Pilots and Premieres: “The Originals” – Series Premiere

THE SPECS:

Who:  “The Originals,” currently airs on network TV, specifically on the CW, Tuesdays at 8:00 PM.

What: “The Originals,” a spin off of supernatural drama “The Vampire Diaries,” centered on the Original (i.e. very first) vampires, the Mikaelsons who first appeared on the latter show.  The surviving siblings are hybrid werewolf/vampire Niklaus (Joseph Morgan), his older brother Elijah (the super hot Daniel Gillies), and baby sister Rebekah (Claire Holt).

When: The series premiered on the CW, Thursday, October 3, 2013, at 9:00 PM.

Where: The show is set in the Big Easy — New Orleans, Louisiana.

Why: Well, The Vampire Diaries is a darn good show, and with some of the same creative influence, including Executive Producer Julie Plec, as well as the charismatic Morgan and Gillies, there’s no reason The Originals can’t be just as juicy and delicious as the show from whence it spun.  Also, have I mentioned…vampires?  The non-sparkly kind?  Played by ridiculously handsome men?  With accents?

How – as in How Was It?

The pilot/premiere rating scale:

***** – I HAVE TO WATCH EVERYTHING.  HOLY SMOKES!

**** – Well, it certainly seems intriguing.  I’m going to keep watching, but I see possible pitfalls in the premise.

*** – I will give it six episodes and see what happens.  There are things I like, and things I don’t.  We’ll see which “things” are allowed to flourish.

** – I will give it three episodes.  Chances are, I’m mainly bored, but there is some intrigue or fascination that could hold it together.  No matter how unlikely.

* – Pass on this one, guys.  It’s a snoozer/not funny/not interesting/not my cup of tea… there are too many options to waste time on this one.

The Originals = ****

SYNOPSIS

In a backdoor pilot during season 4 of The Vampire Diaries, the viewer learned that the Mikaelsons essentially helped to create New Orleans, and Klaus, running from various personal dilemmas including his own ego and Mystic Falls in general, returned to New Orleans where he encountered one of his progeny: Marcelle, who has taken control of the French Quarter and has declared war on other supernatural beings, including a local coven of witches.  Klaus covets Marcelle’s power and hold over the city; in the premiere, Elijah returns to New Orleans in pursuit of his brother, learning that a one-night stand he had with werewolf Hayley (Phoebe Tonkin) has resulted in her being pregnant.  This program follows Klaus and the other Original siblings as they work to protect their family and this unborn and unlikely child from the likes of egomaniac Marcelle, Klaus’ prized pupil.

THOUGHTS

Though the structure and premise of this spin off are not as strong or as immediately enticing as its parent series, The Originals offers tantalizing story possibilities in a context that is clearly more mature and adult than the other program.  At first, fans of The Vampire Diaries might find it a stretch to center a whole show around the antics of Klaus and his siblings, and this viewer did too.  The trouble – and this program’s instant saving grace – is that Joseph Morgan and, indeed, Daniel Gillies are so instantly charismatic and electrifying on screen, the viewer can’t help but watch them.

After all, the tale of the Original vampires, as depicted on the parent show, is epic, storied, and complex.  Klaus is the illegitimate son of their mother, who had an affair with a werewolf and created a hybrid being that essentially can’t be killed.  The Mikaelsons have lived for 1000 years and remain dysfunctional in the extreme; they fiercely love each other and yet solve problems by staking each other in the heart with wood from a specific white oak tree, the only wood that can immobilize them.   Klaus is a character very much fueled by narcissism and unadulterated rage, and yet, his brother fights for him and believes he can be saved.  There is no doubt that Klaus is a lethal loose cannon at best, and as his actions are so unpredictable, he is imminently watchable.  Yet, can the villain be made an anti-hero? That’s where The Originals seems to be spiraling on its path toward spin off survival.

More to the point, can Klaus’ progeny Marcelle serve the role of effective villain?  The actor playing him appears to bring his own set of chops to the proceedings, but what is the point of this feud between them?  This show really blurs the line between “good guy” and “bad guy,” though Elijah is about the best they come.

Still, The Originals is blessed with continuity in writing and producing staff.  Though it may have an uphill climb in reeling in viewers not already familiar with The Vampire Diaries, it certainly has plenty of opportunity to stand on its own, provided the moral ambiguity of all of the main characters is used in a manner that doesn’t feel contrived or manipulated.  After all, Klaus doesn’t like to be manipulated – and neither do most viewers.

RECOMMENDATION

The Originals is recommended to all fans of The Vampire Diaries, particularly those who absolutely loved the Original vampire story lines on that show.  Personally, I worry for the state of the predecessor program, given that no other antagonistic force has proven more formidable or interesting on The Vampire Diaries than Klaus.  Still, it’s the actor’s natural presence and a bevy of savvy writers who will allow for as much twisting, turning, and supernatural surprise on this program as on the other show. Also, if one hasn’t seen the parent program, that person would not have to watch it to be able to enjoy this program – particularly since the pilot rehashed in an expository manner the story of the Original vampires and how they came into being.

THE FUTURE OF THE SHOW:

Too early to tell.  The Originals has been fluctuating in the ratings – but it’s on the CW.  Since this network doesn’t enjoy the same size audiences as some of the other networks, if viewer loyalty remains steady, it’s possible this series will survive.  Let’s see how it all fares.

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