You need to look elsewhere if you were hoping that The Vampire Diaries would mark the beginning of the end of the current vampire craze (Twilight, True Blood, Glenn Beck). Fun stuff mixing blood with soap, Diaries signals a welcome return to form for writer-producer Kevin Williamson (Dawson's Creek, Scream).
Based on the popular young-adult novels of the same name, Diaries is cleverly cast with faces familiar to the CW demo and beyond. Nina Dobrev from Degrassi: The Next Generation is emotionally open as Elena, who pours her soul into diary entries that we hear in voice-over. Paul Wesley (Everwood, Army Wives) is Stefan, the vampire every TV review is required to describe as ''brooding.'' His naughty brother, Damon, is Ian Somerhalder, back from the Lost dead. Or, I guess technically, returning to the dead as a vampire competing for Elena's attention.
As with any good Kevin Williamson production, there's a lot of snappy dialogue and quirky pop cult references. A friend of Elena's claims psychic powers by pointing out, ''I predicted Obama.... I predicted Heath Ledger.'' Wait she predicted what about Ledger? His fabulous Joker performance? His death? Williamson's version of Diaries dares to have the kind of flip poor taste that high schoolers such as these characters would engage in.
Diaries' variations on vampire myths include a big, clunky ring Stefan wears that (I think) protects him from daylight, but mostly it's the stuff you know and love: Stefan's eyes go red-rimmed with lust when Elena gets a bloody cut, and Damon uses smoke and black crows to make an entrance. ''I promised you an eternity of misery,'' Damon tells Stefan. And Diaries promises us a season of sharp-tongued amusement. B+