A glimpse of what’s on the TV docket for fall 2022 might feel a bit like stepping into the past. No, we’re not talking about the fact that there are new shows set in Middle Earth and Westeros, we’re talking about the four—yes, four—shows about vampires that are slated to debut this autumn.
AMC is sinking its teeth into a series adaptation of Anne Rice’s popular Interview With the Vampire (Oct. 2), while Showtime is launching its own take on John Ajvide Lindqvist’s 2004 novel Let the Right One In (Oct. 9). Elsewhere, Peacock is following in the not just familiar but well-worn footsteps of the supernatural teen drama with Vampire Academy (Sept. 15), based on the Richelle Mead novels, as Syfy seeks to set itself apart with a more comedic approach in Reginald the Vampire (Oct. 5), which is adapted from Johnny B. Truant’s Fat Vampire book series.
One might have expected this kind of vampire saturation in the years immediately following the Twilight rush, but 2022 has been less about elements of supernatural fantasy and more about the roots of more traditional fantasy. And yet, here we are facing down the most vampire-themed programming we’ve seen in years (sadly, not one of them is about Dracula trying to bring electricity to Victorian England). So, in honor of bloodsuckers’ resounding return to the top of the pop culture pyramid, we’ve rounded up the best vampire-related TV shows to date—beginning with our most recent undead obsession.
Created by: Jemaine Clement
Stars: Kayvan Novak, Matt Berry, Natasia Demetriou, Harvey Guillén, Mark Proksch
Original Network: FX
Watch on Hulu
Based on the vampire mockumentary from Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi, What We Do in the Shadows brings the sadsack bloodsuckers Stateside. The Staten Island roommates— vampires Nandor (Kayvan Novak), Laszlo (Matt Berry), and Nadja (Natasia Demetriou), as well as Nandor’s servant, Guillermo (Harvey Guillen)—are all ridiculous and slightly pathetic. The handheld camerawork is the deadpan punchline, with every shaky zoom in on a character during a confessional implying, “Can you believe this weirdo?”
More of the humor comes from the macabre wordplay and deadpan goofiness—often thanks to Berry’s stark, blustery delivery, straight from his BAFTA-winning Toast of London, and the exasperated looks it draws from Demetriou and Guillen—which are then punctuated by violent slapstick, featuring gallons of blood. In bringing the vampire-out-of-water conceit’s mix of comic elements down to the granular level, What We Do in the Shadows harkens back to the strongest parts of the film, which thrived on its charming re-imagining of dopey mythical creatures failing through the world in a way very particular to Kiwi… or, now, Staten Island. And with its documentary style taken just as seriously as its campy effects and extravagant costumes, the cretinous cosplay is beautifully straight-faced and completely winning—especially when the show goes to oxymoronic extremes of mundanity, like a city council meeting about zoning ordinances. —Jacob Oller
Created by: Joss Whedon
Stars: Sarah Michelle Gellar, Nicholas Brendon, Alyson Hannigan, Charisma Carpenter, David Boreanaz, Seth Green, Marc Blucas, Emma Caulfield, Michelle Trachtenberg, Amber Benson, James Marsters, Anthony Stewart Head
Original Networks: The WB, UPN
Watch on Hulu
Watch on Amazon Prime
The most obvious/obligatory entry in this list is also the most influential, and not just for TV’s vampire agenda. Buffy the Vampire Slayer had it all: Romance, drama, tragedy, suspense. The show took the teen-soap formula and elevated it to an art. Starring Sarah Michelle Gellar as a high school student destined to fight the forces of darkness, the series was a unique combination of tragic romance, apocalyptic fantasy, and the clincher: emotional realism. It also featured the most serious and realistic depiction of human loss ever witnessed on the small screen (in “The Body”, dealing with the death of Buffy’s mom by natural causes). This was underscored by the show’s sense of humor, as the writers understood the campy sheen that must accompany any show named Buffy. They also knew how to use snappy dialogue and uncomfortable situations to full effect.
