2008, irate "Twilight" fans were e-mailing their anger at me. And they weren't pleased when I replied that, if anything, "Moonlight" reminded me more of "Angel" and "Forever Knight" — three shows about vampire detectives.

There is, however, one thing that "The Vampire Diaries" clearly owes to "Twilight." The popularity of the latter made it possible for the former to be developed into a television series.

And the folks at The CW are clearly hoping that the popularity of "Twilight" has left fans of the vampire genre hungering for more. And turning to "The Vampire Diaries" to satisfy that hunger.

"What we're really trying to do is find different kinds of programming that appeal to young women," said CW Entertainment President Dawn Ostroff. "When you look at a show like 'Vampire Diaries' ... (it) has a very strong female audience. Don't forget, young women love horror films."

Whether they love "Vampire Diaries" remains to be seen.