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Originally published Thursday, September 10, 2009 at 12:05 AM

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The CW's 'The Vampire Diaries' hopes to slay the Thursday night TV audience

The CW hopes to capitalize on the current rage for all things toothy with the new show "The Vampire Diaries."

Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

On TV

"The Vampire Diaries"

8 p.m. Thursdays on the CW. Check local listings.

Tonight in Prime Time

Stefan Salvatore has bloodshot eyes, mangled teeth, terrible sleeping habits and a severe drinking problem. In other words, he has a good chance of becoming TV's hottest heartthrob.

As the lead character in CW's "The Vampire Diaries," premiering tonight, an early entry in the networks' annual fall derby, Salvatore may come across as just another brooding bloodsucker, developed in the shadow of "Twilight," which has grossed nearly $400 million at the box office and sold more than 70 million books, and "True Blood," HBO's biggest success since Tony Soprano ordered his last supper. But the show's premise — young girl finds love in the arms of a 150-year-old classmate — harks back to more than a decade ago, when TV viewers were first touched by an Angel.

"Buffy the Vampire Slayer" attracted a cult audience with snappy dialogue and a heroine who embodied both sexuality and empowerment. But it was the series' introduction of Angel, a hunky vampire fighting his own demons, that spawned a spinoff series and proved that young women would swoon over a mythical character traditionally associated with horror, not heartache.

"The current trend owes more to Joss Whedon than Bram Stoker," said author Kathleen Tracy, referring to the co-creator of "Buffy" and "Angel." Tracy, who wrote "The Girl's Got Bite: The Original Unauthorized Guide to Buffy's World," said that vampires "used to be symbolic of the evil in men's souls, but Whedon made them symbolic of teen angst, this eternal monster trying to grow up. That's what people have picked up on and taken off with."

It's also what makes young women want to toss out their Jonas Brothers CDs and slip over to the dark side.

"They're bad boys with brains," said "Diaries" co-executive producer Julie Plec, who compared Stefan to past TV sulkers Jordan Catalano of "My So-Called Life" and Dylan McKay on "Beverly Hills 90210." "You want to believe that they have epic amounts of knowledge and soul and spirituality and intelligence lurking behind those eyes. With real men, you often don't get that."

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