Meanwhile, when it comes to complex characters, you’d be hard pressed to find another program that had the same range and consistency of character development. Everyone matured (or devolved) at his or her own realistic rate. And as some feminist writers have argued, TV had never before seen the complexity of relationships among women that you saw with the likes of Buffy, Willow (Alyson Hannigan), Joyce (Kristine Sutherland), and Dawn (Michelle Trachtenberg). But this wouldn’t have been possible without plot and narrative choices that would go on to shape much of what was to come after. The series’ writers employed elaborate multi-episode, multi-season story arcs, while people and events of the past always had a way of popping back up, the way they do in real life. Series creator Joss Whedon was all about the meta, the ideas and story behind the story. He succeeded, creating a WB/UPN show that bears closer resemblance to the works of Dostoevsky and Kafka than 90210 or Dawson’s Creek. —Tim Regan-Porter and Kaitlin Thomas
Created by: Joss Whedon, David Greenwalt
Stars: David Boreanaz, Charisma Carpenter, Glenn Quinn, Alexis Denisof, J. August Richards, Amy Acker
Original Networks: The WB
Watch on Hulu
Watch on Amazon Prime
Few spinoffs ever outshine their parent shows, but there is a case to be made that Angel, the darker, more adult spinoff of the coming-of-age Buffy the Vampire Slayer, might actually be the better, more satisfying show overall. Sure, it might not have been as groundbreaking as Buffy, but Angel, which follows David Boreanaz’s eponymous vampire with a soul, benefits from the lessons already learned during the creation of Buffy. The series, which ran for five seasons, follows Angel after he departs Sunnydale for Los Angeles and becomes a private eye in order to “help the helpless.” It maintains its unique sense of humor, much of it stemming from Charisma Carpenter’s Cordelia Chase and James Marsters’ Spike (the latter of whom joined the show in Season 5 after the end of Buffy), even as it tackles dark themes on the road to saving the world. If Buffy was the influential teacher, Angel was the star pupil. —Kaitlin Thomas
Created by: Julie Plec, Kevin Williamson
Stars: Nina Dobrev, Paul Wesley, Ian Somerhalder, Candice King, Matt Davis, Joseph Morgan
Network: The CW
Watch on HBO Max
What began as an angst-filled teenage supernatural drama that pitted a hunky vampire (Paul Wesley) against his equally hunky vampire brother (Ian Somerhalder) for the love of a special teenage girl (Nina Dobrev), The Vampire Diaries developed into a compelling and frequently gruesome foray into the world of vampires (and werewolves and witches and hybrids and siphons and …) alongside the men and women who love them. While CW shows have often been painted as skewing towards melodramatic teen/YA fare, that’s an increasingly unfair assertion and one that The Vampire Diaries did a great job of dispelling, particularly once it grew out of its early “Dawson’s Creek with vampires,” phase. Season 1, while intermittently strong, was more or less one of those shows people refer to as a guilty pleasure—it was fun, but not really good. Once creators Julie Plec and Kevin Williamson (creator of Dawson’s Creek, not a coincidence) really got a feel for where they wanted to take the show, however, it took off, and over the course of eight seasons proved to be a reliably well-acted, creepy, and ethically complicated hour of drama. —Mark Rabinowitz and Kaitlin Thomas
Created by: Toby Whithouse
Stars: Aidan Turner, Russell Tovey, Lenora Crichlow, Nina Pickering
Network: BBC Three
Watch on Freevee
Before there were the cohabitating vampires of Staten Island, there were the supernatural housemates of Bristol, England. Created by Toby Whithouse, the British version of Being Human (an American adaptation never reached the same narrative heights) combines the humor of a roommate comedy with the drama and horror of the supernatural in a story that features Aidan Turner as vampire John Mitchell, Russell Tovey as werewolf George Sands, and Lenora Crichlow as ghost Annie. The show kicks off with John and George renting a home only to find that it’s already got a tenant, as it is being haunted by Annie, a young woman who died within its walls. The series derives a lot of its story from its three central characters attempting to live normal lives amongst humankind, placing a heavy emphasis on the extremely dangerous nature of both Turner’s and Tovey’s characters and how their respective affiliations affect them and those around them. All three leads would eventually leave the show before its end after Season 5, but Being Human still remains one of the best shows yet to feature the stories and trauma of the undead. —Kaitlin Thomas
Created by: Alan Ball
Stars: Anna Paquin, Stephen Moyer, Sam Trammell, Ryan Kwanten, Rutina Wesley, Nelsan Ellis, Alexander Skarsgård
Original Network: HBO
Watch on HBO Max
Alan Ball’s True Blood had terrible or great timing, depending on how you look at it. Released the same year as Stephanie Meyer’s much derided Twilight series, it is a show that inevitably existed in the same breath as that other vampire craze. And while the popularity boom for wolves and vamps drew plenty of viewers thirsty for dense supernatural lore, it also did a great disservice to the weirdness of True Blood. Adapted from Charlaine Harris’ long-running “Southern Vampire” novels about a telepathic waitress (Anna Paquin) living in a world in which synthetic blood has allowed vampires to live openly amongst the living, the series draws from a deep well of visual inspiration: from the erotically charged ghouls of Anne Rice, to the nightmarish imagery of Tony Scott’s The Hunger, to the supernatural camp of The Craft and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Over its seven radically uneven seasons, it is a hard show to love with its constantly webbing narratives, stop-start pacing, and sloppy characterization. But, at the same time, it is an easy show to admire. Even in its most baffling moments, True Blood is a show that truly commits to its ideas, no matter how off-the-wall they become. This is a show that, all the way back in Season 1, was reveling in gory vampire orgies that make American Horror Story look tame. And the show only escalated in ridiculousness. There were whole seasons based on allegories of bigotry, arcane dynasties that were generations-old, and a developing world of pulpy horror staples. It didn’t always make sense and it wasn’t always satisfying, but it felt startlingly singular at times. —Michael Syndel
Created by: Mike Flanagan
Stars: Hamish Linklater, Zach Gilford, Kate Siegel, Kristin Lehman, Samantha Sloyan, Igby Rigney, Rahul Kohli, Annabeth Gish, Annarah Cymone
Watch on Netflix
Midnight Mass might never ever use the term vampire throughout its seven episodes, but it is undoubtedly a vampire show. To explain exactly how and why would be to say too much, though, so here’s what we can say: The show is set on small Crockett Island, where every islander feels rife with misfortune after a recent oil spill nearly annihilated the fish supply, tanking the island’s local fishing economy. Homes splinter and peel in neglect to the ocean’s elements, and the majority of residents have fled the island for lack of opportunity, leaving a paltry few behind. Only two ferries can take them to the mainland. Hope runs in short supply—and a major storm brews on the horizon.
With both the physical claustrophobia of its setting and the internal suffering of characters placed in center stage, Midnight Mass concerns itself with horrors within: addictive tendencies, secret histories, and questions of forgiveness and belief. At one glance, it’s a series that’s mined Catholic guilt for gold. In another, it’s a measured, yet spooky take on group psychology, the need for faith in sorrow, and the ethics of leadership with such vulnerable followers, weighing whether these impulses represent human goodness, evil, or simply nothing at all. Midnight Mass offers a chance for anyone to be a doubter or true believer. What difference is a miracle from a supernatural event, anyway? —Katherine Smith
Adapted by: Kate Brooke
Stars: Teresa Palmer, Matthew Goode, Alex Kingston, Lindsay Duncan, Edward Bluemel, Louise Brealey, Owen Teale, Valarie Pettiford
Original Networks: Sky One
Watch on Sundance Now
If you’re still in the “Vampires are sexy!” camp, A Discovery of Witches is right out of the forbidden love subgenre and right up your alley. Based on the All Souls trilogy by Deborah Harkness, the romantic fantasy series stars Teresa Palmer as Diana Bishop, a historian and reluctant witch who discovers a long-lost manuscript during her research that is said to contain the origin stories of witches, vampires, and daemons. To protect herself from those who seek the book and wish to do her harm, Diana rethinks her stance on magic and begins to embrace her powers with the aid of a sexy and powerful vampire known as Matthew Clairmont (Matthew Goode). A steamy romance soon blossoms between the two, but because an ancient covenant meant to protect supernatural beings from humans states they cannot fraternize outside of their kind, Diana and Matthew’s desperate love is a forbidden affair, which only serves to make things hotter. —Kaitlin Thomas
Created by: Sam Catlin, Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogen
Stars: Dominic Cooper, Ruth Negga, Joseph Gilgun, Ian Colletti
Watch on Hulu
Garth Ennis’ Eisner Award-winning late-1990s comic Preacher wasn’t an obvious candidate for a TV adaptation. The story of a preacher in rural Texas who’s granted supernatural powers when he’s possessed by the spawn of an angel and a demon, the show follows his literal search for God and features characters like a hard-drinking Irish vampire, a bounty-hunting Saint of Killers, and a teenage suicide-attempt survivor named Arseface. But we live in an era of Batshit Crazy TV, and producers Sam Catlin, Evan Goldberg, and Seth Rogen wholly embrace the wildest elements of the comics to great effect. Piling bodies of unkillable angels, Voodoo magic, furry suits, a trip to hell, a plot thread involving Hitler—nothing is too outlandish or insane for the show. None of this would work without tight writing and a top-notch cast, though. Preacher’s is led by the trio of Dominic Cooper, Ruth Negga, and Joseph Gilgun, playing three flawed protagonists who are often their own worst enemies as they try to atone for and survive past mistakes. It all makes for gripping television, unlike anything we’ve seen before. —Josh Jackson
Created by: Kevin Kolde, Warren Ellis
Stars: Richard Armitage, James Callis, Graham McTavish, Alejandra Reynoso, Tony Amendola, Matt Frewer, Emily Swallow
Watch on Netflix
Some might argue that Castlevania is one of the best videogame adaptations ever made, and that is fainter praise than the Netflix show about a tortured Dracula (Graham McTavish) deserves. After all, videogames have hardly translated to film or television with any success, leaving utter mediocrity as Castlevania’s knee-high bar to clear. Let that not take away from how high it flies. Adapted from the Konami franchise of the same name by award-winning comic book writer Warren Ellis, directed by Sam Deats, and animated by the aptly named Powerhouse Animation Studios, the anime-style series is a bloody delight, a Gothic orchestra that honors and deepens Castlevania’s dark world. It patiently establishes motivations and stakes, building slowly but surely to a gloriously explosive payoff. At the heart of it all is Dracula, the best kind of villain: one with a point. —Scott Russell
Kaitlin Thomas is an entertainment journalist and TV critic. Her work has appeared in TV Guide, Salon, and TV.com, among other places. You can find her tweets about TV, sports, and Walton Goggins @thekaitling or read more of her work at kaitlinthomas.com.
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